2018 Winter Luncheon at Cipriani

Columbia Law School’s most prestigious award, the Medal for Excellence, has been presented annually since 1964 to alumni and past or present faculty members who exemplify the qualities of character, intellect, and social and professional responsibility that the Law School seeks to instill in its students.​

On February 23, 2024, the Law School will recognize two esteemed alumni, Rolando T. Acosta CC ’79, LAW ’82 and Alia Tutor ’00, in the Ballroom of Cipriani 42nd Street. Invitation to follow. For inquiries, please contact [email protected].

Rolando Acosta

Rolando T. Acosta CC ’79, LAW ’82
Partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
and Retired Presiding Justice of the New York State Supreme Court,
Appellate Division, First Department

Rolando T. Acosta served for a quarter century as an innovative and community-minded New York trial and appellate judge, presiding over hundreds of bench and jury trials and thousands of appeals in civil and criminal cases. Most notably, he served on the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department for 15 years, including for six years as presiding justice. He retired from the bench in March 2023. 

Acosta is currently a trustee emeritus of Columbia University, which awarded him its Medal for Excellence in 2000. He is a member of the Law School’s Dean’s Council and, in 2013, received the Wien Prize for Social Responsibility. As an undergraduate, he starred as a right-handed pitcher for the baseball team and led the Lions to two Ivy League championships. He still holds university records for most career and season wins, starts, and innings pitched, and he was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008. 

Acosta’s judicial career began when he was elected to New York County Civil Court in 1997 and to the New York State Supreme Court in New York County in 2002. He was the first Dominican to hold that position and spearheaded the creation of the Harlem Community Justice Center, a multijurisdictional community court program. Acosta has received numerous honors, including the Latino Judges Association John Carro Award for Judicial Excellence, the National Hispanic Bar Association 2004 Judge of the Year, and the Jewish Lawyers Guild’s Golda Meir Memorial Award in 2013. 

Born in the Dominican Republic, Acosta grew up in the South Bronx and Washington Heights after immigrating to New York City with his family at age 14. Throughout his career, beginning as a public interest lawyer with The Legal Aid Society and a deputy commissioner for the New York City Commission on Human Rights, Acosta served as a civic leader in Washington Heights. He is the husband of Vasthi Reyes Acosta TC ’94, TC ’95 and father of Lucas Acosta and Zila Acosta-Grimes CC ’11, LAW ’15.

Alia Tutor

Alia Tutor ’00
President of the Alia Tutor Family Foundation

Alia Tutor’s philanthropy is driven by projects where she can make a significant impact, particularly in medicine, higher education, and economic empowerment for underserved communities. She has devoted her giving and board service to a wide range of organizations. 

In 2022, Tutor, through the Alia Tutor Family Foundation, made a transformational $17.5 million gift to Columbia Law School—the largest single commitment in the Law School’s history—for the reimagined and renamed Alia Tutor Law Library, which is due to open in 2025. This was Tutor’s second significant gift to the Law School. In 2020, to celebrate her 20th reunion, she endowed the Sidney J. Feltenstein 1926 Scholarship Fund in honor of her grandfather who was also a Columbia Law graduate. An engaged alumna whose ties to the Law School extend back to her great-grandfather Moses who graduated in 1887, Tutor also serves on the Law School’s Dean’s Council. 

Tutor is a proud member of the Board of Directors for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and the CHLA Foundation Board of Trustees. She endowed CHLA’s Global Online Pediatric Subspecialty Training Program, a comprehensive telehealth and tele-education platform that facilitates advanced subspecialty pediatric training to bolster the skills of doctors and nurses on the frontlines of providing care in other countries. She also served as co-chair of the hospital’s Government Relations Committee. 

Tutor is married to Ronald N. Tutor. Together, they are longtime supporters of the University of Southern California (USC), where Tutor established the Alia Tutor Chair in Reproductive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC to foster groundbreaking research and treatment critical to this field of medicine. She serves on the President’s Leadership Council at USC and is an inaugural member of the Keck Medicine of USC Board of Councilors. A passionate supporter of the arts, Tutor serves on the board of directors of the Aspen Music Festival and School. She is also a former member of the Los Angeles Ballet (LAB) Board of Directors and was recently honored with LAB’s Angel Award for “extraordinary contributions … to LAB and the city of Los Angeles.

