Green to greenbacks

Emily Landsburg '01CC / Photo: Sarah J. GloverIn March, Glenn G. Wattley ’75SEAS was appointed chief executive offi cer of U.S.A. Synthetic Fuel Corporation, a Cincinnatibased company that aims to produce zeroemission fuel from clean and renewable resources . . . BlackGold Biofuels, a company started by Emily Landsburg ’01CC, has developed technology that transforms grease collected from municipal water systems into biodiesel. She is now working on a demonstration project with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and is seeking venture capital to bring her product to market.

Hitting broadway

Brandon Victor Dixon ’07CC has been chosen to play Ray Charles in the Broadway production Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Musical, which begins preview performances in October and opens in November . . . Katori Hall ’03CC, a 28-year-old playwright from Memphis, won the Olivier Award last fall for the London production of The Mountaintop, a play that depicts the last night in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and is coming to Broadway this fall.

Legal eagle

Ellen Oran Kaden ’77LAW, a Columbia trustee emerita and an executive at the Campbell Soup Company, was recently awarded the 2010 Aiming High Award by Legal Momentum, a women’s legal-defense and education fund. Kaden is Campbell’s chief legal offi cer and a principal adviser to the company’s board of directors on legal and corporate governance. The award honors those who have broken ground for women in business.

New fellows

Four Columbia professors were elected recently to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest honorary societies. The new fellows are evolutionary biologist Ruth S. DeFries, journalism dean Nicholas Lemann, philosopher Christopher Peacocke, and law professor Peter Strauss.

Public Works

In April, Jeffrey A. Moerdler ’78CC was named commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Moerdler, a New York real estate attorney, will now oversee all work related to the metro area’s three major airports, all bridges and tun- Wendy Ruderman ’97JRN SARAH J. GLOVER nels that connect the two states, and the development of the World Trade Center site . . . Michael F. Mundaca ’86CC was recently appointed as the assistant secretary for tax policy at the Department of the Treasury by President Barack Obama ’83CC. Mundaca served in the treasury under former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and has been the acting assistant secretary for the past year.

Rescuing Journalism

Columbia Journalism Review, which focused half of its six issues in 2009 on the survival of serious journalism in the United States, won the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism in March. The award is presented each year by Penn State’s College of Communications. “The future of journalism will be shaped via a great ongoing conversation,” says CJR executive editor Mike Hoyt. “We did our best in 2009 to further and deepen that conversation.”

Rich stories

T. J. Stiles ’91GSAS won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for biography for The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, about the combative railroad and shipping entrepreneur who helped create modern capitalism . . . The Pulitzer for drama went to the rock musical Next to Normal, about a mother struggling with a mental illness, by Tom Kitt ’96CC and Brian Yorkey ’93CC. Only seven other musicals have won the award in the history of the Pulitzers, which are administered by the Graduate School of Journalism.

Scientific spirit

Biologist and philosopher Francisco J. Ayala ’64GSAS won the prestigious Templeton Prize in March for his life’s work promoting the notion that evolutionary science is more in harmony with sophisticated religious thinking than is the theory of intelligent design. Ayala is a professor at the University of California at Irvine. The award, which is administered by the philanthropic John Templeton Foundation, comes with $1.5 million.

The investigators

When the Pulitzers for journalism were announced in April, two J-school alumniwere among the winners: Wendy Ruderman ’97JRN, of the Philadelphia Daily News, shared a Pulitzer with Barbara Laker for their investigative series about a crooked police drug squad, and Matt Richtel ’90JRN, of the New York Times, won for his series about the dangers of motorists using mobile devices . . . Mariana van Zeller ’02JRN and Darren Foster ’02JRN, a husband and wife documentary team, won a Peabody Award in April for The OxyContin Express, which examined prescription drug abuse. Their production aired on Current TV, the network started by former vice president Al Gore . . . Aaron Scott ’09JRN won a regional magazine writing award in April from the Society of Professional Journalists for an article about the controversy surrounding openly gay Portland, Oregon mayor Sam Adams. The award recognizes collegiate work; Scott wrote the piece for his master’s thesis.

Time for a change

Jehuda Reinharz ’67GS will step down as president of Brandeis University next year to become president of the Mandel Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds nonprofi ts in the U.S. and Israel. Reinharz, who has led Brandeis since 1994, will remain a professor of modern Jewish history.

Tomorrow's leaders

Engineering students Nalini Vasudevan and Samantha Lauren Ainsley are among 25 winners of highly competitive Google scholarships that aim to encourage women to pursue careers in computing and technology. They’ll each receive a $10,000 award for the 2010–11 academic year and will participate in a retreat at Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters next summer. Both women hope to finish degrees in 2011: Vasudevan, a native of Bangalore, India, is a doctoral candidate, and Ainsley, who is from Haiku, Hawaii, is working toward a master’s degree.

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