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Peter V. Johnson receives Black Alumni Council Heritage Award

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Peter V. Johnson, Director of Enrollment Group Special Projects and special assistant to the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid, has been awarded the 2016 Black Alumni Council Heritage Award, which honors individuals who have made considerable contributions to the community and to their respective fields.

The award was presented at BAC’s Heritage Award and Scholarship Reception, held at the Columbia University Club of New York on February 17.

“My 33 years here have been A Love Supreme,” Johnson said in his acceptance speech. “You have challenged me, taught me, supported me, proven to me that this is the best college in the world.”

Johnson has been in higher education since 1971. Prior to coming to Columbia, he worked at Earlham College and Hampshire College. He previously served as assistant dean of student affairs.

“I’ve known Peter since he joined the College administration and know first-hand that he has touched so very many lives, including students, administrators, prospective students and family members, alumni and members of the Harlem community and more,” said Kevin Matthews CC’80, BAC president. “He individually has had a profound impact on the black community on campus and beyond.”

Johnson has been a contributing writer for The Multicultural Student's Guide to Colleges: What Every African American, Asian-American, Hispanic, and Native American Applicant Needs to Know About America's Top Schools, was a judge for the ABC prime time unscripted drama The Scholar, and is featured in First Generation, a feature-length documentary released in 2012 that delves into the lives of four high-achieving low-income students trying to be first in their families to go to college.

Johnson has served on the College Board Middle States Regional committee and the Board of Friends of Columbia’s Double Discovery Center. He was awarded the New York State Association of College Counseling’s Distinguished Service Award in 2014, has presented yearly at the national conferences of The College Board and the National Association of College Admission Counseling, and was the keynote speaker for the New Jersey Association of College Admission Counseling regional conference.

“Peter is jazz personified,” said Whitney Green SEAS’10, TC’13, assistant director of science recruitment and co-director of the Alumni Representative Committee, who introduced Johnson at the event. “ You have to have discipline and natural talent to perform the masterpieces like a virtuoso, but to take those musical rules, know the rules backwards and forwards, swallow them down into your being and radiate them back out spontaneously, bending and breaking them--but with purpose--to capture the vibrant truth of the moment: that takes reckless courage, righteous brilliance, loving humility and unfettered genius.  Peter lives his life like a breath-taking jazz adventure.”

The Black Alumni Council is an organization of current and future Black alumni from all Columbia schools, affiliates and generations and is dedicated to the support of the history, preservation and success of current and future Black alumni. The BAC provides current-use scholarships for undergraduate College and Engineering students as well as summer study scholarships for students who will be working for a non-profit or unpaid internship between academic years.

The reception, held annually, honors the BAC Heritage Award winners as well as BAC Scholarship Fund recipients. This year’s award was also presented to Frances Sadler BC’72, TC’79, a Barnard College Trustee and past president of the Barnard College Alumnae Association. This year’s scholarship recipients were Leander Cutler CC’18, Camille Sanches CC’18 and Adefunke Sonaike CC’16.

“Personally, I am looking forward to becoming a part of this alumni network and supporting a student like myself,” said Sonaike, who spoke at the reception. “Because for me, a scholarship from the Black Alumni Council has been much more than just a source of financial support, but also a testament to the strength of the Black community at this school.”