The 2023 John Jay Awards for distinguished professional achievement will go to the co-founder of the leading online marketplace for vintage home furnishings and art; the first female CEO of New York City’s largest youth mentoring nonprofit; an expert on pandemic preparedness; a vice-chair for a global investment banking company; and the president of an organization that develops, manages and owns commercial and residential properties throughout NYC.
These five recipients will be honored at the 43rd annual John Jay Awards Dinner on Wednesday, March 1. Held at Cipriani 42nd Street, the dinner — begun in 1978, and one of Columbia College’s signature events — raises support for the John Jay National Scholars Program.
This year’s honorees are Anna Brockway ’92, president and co-founder of Chairish; Alicia D. Guevara ’94, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City; Dr. Ashish K. Jha ’92, a national leader on public health and Covid-19 response; Victor Lopez-Balboa ’82, vice-chairman of the Global Financial Institutions Group in Global Banking & Markets, Goldman Sachs; and Raymond Yu ’89, SEAS’90, president, Yuco Real Estate Co. and Yuco Management.
Meet the Honorees
Brockway, a former VP of worldwide marketing at Levi Strauss & Co., co-founded Chairish in 2013 as a destination for rare and antique pieces. Named one of the Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America by Entrepreneur and cited by Architectural Digest as the “#1 can’t live without” decorating app” that will “change the way you shop for furniture online,” the company connects 12,000 of the world’s finest vintage purveyors with interior designers and affluent design buyers. Chairish is also celebrated as an environmental leader of the home industry’s circular economy, offering a sustainable way to decorate. Brockway, who is known for her marketing acumen and taste-making style, has said, “I felt strongly from the beginning that if you don’t have curation and an editorial perspective on what you’re offering, there is no brand and no reason for being.” She credits the art history degree she earned at the College with helping her understand design: “Columbia pushed me to find my voice and not be intimidated. That’s so invaluable.”
At the helm of Big Brothers Big Sisters since 2019, Guevara is the first woman to lead the 118-year-old organization. She has three decades of experience leading nonprofits; among past roles, she was the chief fundraising officer for both The Osborne Association and the Abyssinian Development Corp. In 2021, Guevara was named to the New York City & State Power of Diversity Latino 100 List for a second consecutive year. She was also named to Crain’s 2021 and 2022 Notable Black Leaders and Executives List. Guevara has rooted her life’s work in pursuit of social justice issues of access and inclusion for young people, and firmly believes that “every young person needs a caring, consistent adult in their corner — a ‘Big’ of their own.” Her passion goes back to her time at the College, where she became a leader in community organizing and activism. “I’m a firm believer that there’s a tremendous amount of energy and potential for transformative change that comes with locking arms and doing the work,” she said.
Jha is the White House Covid-19 response coordinator; before being appointed by President Biden in March 2022, he was the dean of the School of Public Health at Brown. He has led groundbreaking research on Ebola in addition to being a trusted voice on the Covid-19 response, for which he has led national and international analysis of key issues and advised state and federal policymakers. As a general internist, Jha has practiced for nearly two decades at Veterans Affairs hospitals. He earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and an M.P.H. from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and also was the director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. Jha has described his time at Columbia as “transformational”: “There have been moments in my career when it’s been, ‘Are you a doctor or are you a policy person?’ And I’m like, ‘How about both?’ That ability to take risks and think intellectually outside of silos, I feel like I really learned that at Columbia.”
Lopez-Balboa has been with Goldman Sachs for more than 35 years, joining its Mortgage Finance Department in 1986 and transferring to the Financial Institutions Group in 1990. He was named a managing director in 1996 and a partner in 2002. Lopez-Balboa is a trustee of P&S as well as of St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass. He is a member emeritus of the College’s Board of Visitors and of St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H. Lopez-Balboa earned an M.B.A. and a J.D. in a joint program from Penn’s Wharton School of Business and Law School. “As a Cuban immigrant with little knowledge of NYC, I had to adjust to — and then grew to love — the city’s rich offerings, diversity, edginess and opportunities,” Lopez-Balboa said, reflecting on his first year in Morningside Heights. “Columbia challenged me to be an independent thinker and intellectually curious. It took a chance on me and changed the trajectory of my life in unimaginable ways.”
In addition to his presidency of Yuco, Yu is a vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Greater New York, a founding board member of the NoHo Business Improvement District and an advisory board member of the New York Housing Conference, an advocacy organization for affordable housing in NYC. He also was a founding shareholder and board member of First American International Bank, a New York State-chartered commercial bank headquartered in Brooklyn since 1999, and served as chairman of directors of the bank since 2012. “The resilience I gained and how I learned to think critically, creatively and compassionately during my years at the College gave me the foundation to succeed in my personal and professional life,” said Yu, who is on the executive committee of the Columbia College Alumni Association Board of Directors. He previously was co-chair of the Columbia College Fund, chair of the Fund Development Council and co-chair of the Parent Leadership Council. “I cherish the lifelong friendships I made as a student as well as those I’ve made within our alumni community since graduation. Columbia has in many ways become a second home for my family,” Yu said.
For more information, go to college.columbia.edu/john-jay-2023.