Curative powers

Harold Varmus ’66PS has been appointed director of the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. government’s principal cancer-research agency, which distributes approximately $5 billion annually. Varmus, a Columbia University trustee from 2002 to 2005, previously served as president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. In 1989, he shared a Nobel Prize for research into cancer’s genetic basis . . . Peter Carmel ’70PS, a pediatric neurosurgeon and a former Columbia professor, has been elected president of the American Medical Association, the country’s largest and most powerful organization of physicians, with approximately 230,000 members. Carmel is chairman of the department of neurological surgery at New Jersey Medical School and co–medical director of the Neurological Institute of New Jersey.

The rights stuff

Tanya Domi ’07GSAS / Photo: Eileen BarrosoIn December, former U.S. Army Captain Tanya Domi ’07GSAS, a public-affairs officer at Columbia, attended President Obama’s signing of the law to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy at the invitation of the White House. Domi served in the Army from 1974 to 1990 and was investigated several times for her sexual orientation, which she refused to reveal. After DADT became law in 1993, she traveled around the country arguing for its repeal and testified before Congress about the discrimination and harassment she experienced in the Army.

Whole foodies

Siggi Hilmarsson ’04BUS / Photo: Icelandic Milk and SkyrSiggi’s Skyr, a yogurt company started five years ago by Siggi Hilmarsson ’04BUS, is now selling 100,000 five-ounce cups a week after seeing its sales double in 2010, Inc. magazine reported in February. Siggi’s yogurt is fat-free with a creamy, concentrated texture that comes from straining out the whey, which is a traditional practice in Hilmarsson’s native Iceland . . . Max Goldberg ’98BUS has become an influential voice among organic-food devotees through his Twitter feed and blog, In a February 3 New York Times profile, Goldberg described his shift from investment banker to organic-food advocate, aided by his decision 10 years ago to give up alcohol, cigarettes, and antidepressants. “As a man who blends his own Brazilian nut milk each morning,” the Times wrote, “Mr. Goldberg gives advice that carries a certain authority.”

Hail from the chief

Jacques Barzun ’27CC, ’32GSAS was awarded a 2010 National Humanities Medal by the White House in March for his “distinguished career as a scholar, educator, and public intellectual.” Barzun, a cultural historian known for the range of his scholarship, taught at Columbia from 1932 until 1975. He has written and edited more than 40 books on subjects that include French Romantic music, German literature, philosophy, education, and detective fiction . . . Chemistry professor Gerard Parkin received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring in January, a prize that comes with $10,000. Parkin, in addition to mentoring his undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia, brings sixth graders from the Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering to campus to perform experiments with his research team.

Houses divided

History professor Eric Foner ’63CC, ’69GSAS was awarded this year’s Lincoln Prize for his latest book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, which explores why the president was slow to publicly support African Americans’ social equality. The prize, which honors the finest English-language scholarly work on Lincoln or a related subject, comes with $50,000 . . . Hebrew and comparative literature professor Dan Miron ’67GSAS won a National Jewish Book Award for his book From Continuity to Contiguity: Toward a New Jewish Literary Thinking, which argues against attempts by scholars to identify commonalities in all Jewish writings.

Living architecture

Chuck Hoberman ’85SEASChuck Hoberman ’85SEAS, an artist and engineer who invents collapsible structures — from small toys to stadium domes — based on organic design principles, has unveiled several new works in recent months. These include a sliding glass entranceway at Harvard’s Wyss Institute and large windows, with moving geometric overlays that act as sunshades, at the Simons Center at SUNY Stony Brook. In addition, Hoberman has designed a large shading system to cover the atrium of the Audiencia Provincial, a building that is planned for Madrid’s new court complex, the Campus of Justice. Hoberman has a career retrospective at the Building Centre in London through April 30.

May it please the court

Donald B. Verrilli Jr. '83LAW / Photo: Getty ImagesBarack Obama ’83CC has nominated White House deputy counsel Donald B. Verrilli Jr. ’83LAW as solicitor general of the United States. If confirmed, Verrilli will serve as the federal government’s chief advocate before the U.S. Supreme Court; Elena Kagan held that post before joining the high court last summer. Verrilli, who specialized in First Amendment, telecommunications, and intellectual-property law at Jenner & Block, joined the Justice Department in 2009 and the White House legal staff in 2010. 

National trust

Barbara Ruch ’65GSAS, a professor emerita of Japanese literature and culture, received the Kyoto Culture Award in Kyoto on January 27 for her lifetime contributions to the arts and culture of the city. An expert on the Japanese art form etoki, in which performers tell stories using painted handscrolls, Ruch is only the second non-Japanese person ever to win the award . . . John S. Micgiel ’92GSAS, an adjunct associate professor of international and public affairs, was awarded a medal by the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw in December for his scholarship on modern Poland.

—Joshua J. Friedman ’08JRN

Top of the heap

Ron Gonen ’04BUS / Photo: Michael LewisRecyclebank, a start-up cofounded by Ron Gonen ’04BUS, has been named the top clean-tech company in the U.S. by the Wall Street Journal. Recyclebank works with communities in 29 states and the United Kingdom to create incentives for recycling.

Truth squad

Lindsey Christ ’08JRN / Courtesy NY1 NewsLindsey Christ ’08JRN won four awards from the Education Writers Association for her reporting for NY1 cable news. One of her prize-winning stories revealed that a celebrated Mandarin-English public school on Manhattan’s Lower East Side routinely charged its predominantly low-income families $1,000 for mandatory after-school language classes . . . Two J-school graduates recently won George Polk Awards. Jeff Gottlieb ’80JRN won the award for local reporting as part of a team from the Los Angeles Times that exposed government corruption in the working-class city of Bell. Amy Brittain ’10JRN, with Mark Mueller, won the award for metropolitan reporting for a series in Newark’s Star-Ledger about the use of steroids by hundreds of police officers, firefighters, and correction officers.

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