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Michael Edmonson for Spectator

University President Lee Bollinger dedicated the Manhattanville campus at a ceremony on Monday.

University President Lee Bollinger dedicated the Manhattanville campus at a ceremony on Monday.


University President Lee Bollinger officially dedicated the Manhattanville campus, Columbia's most transformational campus expansion in over 100 years, at a ceremony on Monday.

The dedication marks a significant milestone in the University's 14-year effort to plan and develop a 6.8-million-square-foot campus, at the cost of an estimated $6.3 billion.

The Manhattanville campus has become the cornerstone of Bollinger's presidency—before his inauguration, he identified and framed his tenure around the challenge of securing the space necessary for Columbia to take its place among the world's greatest universities.


“From 1970 until 2000, Columbia was constrained while other universities across the United States expanded. So Columbia had to—there was the existential question for the institution to be able have a future—not just to have a building or two, but something that would unfold over many decades. You have to have that space for the academic imagination to function,” Bollinger said on Monday.  


Fourteen years later, the first two buildings have been completed on the new campus—the 450,000-square-foot Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the 60,000-square-foot Lenfest Center for the Arts—and are expected to officially open in the spring. Three additional buildings, two for the Business School and the University Forum, an academic conference space, are slated to join them by 2021.


“Altogether, within a mere six years, there will be some 6,000 Columbia faculty, students, and staff inhabiting this now somewhat ghostly site, all busily going about their lives, taking for granted that it took so many some 14 years to create—which is exactly as it should be,” Bollinger said.


The ceremony was attended by a host of elected officials and academic luminaries, including U.S. Congressman Charlie Rangel, Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute Co-director and Nobel Prize laureate Eric Kandel, and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. Major donors and philanthropists Mortimer Zuckerman, Gerry Lenfest, and Christina McInerney, the president and CEO of the Jerome L. Greene foundation, were also in attendance.


At times during the dedication, Bollinger struck a personal tone as he introduced his daughter and grandchild, spoke of his wife's experience working as an artist in the area, and reflected upon the vision he had for the campus—and for the University—as Columbia's newly inaugurated president 14 years ago.

Bollinger also returned to another central theme he raised in his 2002 inaugural speech: the role of the University to serve.


“The period of the unfolding of this new campus in Manhattanville should be a time in which we demonstrate the courage and confidence to reevaluate what we think is important and our role in the world,” he said. “For this noble institution, today is a time of high celebration, of optimism, and of eagerness to be better than we've ever been.”