Super sad, true, and funny, too

Gary Shteyngart / ULF Anderson / Getty ImagesSchool of the Arts writing professor Gary Shteyngart is the first American to win the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, which he received for his novel Super Sad True Love Story. (Super Sad was also named one of the best books of 2010 by the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, and Slate.) The prize is awarded to a book that “has captured the comic spirit of P. G. Wodehouse,” the British author of the Jeeves and Blandings Castle stories.

Bright ideas

Nao Minami ’10SIPA and Patrick Kim ’10SIPA have launched an investment fund to develop and operate solar-energy projects. The New York–based fund, Green Street Energy LLC, recently completed its first solar installation on the roof of a Hawaiian hotel. “We’re basically an independent power company,” says Minami, a former trader for Goldman Sachs . . . In April, a team of biomedical engineering undergraduate students won a national design contest for a device that monitors the respiration, heart rate, and body temperature of newborns. The device is intended to monitor babies in an understaffed neonatal unit at a hospital in Kampala, Uganda. It will be tested in the hospital later this year. The team, consisting of seniors Heidi Ahmed, Pankil Desai, Morris Kaunda Michael, Yufeng Yang, and Gary Zhang, was honored at the National Undergraduate Global Health Technology Design Competition at Rice University.

In whom we trust

Alicia Abella '95EN / Courtesy AT&TMichael E. Leiter ’91CC stepped down as director of the National Counterterrorism Center on July 8, after four years in the position. Leiter was one of the few senior national-security officials whom President Obama kept on from the Bush administration, and he had strong bipartisan support in Congress and in intelligence circles. Leiter, who recently remarried, told the New York Times that he resigned for personal reasons and to allow his successor “to bring fresh eyes to the problems we face.”. . . Alicia Abella ’95EN, a research scientist at AT&T Labs, has been appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The child of Cuban immigrants, Abella will advise the administration on a broad range of initiatives designed to help young Latinos succeed in school.

Promoted at the Gray Lady

Dean Baquet ’78CC / Photo: Doug Willis/New York Times/ReutersDean Baquet ’78CC, the Washington bureau chief for the New York Times, will become the paper’s managing editor for news operations on September 6. Before joining the Times in 2007, Baquet was editor of the Los Angeles Times, a job he quit after publicly refusing to lay off newsroom staff. He won a Pulitzer Prize for investigating corruption in Chicago’s City Council in 1988 . . . Journalism professor James B. Stewart is now a columnist for the Times’ business section. He is a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and the author of several best-selling business books . . . Former Times political reporter and restaurant critic Frank Bruni ’88JRN now writes a Sunday column for the paper. According to the Times, he is the paper’s first openly gay op-ed columnist.

Heart for the game

Archie Roberts ’65CC, a former Miami Dolphins quarterback who went on to become a heart surgeon, has received the National Football Foundation’s 2011 Distinguished American Award. Roberts is being honored for raising awareness about the risks of heart disease for heavy-set football players. In 2003, he created the Living Heart Foundation, whose mobile units have provided cardiovascular screenings to thousands of former NFL players across the country.

Long way from home

Morris Kaunda Michael ’11EN / John Makely/MSNBCAmong those award-winning engineering students, none is more intimately aware of people’s needs in the developing world than Morris Kaunda Michael ’11EN. At the age of five, Michael fled war-torn southern Sudan with his family and spent most of his childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp. His mother, recognizing his intellectual gifts, encouraged him to move to the United States as a teenager so that he could study here. Now that he has graduated from Columbia, he plans to study medicine and return to Sudan. “As a refugee, you don’t have a lot of things of your own,” says Michael, whose story was told recently on NPR’s Tell Me More. “Most things are gifts. The best I can do is to give back to the community.”

Shooting for the truth

Mariana van Zeller ’02JRN / Photo: Darren Foster '02JRNMariana van Zeller ’02JRN, a broadcast journalist at Al Gore’s Current TV cable network, received a 2010 Livingston Award for her report “Rape on the Reservation,” which examines the increased incidence of rape on American Indian reservations. The Livingston Awards are given to journalists under the age of 35 and include a $10,000 prize . . . A team of documentary filmmakers that included Delphine Reuter ’10JRN was honored recently for its exposé about how hazardous waste produced in Europe’s wealthier countries is often dumped illegally in poorer ones. Their film, Toxic Europe, was named the Best International Organized Crime Report at the Ilaria Alpi Journalism Awards in Riccione, Italy, in June.

Bell, book, and fiddle

Gabriel Lefkowitz ’08CC / Photo: Arthur MoellerTheater director Darko Tresnjak ’98SOA is the new artistic director of the Hartford Stage in Hartford, Conn. He will direct the comedy Bell, Book, and Candle in April 2012 . . .Gabriel Lefkowitz ’08CC was named concertmaster of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra this spring — his first professional appointment. The 23-year-old violinist earned his BA in music and economics from the College in three years and then got his master’s in violin performance from Juilliard.

Bemedaled faculty

Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, presented Mellon Professor Emeritus Robert O. Paxton with the city’s médaille Grand Vermeil in May. Paxton, the premier historian of Vichy France, was in Paris for the opening of an exhibition on literary life in France during the German occupation . . . Kenneth Frampton, who is the Ware Professor of Architecture, will be given the Jean Tschumi Prize for architectural criticism by the International Union of Architects at its triennial World Congress in Tokyo in September. He developed the concept of “critical regionalism,” arguing that modernist architecture must incorporate local building traditions in order to avoid having a homogenizing effect around the world.

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