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Columbia Spectator Staff

In celebration of the University's 250th anniversary, Spectator is ranking the 250 greatest Columbians through the ages, from number 250 to number 1. The project will culminate with the selection of the single most influential alum in May.

David Altcheck, CC 1978
Altcheck is one of the country's foremost orthopedic surgeons and has treated clients as well known as Ralph Lauren, Mike Piazza, and Andy Roddick. A sports medicine specialist, Altchek was the team doctor for the New York Mets for 10 years and is currently the official doctor of the U.S. Davis Cup tennis team. Altchek has won numerous awards for outstanding achievement in orthopedics, and earlier this year was featured in a Polo ad campaign.

Sissy Biggers, BC 1978
After making her television debut at age 16, Biggers has gained fame for her role as both a food and lifestyle personality, appearing on programs ranging from the Rosie O'Donnell Show to the Today Show. Most recently she is the host of ABC's Extreme Makeover reality show in which contestants undergo a complete transformation with the help of cosmetic surgeons, stylists, and personal trainers. She was one of the first to break into the food-as-entertainment genre, hosting Ready Set Cook! on the Food Network starting in 1996.

Lawrence Wien, CC 1925
One of the most influential forces in New York City real estate, Wien was involved with such transactions as the battle for ownership of the Empire State Building. He founded W&M Properties with Peter Malkin in 1965, and was also a pioneer in business ethics. He is credited with developing the concept of real estate investment syndication in 1933. Columbia's football stadium and an undergraduate residence hall are named in his honor.

George Gregory, Jr., CC 1933
A prominent civic leader in Harlem during the 1950s and 1960s, Gregory was also Columbia's first African-American basketball player. During his senior year, Gregory led the team to a 21-2 record and was named an All-American. After graduation, he directed the Harlem Youth Club and served in the office of the Manhattan borough president for many years. He was a founding member of the New York City Youth Board in 1947.

Claire Shipman, CC 1986
Since 2001, Shipman--one of the first female CC graduates--has worked as the senior national correspondent for ABC News's Good Morning America. She has focused much of her career on the nation's capital, working as the White House correspondent for NBC and CNN. She won an Emmy for her contributions to CNN's coverage of the Tiananmen Square student uprising in 1989. In 1991, her coverage of the collapse of the Soviet Union won CNN a Peabody Award.

Richard Franko Goldman, CC 1930
A noted big band composer, Goldman was a longtime leader of the Goldman Band along with famed American musician John Phillip Sousa. He composed many major pieces and wrote several books of music composition and criticism. He also taught at the Juilliard School and worked as the chair of its department of music literature. Goldman also served as president of the prestigious Peabody Institute of Music at Johns Hopkins University.

Lydia Davis, BC 1970
An acclaimed author, Davis is one of the recipients of the 2003 MacArthur "genius grants" for her experimental prose crafting and ingenious use of language. Her risk-taking style recently produced Samuel Johnson is Indignant, which includes a letter of complaint to a funeral parlor among its 57 literary miniatures. In addition to authoring three collections of stories and a novel, she has translated from the French works by authors such as Marcel Proust and Maurice Blanchot. She is currently writer-in-residence and associate professor of English at SUNY Albany.

Melvin Schwartz, CC 1953
Schwartz spent his entire academic career at Columbia, earning his B.S., Masters, and Ph.D degrees in physics, then continuing as a professor in that department. In 1988, Schwartz won a piece of the Nobel Prize in physics for his work studying neutrinos, which are subatomic particles with no charge and virtually no mass. Schwartz often cites his childhood in Depression-era America as a major factor in his drive toward the top of the scientific world.

Philip Milstein, CC 1971
One of Columbia's most active alumni leaders, Milstein was elected a University trustee in 1996, and has won both the John Jay Award and the Alumni Federation Medal. Milstein served as president and chief executive officer of Emigrant Savings Bank since 1993, and has long been a principal player in the real estate business. In 1998, he donated $10 million to Columbia to create an undergraduate library.

Frank Lorenzo, CC 1961
Lorenzo was one of the most controversial figures to come out of the airline deregulation process and the rise of commercial airlines in the late 1970s. As head of Texas International, Lorenzo bought out airlines such as Continental, Frontier, and Eastern, creating the largest airline in the nation. He was a ruthless businessman and was constantly at war with unions. His airlines struggled with bankruptcy, and the last folded in 1991.

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