Centennial Launch and Cocktail Party
This event occurred on Friday, April 20, 2012
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The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s centennial year got off to a roaring start this past Friday, April 20, with a series of events that celebrated the school’s storied history and the accomplishments of its diverse alumni. The centennial launch took place during the J-School’s annual Alumni Weekend that welcomes hundreds of J-schoolers back to Morningside campus.
J-School alumni streamed into the venerable Journalism building throughout Friday afternoon to mingle, reminisce, and attend events hosted by faculty and distinguished alumni. At 5:15, shortly after the conclusion of the Dean’s Panel, a crowd of community members gathered on the school’s front steps, next to the statue of Thomas Jefferson, for the long-awaited unveiling of the new façade marking the building’s new name, Pulitzer Hall. Members of the Pulitzer family and the class of ’52 were on hand as Dean Nicholas Lemann introduced Columbia University President Lee Bollinger.
Bollinger spoke of the school in glowing terms, asserting that he believes Columbia Journalism School is the best in the nation. Lemann was similarly complimentary, suggesting that Bollinger is more focused on journalism than virtually any other head of a major university.
Beneath an overcast sky, with the Columbia blue skirt that covered the facade fluttering in the breeze, Dean Lemann raised a pair large ceremonial scissors and cut the string that obscured the new lettering from the world. Rapturous cheers went up as the blue cloth sank to the ground, the letters “PULITZER” lighting up from the many photo flashes of enthusiastic attendees.
Shortly thereafter, at 6 p.m., community members were seated at Columbia’s Miller Theatre for the evening’s centennial program. The program began with the premiere of a new film the J-School commissioned for its centennial, directed by noted filmmaker Jesse Dylan and produced by his company Wondros.
Dean Lemann began the evening with reflections about Joseph Pulitzer and his vision for a school of journalism at Columbia University. “I hope Joseph Pulitzer would be proud, and his descendents are proud,” Lemann said, of what’s become of his great gift.”
Lemann introduced the evening’s MC, A’Lelia Bundles ’76, who recounted her formative experiences with Professors Phyllis Garland and Fred Friendly and pointed to the school’s 50 Great Stories compendium for examples of outstanding work by J-Schoolers, before introducing Michael Pulitzer.
Mr. Pulitzer, a grandson of Joseph Pulitzer and accomplished journalist in his own right, spoke about attending the school’s 50th anniversary celebration and joked about the pronunciation of his illustrious surname.
“You pronounce it ‘pull,’ ‘it,’ ‘sir,’” he said, “with a Z.”
Ms. Bundles then introduced another speaker, Detroit public radio reporter Martina Guzman, who talked movingly about her immigrant background and mission to tell the stories that aren’t being told.
To complete the program, keynote speaker Robert Caro took the stage to talk about the school and his experiences. From 1967 to 1968, Caro was based at the J-School as a Carnegie Fellow, allowing him time to conduct much of the research for his Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, “The Power Broker.”
“The Journalism School was a beacon, a standard for the best of journalism, so I couldn’t be doing that bad,” he said.
With the conclusion of the program, guests proceeded to Columbia’s iconic Low Library for a cocktail reception and the opportunity to converse with generations of J-School alumni. Attendees gathered in Low Library’s grand rotunda and faculty room to mingle, enjoy music by the Ben Waltzer ’10 Jazz Trio, and watch a centennial slide show with images from throughout the school’s history.