Columbia University will confer five honorary degrees and recognize the alumna who will receive its University Medal for Excellence at its annual Commencement exercises on May 16, 2018. The recipients are:

Bradley Efron

Bradley Efron, Doctor of Science

Bradley Efron is the Max H. Stein Professor of Humanities and Sciences and Professor of Statistics at Stanford University. His pioneering contributions to theoretical and applied statistics have included empirical Bayes analysis, the analysis of survival data, applications of differential geometry to statistical theory, and analysis of multiple testing problems in inference for gene expression data. He is best known for his introduction of the bootstrap method of statistical inference. Efron was elected president of both the American Statistical Association (2004) and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (1987–1988). He is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the Royal Statistical Society, the International Statistical Institute, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; he is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences.


Elizabeth Diller

Elizabeth Diller, Doctor of Humane Letters

Elizabeth Diller is a founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), a design studio whose practice spans the fields of architecture, urban design, installation art, multi-media performance, digital media, and print. The studio, co-founded by Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, is responsible for the adaptive reuse of the High Line and the transformation of Lincoln Center. Two additional forthcoming New York projects are The Shed—a flexible multi-arts center—and the renovation and expansion of The Museum of Modern Art. Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and have two facilities in construction for the Columbia Business School on the Manhattanville campus. Other notable projects include The Broad, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Diller is Professor of Architecture at Princeton University.


Patrick Hubert Gaspard

Patrick Hubert Gaspard, Doctor of Laws

Patrick Gaspard is president of the Open Society Foundations, a network devoted to promoting democracy, justice, education, public health, and free expression around the world. Gaspard was the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa from 2013 to 2016. He earlier served as the executive director of the Democratic National Committee, and as director of the White House Office of Political Affairs for President Obama. He has extensive experience in presidential and congressional politics, including his role as the national political director for Obama for America in 2008. Gaspard began his career as a union organizer in New York City and became the executive vice president and political director for the Service Employees International Union. Born to Haitian parents in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gaspard spent his formative years in politics as a senior aide to New York City Mayor David Dinkins, and as chief of staff for the New York City Council. Gaspard attended Columbia University from 1994 to 1997.


Thelma Golden

Thelma Golden, Doctor of Humane Letters

Thelma Golden is Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, one of the world’s leading institutions devoted to visual art by artists of African descent. Golden began her career as a Studio Museum intern in 1987. In 1988, she joined the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she launched her influential curatorial practice. For over a decade at the Whitney, she organized numerous groundbreaking exhibitions, including Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in American Art, in 1994. Under her leadership, the Studio Museum has gained increased renown as a global leader in the exhibition of contemporary art, a center for innovative education, and a cultural anchor in the Harlem community. Her tenure as Director at the Studio Museum has been characterized by a deep commitment to planning for the Museum’s future. In 2015, the Museum announced plans to create a new facility, designed by Adjaye Associates in conjunction with Cooper Robertson, on its current site in Harlem.


Lynn R. Sykes

Lynn R. Sykes, Doctor of Science

An influential contributor to the establishment and evolution of plate tectonic theory, Lynn R. Sykes, Higgins Professor Emeritus at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, helped revolutionize our understanding of the deformation of the earth. His groundbreaking research illuminated critical elements surrounding the timing and location of earthquakes and volcano eruptions, and proved invaluable to our ability to prepare for natural disasters. His scholarship dovetailed with critical public service work. He was involved in the signing of a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union in 1974 and worked for 50 years on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty signed in 1996.


Shazi Visram

Shazi Visram, University Medal for Excellence

Shazi Visram is an entrepreneur and mother committed to bettering the world through business that is socially, financially, and environmentally enlightened. Visram is the Founder and Chief Mom of Happy Family Brands, which she led to become the #1 organic baby food company in the U.S. market with disruptive innovations that have democratized organic food for new families. Visram's business focus is on the health and wellness of children and families around the world. She is actively engaged as an investor and advisor to companies innovating for a brighter future, including EpiBone, Bulletproof, Ovia Health, Frontier Nutrition, and Recycle Track Systems. Additionally, Visram holds a seat on the board of directors of the Environmental Working Group and serves on the Board of Overseers at Columbia Business School. She received a B.A. from Columbia College and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.