On October 28, 2022, the Law School recognized two esteemed alumni, Ellen V. Futter BC ’71, LAW ’74 and Brad Smith ’84, in the Ballroom of Cipriani 42nd Street.

Ellen V. Futter BC ’71, LAW ’74
President of the American Museum of Natural History

Ellen Futter has led the American Museum of Natural History for nearly three decades. During her tenure, she has reinvigorated the over 150-year-old institution and expanded its scientific and educational scope. She spearheaded the construction of the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the renovation of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, and the development of the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School. Futter is currently overseeing the construction of the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, expected to open in winter 2023 with a new state-of-the-art theater, exhibition galleries, classrooms, and a redesigned library and collections core.

Futter has been a nationally recognized leader in the educational and nonprofit worlds since 1980, when, at age 29, she became the youngest person to be appointed president of a major American college: Barnard College, her alma mater. She remained president until 1993. Futter began her career as an associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy (now Milbank), where she practiced corporate law from 1974 to 1980.

Columbia University has been central to Futter’s life. Her father, Victor Futter, graduated from Columbia College in 1939 and received a J.D. from the Law School in 1942. Futter’s daughters, Anne and Libby Shutkin, received J.D.s from the Law School in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Columbia University has awarded Futter both an honorary degree and its Medal for Excellence, and she received the Law School’s Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility in 2008.

Futter also has the distinction of having been the first woman to head a major New York City cultural institution and the first woman to chair the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. A wide range of corporations and nonprofits seek out Futter’s advice and expertise. She is currently a member of the board of trustees of the Brookings Institution, a member of the board of overseers of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and a member of the board of directors of NYC & Co. She also serves on the boards of Consolidated Edison and Evercore.

Futter has been recognized for her leadership with numerous awards and honorary degrees.

Watch Ellen V. Futter BC ’71, LAW ’74 receive the Medal for Excellence.

Brad Smith ’84
Vice Chair and President of Microsoft

Brad Smith leads a global team of more than 1,900 business, legal, and corporate affairs professionals located in 52 countries and operating in more than 120 nations. In his nearly 30-year career at Microsoft, Smith has been a leader not only in ending the company’s antitrust litigation worldwide but also in holding the technology sector to account for its impact on society. He spearheads Microsoft’s work on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, environmental sustainability, and human rights. He also leads the company’s social responsibility initiatives, including its work to advance privacy protection for customers and to ensure the rights of DREAMers and other immigrants.

Raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, Smith graduated in 1981 from Princeton University, where he met his wife, Kathy Surace-Smith ’84. Prior to joining Microsoft in 1993, Smith clerked for the New York Federal Court Judge Charles Metzner ’33 and was a partner at Covington & Burling, where he was the first lawyer to insist on having a personal computer on his desk—in 1986.

Smith is a committed supporter of education and human rights. He is a trustee of Princeton University and a director of the University of Washington Foundation. He is co-founder, with Angelina Jolie, of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which provides legal representation for unaccompanied refugee and migrant children.

Together with his wife, Smith has been deeply engaged with the Law School. This year, the couple endowed the Smith Family Human Rights Clinic, and they serve as co-chairs, with Alison S. Ressler ’83, of the five-year, $300 million Campaign for Columbia Law. In 2004, they created The Smith Family Opportunity Scholarship, which supports students from countries underrepresented at the Law School. In 2019, Microsoft funded TrialWatch, founded by the Law School’s Human Rights Institute and the Clooney Foundation for Justice. Their son, Gregory, graduated from Columbia Law School in 2021.

Smith is the co-author of the best-seller Tools and Weapons: The Promise and Peril of the Digital Age (Penguin Press, 2019) and hosts the Tools and Weapons podcast.

Watch Brad Smith ’84 receive the Medal for Excellence.

