The Columbia College Alumni Association awarded Jonathan S. Lavine, CC ’88 and vice chair of the Columbia University board of trustees, the Alexander Hamilton Medal Thursday night.
The medal, which is presented at the annual Alexander Hamilton Award Dinner, is the college’s highest honor. This year, the dinner raised $2.2 million for Columbia College.
The award is traditionally presented to philanthropic alumni or former administrators. Last year, CCAA chose to give the award to beloved professors Eric Foner, CC ’63 and GSAS ’69, Ronald Breslow, and Kenneth T. Jackson. Breslow, an award-winning chemist, passed away last month.
Lavine is a co-managing partner of Bain Capital and chief investment officer of Bain Capital Credit, one of the world’s leading alternative investment firms. Lavine has been heavily involved with Columbia since graduating, and is currently a co-chair of the College’s Core to Commencement campaign and the University’s Columbia Commitment Campaign.
Lavine is also on the board of trustees of City Year, which works to decrease the high school dropout rate in urban centers across the country, in addition to other philanthropic endeavors. In 2007, Lavine and his wife formed the Crimson Lion Foundation, which works with multiple nonprofits to provide equal educational opportunities for individuals and families.
Columbia College Dean James Valentini spoke about his friendship with Lavine, and how Lavine has translated the College’s values into action in the real world.
“Our goal is to not just give these students knowledge, but to have them understand freedom, justice, and society,” Valentini said, referring to the college’s Core Curriculum. “The purpose of that understanding is to enable action. We want our students to live the Core, with genuine and effective engagement with the world in every respect. … All of us here tonight can celebrate Jonathan doing just that.”
Following Valentini’s speech, a video of President Barack Obama, CC ’83, was shown, featuring Obama congratulating Lavine—whom he appointed as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council in 2016—for receiving the Alexander Hamilton Medal. Obama also expressed gratitude for Lavine’s philanthropic work and dedication to the Columbia community, noting that while he and Lavine did not overlap during their time at Columbia, they “care about the same things.”
University President Lee Bollinger presented the award to Lavine and spoke to his generosity.
“There is one special quality that has been noted, and one that I want to emphasize, that is most relevant to this evening and this award, which has at its essence the helping of young people—that is his deep, unrelenting inner wish to help make the world a better place,” Bollinger said.
When Lavine accepted the award, he spoke about his appreciation for his education, and how he believes it is essential to provide that experience for as many young people as possible. In particular, he spoke about certain professors who made a lasting impact on his life, and the leaders that Columbia has produced.
“I am sure that in this room tonight, and on this campus right now, are students who will make even greater groundbreaking discoveries and rise to even greater heights,” Lavine said. “That’s why we must do what we can to propel these students forward.”