Over 14,000 people graduated from 18 of Columbia’s schools and affiliates on May 22. They hailed from more than 100 countries, and ranged in age from 19 to 83. No matter their place in life, though, President Lee C. Bollinger encouraged them to remember that their education had only begun.
“I like what Renzo Piano — our master architect for the new Manhattanville campus — said upon turning 70, when I asked him how it felt,” said Bollinger in his annual Commencement address. “He said it came as a surprise, and he felt that life naturally should be 210 years: 70 to learn, 70 to do what you’ve learned, and 70 to teach others what you’ve learned. What this really reflects is a mind always learning, for even if you lived to be 210, you would still never master all you need to know in that time. So, as you grow older and ask yourselves the inevitable question, ‘What have I accomplished in life?’ always add the thought, ‘And what can I still learn?’ I hope you always remain the brilliant students you have been here with us.”
Bollinger then conferred honorary degrees on bacteriologist Stanley Falkow, philanthropists Herbert and Florence Irving, literary scholar Arnold Rampersad, journalist Paul E. Steiger, public-health advocate Zena Stein, and legal scholar Laurence H. Tribe. In addition, the University Medal for Excellence, which is given annually to an outstanding Columbia graduate under the age of forty-five, was presented to technologist Alicia Abella ’95SEAS.