Alumni Association Honors Leaders in Engineering and Science

May 28 2015 | By Timothy P. Cross & Jesse Adams

Columbia Engineering’s Reunion Weekend will kick off with an awards presentation and dinner sponsored by the Columbia Engineering Alumni Association (CEAA) in the Low Library Rotunda May 28. The annual gala is the official “welcome back” for alumni returning to campus to celebrate their reunion.

Honorees (l to r) Richard Axel, Donald E. Ross, and Ehud Geller

This year, the CEAA is honoring three distinguished Columbians: Richard Axel ’67CC, Nobel laureate, neuroscientist, and University Professor at Columbia, who will receive the Michael I. Pupin Medal for Service to the Nation in Engineering, Science, or Technology; Donald E. Ross ’52CC, BS’53, a mechanical and electrical engineering leader who helped build skyscrapers, who earned the Thomas Egleston Medal for Distinguished Engineering Achievement; and Ehud Geller BS’70, a pioneering biotech entrepreneur, who will be recognized with the Samuel Johnson Medal for Distinguished Achievement in a Field other than Engineering.

Axel is a renowned neuroscientist, biochemist, molecular biophysicist, and pathologist at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research into olfactory receptors and the organization of the olfactory system. Research at the Axel Laboratory investigates how the brain interprets smells.

Axel is being honored for his contributions to the field of molecular biology, which have increased our understanding of sensory cellular signaling, and for furthering the health and well-being of society.

Ross, former managing partner at Jaros Baum and Bolles, led the design of mechanical and electrical systems for more than 200 tall commercial buildings on five continents around the world. His works included the Sears Tower in Chicago in 1973, then the tallest building in the United States; the Bank of China building in Hong Kong in 1989, then the tallest building outside the United States; and the MesseTurm in Frankfurt, Germany in 1991, then the tallest building in Europe.

In making the award, the CEAA recognized Ross’s nearly 50 years of pioneering leadership in consulting engineering.

Geller, who helped found Israel’s booming biotech venture scene, led the pharmaceutical conglomerate Teva’s transformation to the world’s largest generic drug maker, consulted for a large venture fund backed by the state of Israel, and currently serves as managing partner of Israel’s first dedicated life science and healthcare investment fund, among numerous other projects.

Geller is being recognized as an outstanding innovator in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and health care industries, including for his leadership in the generic pharmaceutical industry and as a health care venture capital and entrepreneur.

Named for the legendary inventor and engineer Michael Idvarsky Pupin—a graduate of the Class of 1883 and a longtime Columbia faculty member—the Pupin Medal is the CEAA’s highest award. It is given periodically in recognition of service to the nation in engineering, science, or technology. Established in honor of Thomas Egleston Jr, the guiding force behind the founding of the Engineering School, the Egleston Medal is awarded annually to a candidate who has significantly advanced a branch of the profession or the practice of engineering in general. Named in honor of Samuel Johnson, the first president of King’s College (the predecessor of Columbia), the Johnson Medal is presented in recognition of distinguished achievement in fields other than engineering and the applied sciences.

Reunion Weekend will be held at the Morningside campus May 28 to May 31. For registration and more Reunion details, visit