As the representative of more than 47,500 alumni of the most diverse school of the Ivy League in arguably the greatest city in the world, the Columbia College Alumni Association (CCAA) has entered a new era with the launch of a newly formed brand. With an aspiration to stay connected to 100 percent of the College’s alumni, Dean James J. Valentini, alumni leaders, student leaders and CCAA staff have been working since 2013 to strengthen the student and alumni community and the experiences that make the community rich, warm and deeply united. In addition to creating more relevant programs, resources and benefits for College alumni, the CCAA has shifted its approach to connect with alumni in a more welcoming, inspiring and purposeful manner.
In January 2014, a group of alumni leaders joined a branding task force that set out to understand the perceptions of the CCAA and to explore ways to update its brand in a manner that would invite, welcome and embrace all alumni. The group included Allen Rosenshine CC’59, the chairman of BBDO Worldwide for more than 20 years who also spearheaded the merger of Omnicom Group; Stefanie Katz-Rothman CC’88, who spent years on the global advertising team at American Express, where she helped manage the global brand of conceivably the world’s most renowned customer service brand; Doug Wolf CC’88, the CCAA president and a trademark and copyright lawyer who deals with issues of identity every day at his firm; Kyra Tirana Barry CC’87, CCAA president from 2010-2013 who has sat on boards or founded cause-driven organizations that build engagement and membership; Renan Pierre CC’86, SEAS’87, a trained architect with a keen aesthetic and eye for design, as well as an educator on brand design; and Bernice Tsai CC’96, senior executive director of Columbia College Alumni Relations and Communications, who formerly managed engagement and acquisition marketing for several American Express premium brands, including the Gold Card and the Platinum Card.
The ideas that rose to the top about how to present the Columbia College Alumni Association in a renewed manner – one that would appeal to as many alumni as possible – centered on people, relevance and inspiration.Through a 14-month project, working with the branding agency Beardwood LLC, the CCAA engaged more than 50 additional alumni and students, talking with them in focus groups, conducting one-on-one interviews and hosting brainstorming sessions. Participants were asked what they thought of the CCAA, what they hoped to have more of in the future and how they felt about being an alumnus/a of Columbia College, which Dean Valentini calls “the greatest college in the greatest university in the greatest city in the world.” In exploring the CCAA identity, each of the task force members emerged from the process feeling enormous pride, a sense of belonging and a desire to do right by their fellow alumni.
The outcome included a new logo that incorporates the Columbia lion, an ingrained part of the College’s history. It was first introduced in 1910 at a College Alumni Association meeting, when George Brokaw Compton CC 1909 exclaimed, “We have the King’s Crown, let us have the lion!” The Student Board subsequently voted to make the lion the school’s official mascot, and in 1920 it was alluded to in the creation of the school’s fight song, Roar, Lion, Roar, written by Roy Webb CC 1910, Morris M. Watkins CC’24, GSAS’28 and Corey Ford CC’23. In 1923, the Class of 1899 commissioned Frederick G. R. Roth to create a lion sculpture for its 25th anniversary; the bronze lion was unveiled on a rocky ledge overlooking Baker Field in 1924. Eighty years later, the Scholar’s Lion, sculpted by Greg Wyatt CC’71 and displayed on campus near Havemeyer Hall, was unveiled on the 2004 Columbia College Dean’s Day in honor of Columbia’s 250th anniversary.