Newsmakers

Trustee emeritus H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest ’58LAW, ’09HON and his wife Marguerite are among nine winners of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, given every two years to philanthropists who embody Andrew Carnegie’s devotion to giving. Lenfest, a lawyer and media entrepreneur, has donated more than $1.2 billion to education, social services, and the arts, including more than $100 million to Columbia.

Madeleine Olnek ’08SOA took home the top prize at the Champs-Élysées Film Festival in Paris for her film Wild Nights with Emily, which imagines an illicit romance between the poet Emily Dickinson and her sister-in-law Susan Dickinson. School of the Arts film student Max Rifkind-Barron ’11CC served as a producer.  

Two Columbians have been confirmed by the US Senate to positions in the Trump administration. This past spring, David Friedman ’78CC became the new US ambassador to Israel. Friedman was previously a lawyer with the firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, where he represented the Trump Organization in several bankruptcy cases. He has also been involved with several philanthropic organizations, particularly those that support Israeli settlements. David Pekoske ’89SIPA now leads the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Pekoske is a former vice commandant for the US Coast Guard; he retired from active service in 2010.

Parul Sehgal ’10SOA has been named a book critic at the New York Times, following chief book critic Michiko Kakutani’s retirement. Sehgal, who is also an adjunct professor at the School of the Arts, has been a senior editor and columnist at the New York Times since 2012.  Her TED talk on literature and envy has been viewed more than two million times.

Two Columbia Business School alums were included on HuffPost’s list of five next-generation tech leaders. Alicia Syrett ’07BUS is the former chief administrative officer of a major private-equity firm and the founder of Pantegrion Capital, an angel-investment vehicle focused on seed and early-stage investments. Delphine Braas ’14BUS is cofounder of Sailo, a marketplace connecting boats, captains, and renters, which now manages a fleet of four thousand vessels. (For more on Braas and Sailo, see our Fall 2014 cover story “Start Me Up.”) 

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— Carolina Castro

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