More than 600 alumni, students, faculty, administrators and guests filled Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City on March 5, as the College honored five of its most accomplished alumni with John Jay Awards for distinguished professional achievement: Barry Bergdoll ’77, Alexandra Wallace Creed ’88, Robert L. Friedman ’64, Jonathan S. Lavine ’88 and Ronald F. Mason Jr. ’74.
It was the most successful event in the 30-year history of the John Jay Awards Dinner, raising $2.2 million for the College in what Bill Campbell ’62, chair of the Board of Trustees, called “a real celebration of the College.” President Lee C. Bollinger echoed that thought when he observed, “In many ways, the College is first among equals at the University, and tonight we are here to celebrate the College.”
Brian C. Krisberg ’81, president of the Columbia College Alumni Association, thanked the attendees for their generosity and noted that the money raised “will help to enrich the lives of Columbia College students for years to come.”
In presenting the awards, Dean Austin Quigley declared that the five honorees “have enhanced the standing of the Columbia community through their remarkable achievements.” Each of the award recipients was introduced by a student who is a John Jay Scholar, and Mark Kortov ’08 spoke on behalf of all the scholars and thanked the alumni for their generous support of the special academic enhancement program.
Bergdoll is the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art and professor of architectural history in the Department of Art History and Archeology. He earned an M.A. and a B.A. with honors from King’s College, Cambridge, and an M.Phil. and Ph.D., in 1982 and 1986, respectively, from GSAS.
Bergdoll’s interests center on modern architectural history, with an emphasis on France and Germany between 1750–1900; cultural history; city planning; and the intersections of architecture and new technologies. He has studied questions of the politics of cultural representation in architecture, the larger ideological content of 19th-century architectural theory and the changing role of architecture as a profession and architecture as a cultural product in 19th-century European society.
Bergdoll has organized, curated and consulted on numerous exhibitions, including “Mies in Berlin” (MoMA, 2001), “Breuer in Minnesota” (Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2002), “Les Vaudoyer: Une Dynastie d’Architectes” (Musée D’Orsay, 1991) and “Ste. Geneviève/Pantheon; Symbol of Revolutions” (Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1989).
He has written for Architecture, Harvard Design Magazine, The Yale Architecture Review and The New York Times and has written or contributed to several books. An edited volume, Fragments: Architecture and the Unfinished, was published in 2006, and a study of Marcel Breuer’s architecture is to be published this year.
“Columbia for me is a family,” he said, noting that he had arrived on campus 35 years ago and that any time he left, “it was always with a round-trip ticket.”
Creed was named executive producer of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams in March 2007. This appointment made her the first woman to lead a weeknight network evening newscast in a decade, and she is one of a small group of women to serve in the top post of a Big Three daily newscast. Although Williams was unable to attend the dinner, he taped a congratulatory message that was shown to the audience.
Creed also is NBC News v.p., a position she has held since January 2006 and has overseen a number of areas in the News Division, including NBC Special Reports and executive oversight of NBC Nightly News.
Previously, Creed, who has a B.A. in English literature, was executive producer of Weekend Today and senior producer of Today beginning in March 2005. During her time as executive producer, Weekend Today’s ratings remained dominant and Saturday Today was No. 1 across the board.
Creed joined NBC News from CBS News, where she was a senior broadcast producer for The Early Show starting in May 2000, and was a senior producer for The Early Show and CBS This Morning. From 1996–98, Creed was producer for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. From 1990–96, she was an associate producer for CBS This Morning, 48 Hours and the CBS foreign desk. She began her network career at the CBS News London bureau and has been honored with six News and Documentary Emmy awards.
“When I consider the things in life that are important to me, every one of them I trace back to Columbia,” she said. “The ability and urge to question everything that I developed at Columbia has been the foundation of my career as a journalist.”
Friedman is a senior managing director and chief legal officer of The Blackstone Group. Blackstone is a leading global alternative asset manager, operating the world’s largest private equity fund, one of the largest real estate opportunity funds, a leading fund of hedge funds business and other alternative asset management businesses.
Friedman joined Blackstone in 1999. He participates in the work of its private equity group and its mergers and acquisitions advisory group and also played a key role in effectuating its initial public offering in June 2007. Before joining Blackstone, Friedman had a 32-year career as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. He became a partner there in 1974 and for a long time was a leader of its mergers and acquisitions practice and a member of its senior management.
A member of the Board of Visitors, Friedman has served as a director of eight companies and also is a member of the Boards of Directors of Axis Capital Holdings Limited, Northwest Airlines and TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of Penn’s Institute for Law and Economics and is a trustee of the Nantucket Land Council as well as Chess-in-the-Schools and New Alternatives for Children, both in New York City.
“My years at Columbia were totally transformative,” said Friedman. “Columbia provides the best education that money, or a John Jay Scholarship, can buy.”
Lavine is a managing director at Bain Capital, a leading global private investment firm based in Boston, and the chief investment officer of Sankaty Advisors, Bain Capital’s fixed income and credit affiliate. Lavine started Sankaty, one of the nation’s leading managers of leveraged loans and bonds, credit derivatives, mezzanine and distressed debt, in 1997, and it now has 70 investment professionals in offices in Boston, London and Chicago and approximately $25 billion in committed assets under management. Before starting Sankaty, he worked in Bain Capital’s private equity business, was a consultant at McKinsey and began his career at Drexel Burnham Lambert.
An active alumnus, Lavine is a member of the Board of Visitors, the President’s Task Force on Athletics, the Campaign Committee for Undergraduate Education and Faculty Development and the Leadership Committee of the Columbia Campaign for Athletics. He also is a member of the boards of Children’s Hospital Trust, City Year, Horizons for Homeless Children, and Stand for Children and is a director of the Boston Celtics. In 2004, Lavine was honored as one of the Boston Business Journal’s 40 outstanding Bostonians under the age of 40.
Lavine earned an M.B.A., with distinction, from Harvard Business School. While at Columbia, he received the David Truman Award for outstanding contribution to the College’s academic affairs.
“Columbia teaches first and foremost critical thinking,” said Lavine. “Columbia really does send you away with one message: It is not about the degree you get, but what you do with that education.”
Mason was appointed president of Jackson State University in February 2000. Prior to this appointment, he founded and was executive director of the Tulane/Xavier National Center for the Urban Community, which grew out of his work as the federal monitor over the recovery of the Housing Authority of New Orleans. As an appointee of the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Mason was responsible for improving the city’s public housing.
A 1977 alumnus of the Law School, Mason simultaneously was Tulane’s senior v.p. and general counsel, where he oversaw the university’s business operations and was its chief legal counsel for 18 years. Prior to working at Tulane, Mason was executive counsel to the president of the Southern Cooperative Development Fund, which organized and financed low-income businesses and cooperatives across the Southeast. Mason was legal counsel and on special assignments, including management of a 300-acre experimental vegetable farm.
Jackson State has experienced unprecedented growth and enhancement during Mason’s tenure. Enrollment has grown by almost 3,000, the size of the campus has doubled, there have been more than $200 million in capital improvements, two colleges have been added, the endowment has quadrupled, the number of African-American Ph.D.s produced is second in the nation and research funding has tripled.
Among Mason’s awards and recognitions are the Mayor’s Medal of Honor from the City of New Orleans and the Martin Luther King Lifetime Achievement Award from Dillard, Loyola, Tulane and Xavier Universities.
“It’s great to be back at Columbia,” said Mason. “As we say down south, I feel like I’m in some pretty high cotton alongside the other distinguished honorees. It was an exceptional experience for me to come to Columbia and one for which I am forever grateful.”