Alumni Gather for Kickoff Cocktail Party at The Waldorf

More than 400 graduates, many of whom traveled great distances to attend the Reunion 2011 festivities, gathered below the magnificent crystal chandeliers of the Waldorf=Astoria’s Grand Ballroom to reunite with longtime friends, reconnect with former classmates, and renew ties to their Law School alma mater.

In his welcoming address, Dean David M. Schizer noted that there were graduates throughout the ballroom who had traveled from as far as the Philippines, China, and Australia to attend Reunion 2011 events. This year’s Reunion celebrated graduates from the class years ending in a “1” or a “6.”

Standing with a group from the Class of ’91, Hee Jong Moon ’91 motioned to Shazia Khawaja ’91, noting proudly, “She traveled from Singapore!” Khawaja, who has lived abroad for seven years, said she was thrilled that Reunion committee co-chair Andrew Dominus ’91 urged her to adjust a business trip through New York City so she could join friends for Reunion. Dominus was not alone in his efforts—he was one of more than 200 Reunion volunteers who played an integral role to the overall success of the weekend, contacting classmates about attending Reunion and joining the Class Gift effort.

As a three-piece band played from the balcony of the art deco landmark, the weekend was off to a spectacular start in a breathtaking space. The passed and plated hors-d’oeuvres offered something for everyone: from risotto and fondue to a Kosher station and dessert selections featuring chocolate-covered strawberries. Underscoring the music, graduates networked with alumni from other classes while former classmates reminisced about professors, shared news of their families, or discussed their current work.

Enjoying the cocktails and conversation, Karen Weinberger-Baruh ’01 caught up with people she had not seen since graduation. “I [haven’t been able to] keep in touch with that many people,” said Weinberger-Baruh, a transactional entertainment attorney who has spent five years in Los Angeles since graduating from Columbia Law School, “so this is such a great opportunity to reconnect.”

Friday evening was the official start to a weekend packed with opportunities to engage with classmates socially and intellectually. Prior to the all-class kickoff reception, many Reunion celebrants attended a CLE offering in national security law, as well as faculty discussions that focused on China’s legal system and anticompetitive settlement litigation. Celebrants had the opportunity over the weekend to tour the school and attend panels on cutting-edge legal topics featuring experts from all across the country, including the Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr. 76 and U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein ’48.

“Columbia Law School runs terrific alumni events and creates fantastic intellectual experiences for alumni,” said Richard Felner ’51, who was talking with a group of Law School alumni that included Robert Lieff ’61, founding partner of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, and many other class of 1961 graduates commemorating their 50th Reunion milestone and their induction into the venerated Stone Circle.

A few hours earlier, Dean Schizer announced to the 50th Reunion class the creation of the Robert L. Lieff Professorship of Law, an endowed position to which Professor Benjamin Liebman has been named. It is the second professorship Mr. Lieff has funded at the Law School. Just as Lieff was able to see the impact of his support at the 50th Reunion discussion led by Professor Liebman earlier that day, alumni back for Reunion 2011 were able to see their gifts at work as they toured new facilities and heard Dean Schizer speak about new programs, research, and scholarship at the Law School.

Across the room, graduates from the class of 2006 and longtime friends Russell Klein 06 and Jason Kessler 06 chatted about what they were most looking forward to during Reunion weekend—with Klein noting he was excited to attend the attorney general’s talk on Saturday. Fellow classmates Noah Bishoff 06 and Kara Coggin 06 traded stories about their Law School days and anticipated sharing a night of dinner and dancing with their classmates the following evening during their class dinners and the all-class dessert buffet and dance party.

Quietly, at a table in the corner, Gerry Perry ’56 and his wife, Joan, sat with Richard Shandell ’56 and his wife, Helene, reminiscing about friends from their days at Columbia. Perry and Shandell said they met in law school, and Shandell noted that two couples had stayed in touch “throughout all these years.”

For the Perrys and the Shandells, it was a night to celebrate both Columbia Law School and a 55-year friendship that evolved from shared experiences in Morningside Heights. For many other alumni, it was a night to network with other classes, forge new friendships, and witness firsthand the living legacy of the Columbia Law School alumni family.

“I love having this event for multiple classes,” said Nancy Sanborn ’91, who pointed out that one of the best things about the evening was time spent mingling with all returning alumni, not just members of her own graduating class.

Floating above Sanborn, metallic gold balloons shaped to represent the class years of those participating in Reunion 2011 reminded anyone who walked into the Grand Ballroom that this all-class reception provided an excellent opportunity to not only get back in touch with old classmates, but to meet new friends who had spent memorable and formative years at Columbia Law School.