Luncheon 2022 Gallery

1964 *Hon. Joseph M. Proskauer, 1899
1965 *Hon. Harold R. Medina ’12
1966 *Hon. Thomas E. Dewey ’25
1967 *Hon. Stanley H. Fuld ’26
1968 *Whitney North Seymour ’23
1969 *Dean William C. Warren
1970 *Hon. Frank S. Hogan ’28
1971 *Professor Walter Gellhorn ’31
1971 *Professor Herbert Wechsler ’31
1972 *Hon. Stanley Reed ’09
1973 *Hon. William O. Douglas ’25
1973 *Hon. Simon H. Rifkind ’25
1974 *Hon. Clifford P. Case ’28
1974 *Hon. William T. Gossett ’28
1975 *Hon. Charles D. Breitel ’32
1976 *Professor Milton Handler ’26
1976 *Professor Richard R.B. Powell ’14
1977 *Hon. Philip C. Jessup ’24
1978 *Hon. Paul R. Hays ’33
1978 *Hon. Leonard P. Moore ’22
1979 *Hon. Harold Leventhal ’36
1979 *Hon. Carl McGowan ’36
1980 *Harriet F. Pilpel ’36
1981 *Hon. Lawrence E. Walsh ’35
1982 *Professor Louis Henkin
1983 *Wilbur H. Friedman ’30
1984 *Hon. Oscar H. Davis ’37
1984 *Justin A. Stanley ’37
1985 *Professor Willis L.M. Reese
1986 *Hon. James D. Hopkins ’33
1986 *Hon. Benjamin Kaplan ’33
1987 *Hon. Marvin E. Frankel ’48
1987 *Hon. Constance Baker Motley ’46
1988 *Edith I. Spivack ’32
1988 *Morton Stavis ’36
1989 *Professor Harry W. Jones ’39
1989 *Professor Albert J. Rosenthal
1990 *Hon. Wilfred Feinberg ’43
1990 Hon. Jack B. Weinstein ’48
1991 *Hon. Frank C. Newman ’47 LL.M., ’53 J.S.D.
1991 *Professor Oscar Schachter ’39
1992 Hon. Vilma S. Martinez ’67
1993 *Hon. Hong-Choo Hyun ’69
1993 *Hon. Eugene Nickerson ’43
1994 *Hon. Giles Sutherland Rich ’29
1994 *Professor Maurice Rosenberg ’47
1995 Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59*
1996 *Hon. Kathryn Austin McDonald ’63
1996 *Professor Arthur W. Murphy ’48
1997 *Hon. Marie L. Garibaldi ’59
1997 *Professor Michael I. Sovern ’55
1998 *Sidney J. Sheinberg ’58
1998 Mary Jo White ’74
1999 *Professor Jack Greenberg ’48 O
1999 *Professor Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr. ’54
2000 *Professor John M. Kernochan ’48
2000 Hon. Felice K. Shea ’50
2001 *Hon. Dickinson R. Debevoise ’51
2001 *Harvey R. Miller ’59
2001 Ken Tsunematsu ’63
2002 President Lee C. Bollinger Jr. ’71
2003 Susan B. Lindenauer ’64
2003 Judith R. Thoyer ’65
2003 *Judith P. Vladeck ’47
2004 *Professor E. Allan Farnsworth ’52
2004 *Stanley L. Temko ’43
2005 *Professor Louis Lowenstein ’53
2005 *Michael D. Ratner ’69
2006 Wei Sun Christianson ’89
2006 Professor R. Randle Edwards
2007 Michael E. Patterson ’67
2007 Esta Eiger Stecher ’82
2008 *H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest ’58
2009 Steven Epstein ’68
2009 *Jerome L. Greene ’28
2010 Hon. Eric H. Holder, Jr. ’76
2010 Professor Henry Paul Monaghan
2011 Max W. Berger ’71
2011 Stephen H. Case ’68
2012 Hon. Jeh Charles Johnson ’82
2012 Richard Paul Richman ’72 J.D., ’73 M.B.A.
2013 Morton L. Janklow ’53
2013 Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. ’83
2014 Ira M. Millstein ’49
2014 Edgar G. Rios ’77
2015 *Hon. Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum ’53
2015 Roberta A. Kaplan ’91
2016 Hon. Antony J. Blinken '88
2016 Alison S. Ressler '83
2017 Hon. Anita Blumstein Brody ’58
2017 *David J. Stern ’66
2018 Stephen Friedman ’62 
2018 Hon. Gerard E. Lynch ’75
2019 Jonathan D. Schiller ’73
2019 Nina L. Shaw ’79
2020 Jim Millstein '82
2020 Franklin A. Thomas ’63
2022 Ellen V. Futter ’74
2022 Brad Smith ’84