Columbia University will confer four honorary degrees and recognize the alumni who will receive its University Medal for Excellence at its annual Commencement exercises on May 22, 2019. The recipients are:

Peter J. Awn

Peter J. Awn, Posthumous Doctor of Letters

On May 22, 2019, Peter J. Awn will become the ninth person since 1945 to receive a posthumous honorary degree from Columbia University.

Peter Awn was Professor of Islamic and Comparative Religion and Dean Emeritus of the School of General Studies at Columbia University. He first arrived at Columbia in 1978 as a scholar of religion and Islamic studies. In 1997, he became Dean of the School of General Studies, and throughout his 20-year tenure, he championed the School's unique role as Columbia's unrivaled liberal arts college for returning and nontraditional students. He embraced the School’s premedical certificate program—the oldest and largest in the country—for students already holding an undergraduate degree, as well as the School’s long-standing relationship with the Jewish Theological Seminary. He created dual BA programs with Sciences Po in Paris, the City University of Hong Kong, and Trinity College Dublin. In his letter to the Columbia community announcing Awn’s death, University President Lee C. Bollinger called him "one of the essential leaders of Columbia University's modern era." Awn stepped down as Dean in 2017 to return to his first love, teaching. He received his BA in Philosophy and Classical Languages from Fordham University and an MDiv in Christian Theology from Woodstock College. He was ordained a Catholic priest before earning his PhD in Islamic Religion and Comparative Religion from Harvard University.


Douglas A. Chalmers

Douglas A. Chalmers, Doctor of Letters

Douglas A. Chalmers is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Special Assistant to the Provost for Faculty Retirement, and Executive Director of the Society of Senior Scholars at Columbia University. He has been Department Chair, Acting Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, and Director of the Institute for Latin American Studies. He wrote and co-edited The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America, co-edited The Right and Democracy in Latin America, and authored articles and books about institutions that link civil society to governments in Europe and Latin America. He earned his BA from Bowdoin College and his PhD from Yale University.


Karen Brooks Hopkins, Doctor of Laws

Karen Brooks Hopkins is a Board Member and Senior Advisor to the Onassis Foundation USA. She is also the Nasher Haemisegger Fellow at the National Center for Arts Research, located at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She serves on the boards of the Jerome L. Green Foundation and The Trust for Governors Island. Hopkins was an employee of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) for 36 years, serving as its President from 1999 until her retirement in 2015, when she was designated President Emerita. From 2015-2017, she served as the inaugural Senior Fellow in Residence at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Robert Langer, Doctor of Science

Robert Langer is an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has written over 1,400 papers, edited 15 books, and has over 1,350 issued and pending patents worldwide. He served as Chairman of the Food and Drug Administration’s SCIENCE Board from 1999 to 2002. Langer is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Inventors. He is one of four living individuals to have received both the United States National Medal of Science and the United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation. He received his bachelor's degree from Cornell University and his ScD from MIT, both in Chemical Engineering.


Molly Ola Pinney, University Medal for Excellence

Molly Ola Pinney is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Global Autism Project, a nonprofit organization that supports autism centers in the developing world by bringing the latest educational and behavioral techniques to educators and therapists working with children with autism. Starting in Ghana, and quickly spreading to other countries, the Global Autism Project now works with local groups in ten nations: India, Indonesia, China, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Kenya, Nigeria, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. Pinney has a degree in Sociology from Columbia University’s School of General Studies.


Jamie Kern Lima and Paulo Lima, University Medal for Excellence

Jamie Kern Lima and Paulo Lima are Co-Founders and Co-Chief Executive Officers of IT Cosmetics, a top-selling makeup and skincare brand. They sold the brand to L’Oréal in 2016 in what was the largest acquisition in L’Oréal history. Jamie graduated from Washington State University and received her MBA from Columbia University. Paulo received his BBA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Columbia University, where he is also a member of the Board of Overseers. They are both passionate supporters of organizations devoted to making a difference in the lives of women and girls.