One of the great pleasures of being president of the Columbia College Alumni Association is the opportunity to connect with so many generations of College alumni. Passions for Columbia run deep, as do alumni’s continued involvement with alma mater. Here, a few updates from my recent encounters with our diverse alumni volunteer community.
On September 27, alumni across the decades were well represented at the Core Centennial opening celebration, with almost 500 alumni, students and faculty in attendance. University Trustee Co-Chairs Jonathan Lavine ’88 and Lisa Carnoy ’89 opened and closed the event with their reflections on the Core Curriculum experience and its ongoing significance to Columbia.
At the breakfast reception, I connected with former CCAA presidents Gerald Sherwin ’55, Marty Kaplan ’61, Brian Krisberg ’81 and Doug Wolf ’88. I’m inspired by how engaged with the College each of these alums remains, continually finding new ways to contribute and inspire the next generation of alumni volunteers — myself included!
I was especially excited to spend time with Noam Elcott ’00, Art Humanities chair and an associate professor of modern and contemporary art. Noam is on the frontier of revolutionizing how art history is taught, having spearheaded the use of virtual reality technology in the Art Hum classroom. He demoed the VR system, which will be available at different events throughout the year, to Stephen Buchman ’59 and me — and it was impressive! We were transported into Notre Dame Cathedral and the Parthenon in an immersive experience that will forever change the way we experience art. Noam also participated in a panel where he previewed the work underway to update the Art Humanities curriculum — the first significant change since its inception in 1947.
I thank Bernice Tsai ’96, Katie Day Benvenuto ’03 and Stefanie Katz-Rothman ’88 for their roles in helping with this incredible kickoff event and for their ongoing planning of other Centennial programs still to come. Bernice and Katie, both Alumni Office staff members, work closely with Stefanie (chair of the Core Centennial Committee) to help develop and promote Centennial-related programming. The day was a huge success, in part due to their collective efforts.
Many alums returned for a great Homecoming weekend on October 18–19, topped by a 44–6 victory over Penn. This year’s activities extended beyond Kraft Field to include a new Friday night on-campus pep rally (including dinner with Roar-ee), the annual Saturday alumni-student lunch under the tent and a new Saturday night After Party for young alumni at the fabulous Hudson Terrace. I thank former CCAA president Kyra Barry ’87 and current CCAA secretary Chris Della Pietra ’89 for their work as co-chairs of the Homecoming and Reunions Committee in supporting such great programming.
At the game, I caught up with Tom Cornacchia ’85, chair of the Board of Visitors, who is spearheading several key BOV initiatives focused on enhancing the undergraduate experience. BOV member Leslie Gittess Brodsky ’88, who was awarded a 2019 Columbia Alumni Medal in recognition of her many years of service, was also at several of the Homecoming activities. Also on hand was Mila Tuttle ’96, who is very involved with fundraising for Columbia, having co-chaired the CCAA’s Alumnae Legacy Circle and frequently hosted events for alumni leaders.
I was also happy to spend time with some more recent alumni, including Brian Chung ’16 and Jocelyn Bohn ’15, co-presidents of Columbia College Young Alumni, and Carl Yin ’17. Brian and Jocelyn are feeling energized by their roles and looking for young alumni volunteers to help them engage with their peers. Carl was excited to be back on campus, as he recently moved to San Francisco and started a position at Google with its Business Operations and Strategy group. Carl remains active on the CCAA and CCYA boards, and is a CCT class correspondent.
I am in touch with one of CC’s newest alums, Emily Gruber ’19, who now clerks for Hon. Arthur Engoron at the New York State Supreme Court, and plans to apply to law school. Emily was an engaged student, and I’m delighted to see that continue as an alumna. She co-chairs the Class of 2019’s First Reunion Fundraising Committee, was very supportive of the new Homecoming programming and is a co-class correspondent for CCT.
The College is fortunate to have such a vibrant alumni volunteer community. It’s inspiring to see such commitment to giving back to Columbia and wonderful that there are so many ways to remain involved with alma mater.
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