Jeh Johnson and Richard Richman Receive Law School’s Medal For Excellence

Spring 2012

At the 2012 Winter Luncheon, Columbia Law School honored top Pentagon lawyer Jeh C. Johnson ’82 and businessman Richard P. Richman ’72 J.D., ’73 M.B.A. with its most prestigious award, the Medal for Excellence.

Before a crowd of more than 300 at the Waldorf=Astoria, David M. Schizer, Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, praised the two men for their contributions to public life and their commitment to the intellectual ideals of the Columbia Law School community. “Our two honorees this year each exemplify our school’s core values of excellence, integrity, and service,” Dean Schizer told the audience. 

In presenting the award to Johnson, the general counsel of the Department of Defense, Dean Schizer lauded him for working on many of society’s most important and challenging legal issues, including the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In an emotional acceptance speech, Johnson told the story of a young Navy lieutenant who was blinded during combat in Afghanistan but is now running long-distance races and training to swim in the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games. “Stories like this are common among these brave young people,” Johnson said. “So, I accept this award knowing that ‘excellence’ is a relative term.”

Following Johnson’s speech, Dean Schizer paid tribute to Richman, the founder and chairman of The Richman Group, one of the largest owners and developers of rental housing in the nation. “Thousands of people across the country benefit from Rich’s work, and his wisdom, creativity, and energy infuse every aspect of the company’s operations,” Dean Schizer said. Richman has funded a scholarship program at the Law School and helped the Law School and Business School launch the Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy.

In his speech, the honoree thanked Columbia Law School for playing a pivotal role in his academic, professional, and personal growth. “I cannot say enough what a difference Columbia Law School has made in my life,” Richman noted.