Back to School: Alumni Reconnect at Reunion

Jun 19 2013 | By Melanie A. Farmer and Cliff Massey

These days, social media sites are likely the easiest, fastest way to reconnect with old classmates. Still, nothing beats face time. This proved to be true for more than 300 Columbia Engineering alumni who returned to Morningside and the Big Apple for Reunion Weekend, held May 30 to June 2. Alumni from class years ending in 3 and 8 were welcomed back on campus to celebrate their graduation anniversaries from the School and forge new memories with old classmates and professors.

The weekend was packed with events, including numerous social outings around the City, such as the annual Young Alumni party aboard the Intrepid, class-specific cocktail receptions and dinners, and academic lectures. Reunion attendees had the opportunity to attend thought-provoking discussions with some of Columbia’s top faculty, find out what’s new at the Engineering School from Interim Dean Donald Goldfarb, and learn about the intersection of technology and the arts at the Magill Lecture, given by Mark Hansen, the David and Helen Gurley Brown Professor of Journalism at Columbia Journalism School.

The 2013 Magill Lecture, "Information Performance," given by Mark Hansen, the David and Helen Gurley Brown Professor of Journalism at Columbia Journalism School.

Reunion festivities kicked off with a welcome dinner and annual awards presentation by the Columbia Engineering Alumni Association (CEAA) held in Low Rotunda. CEAA presented distinguished alumni Michael Abrahams BS’63, MS’64 and Donald Ferguson MS’84, PhD’89, ’82CC with the Egleston Medal. Named after Thomas Egleston, who founded the Columbia School of Mines in 1864, the medal recognizes the pioneering achievements of alumni in their respective fields of engineering.

In his remarks, CEAA President Russell Baccaglini BS’63, MS’64, ProfD’72 said the Egleston Committee decided to honor two medalists this year, “believing that they represent excellence in different fields of endeavor that clearly demonstrate the breadth of Columbia’s engineering education and our alumni’s contributions to our society, as well as the medalists’ own achievements.”

Abrahams, who celebrated his 50th Reunion, is technical director of structures at Parsons Brinckerhoff and a leading structural engineer. A leader in transportation infrastructure, he is well known for his roles in the planning, design, and construction of more than 50 bridges, tunnels, ports, power plants, and office buildings. His fellow Egleston Medal recipient, Donald Ferguson, was honored for his leading contributions in creating, developing, and standardizing the foundations of the web server business and for key contributions to the management of research and development in information technology. Ferguson, who began his distinguished career at IBM and Microsoft, currently serves as chief technology officer for Dell Software Group.

At the Dean’s Day Breakfast, Interim Dean Goldfarb welcomed back alumni from all class years and gave an update on the tremendous accomplishments at the School. He highlighted new faculty research, gave information about the incoming Class of 2017, and spoke about the new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering. At the end of the breakfast, alumni from the Class of 1963 were inducted to the Golden Lions Society, and members of the Class of 1988, celebrating their 25th anniversary, to the Silver Lions Society.

In addition to the annual Magill Lecture in Science, Technology, and the Arts, Reunion guests attended lectures by various faculty and guest speakers including Eric Holder ’73CC, ’76LAW, who was himself celebrating his 40th Reunion. This year’s recipients of the Great Teacher Award by the Society of Columbia Graduates—Shih-Fu Chang, the Richard Dicker Professor of Telecommunications at the Engineering School, and Stuart Firestein, professor of biological sciences at Columbia College—also delivered public intellectual lectures during the weekend.

Other activities over Reunion Weekend included the Chelsea Art Gallery Crawl, a visit to the High Line, wine tasting socials, an alumni barbeque, and cocktails and dancing on Low Plaza—the weekend was truly one worth remembering!

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