Gala Celebrates the School’s 150th Birthday

Nov 21 2014 | By Melanie A. Farmer | Photos: David Dini

Columbia Engineering celebrated its 150th anniversary with a festive gala at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine beneath a magnificent art installation that combines engineering ingenuity with artistic creativity. Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing’s Phoenix, massive sculptures of two birds—made of discarded materials from construction sites—are suspended in the nave, offering a stunning setting to the evening’s celebration.

A record-breaking crowd of more than 800 guests—Engineering faculty, students, alumni, and special guests—gathered for the School’s 150th milestone. During the program, partygoers viewed a video that detailed the School’s rich history and pioneering achievements through the decades, and an alumni video that captured memories and reflections by the Engineering alumni community. Dinner speakers included Dean Mary C. Boyce, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, University Trustee and alumnus Armen Avanessians MS’83, and Engineering alumnus Adnan Durrani BS’81, who chairs the School’s Board of Visitors.

In her remarks, Dean Boyce noted that engineering is part of a global renaissance that places all aspects of engineering in the center of research and innovation. “The strength of our faculty, the quality of our students, our deep connections to other parts of our great University, and the singular convergence of resources and opportunity that exist in New York City place us in an enviable and unequalled situation,” she said. “We all have great reason to be proud, confident, and hopeful that the next 150 years at our School will be just as successful as the first 150.”

President Bollinger praised the School’s progress and underscored the centrality of engineering to the University as a whole.

The Nov. 15 gala rounded out the School’s yearlong celebration of events marking its sesquicentennial milestone. The gala drew a number of special guests, many of whom have contributed to the School’s significant achievements, including former dean, Zvi Galil, who is now at Georgia Tech, and former interim deans, Donald Goldfarb and Gerald Navratil, who continue to serve on the School’s faculty. Also present to pay tribute to the School’s 150th were University Trustees James Harden and Vikram Pandit BS’76, MS’77 PhD’80BUS; University Trustee Emeriti Savio Tung BS’73 and Anna Longobardo BS’49, MS’52; David Madigan, executive vice president and dean of Columbia’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Barnard College Provost Linda Bell; Merit Janow, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs; and Professor Tom Maniatis, recently appointed director of the University’s initiative on precision medicine.