Dean David M. Schizer Awards The Medal For Excellence to Richard Paul Richman '72 J.D., ’73 M.B.A.

Dean David M. Schizer Awards The Medal For Excellence to Richard Paul Richman '72 J.D., �73 M.B.A.


February 3, 2012
It is a great honor to present the Medal for Excellence to Richard Paul Richman, Class of 1972 from the Law School and Class of 1973 from the Business School.
Rich is the founder and chairman of The Richman Group, one of the largest privately-owned developer of low income housing in the nation. The Richman Group is involved in approximately one in ten of the affordable housing units developed in the United States every year. They have offices in 12 cities and do business in every state except Hawaii. 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.
I have a personal sense of the judgment and insight that Rich brings to the business because I see what he does for the Law School. As a member of our Dean’s Council, Rich can cut to the heart of a very difficult problem with astonishing clarity. In fact, Rich once offered me advice that students here will recognize because I often repeat it to them. Rich observed that when we are making a decision, we should start by being very precise about our goal. Often we then realize that we actually have more than one goal, so we have to prioritize them. Once we do that, the solution usually becomes clear. Well, I can tell you that this approach really does work, so Rich – like any wonderful teacher – helps me every day, even when he’s not in the room.
Rich has also been extraordinarily generous to the School. He has funded a scholarship program at the Law School and, as I mentioned, he and his wife, Ellen, have helped the Law and Business Schools to launch the Richard P. Richman Center for Business, Law and Public Policy. Rich has not only provided us with extraordinarily generous financial support – a $10 million gift – but he also has been deeply involved in helping us to develop the idea. I know that this is a labor of love for Rich because he has a strong commitment to the School, and also a deep interest in public policy.
In recognition of his achievements and dedication, it is my pleasure to give Rich the Medal for Excellence, the Law School’s highest honor. Please join me in congratulating Richard Richman.

Thank you, David.
One of the nice aspects of receiving today’s award is that it actually gives me a chance to share with you how much I received from Columbia Law School.
In very short remarks I am going to discuss four ways in which Columbia Law School has made an important difference in my life.
First, of course, is the great learning experience when I was a student. Just one example is “the legislation” seminar taught by Nicolas Kazenbach, who was Bobby Kennedy's Deputy Attorney General and then Attorney General after Bobby was elected to the US Senate. Nick Kazenbach had also served as Deputy Secretary of State during the Vietnam War. He was an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School after he left the Kennedy/Johnson administration and during his tenure as General Counsel of IBM. Nick was literally the person at the school house door and one could argue that he was other than Lyndon Johnson himself the administration official most responsible for the civil rights and voting rights laws. It was a unique experience for me to be able to hang around after each seminar and chat with Nick and a few other students about his experiences with civil rights and what really went on behind the scenes regarding the Johnson Administration and the Vietnam War.
Now, this actually happened this morning at breakfast. I was explaining to my wife, Ellen, the structure of my remarks was to make serious points and to combine each serious point with a lighter remark. Now some of you may know that I also attended the business school and that Ellen now teaches at Columbia Business School. So Ellen asked me who would I pick as a professor at the business school that would equal the stature of Nick Kazenbach if I were delivering similar remarks there. Well, you know the old expression, “I might be stupid but I am not dumb.” So I thought for a second and then said, “Well of course, you dear.” Ellen then said,  “Now that’s funny!”
On another truly lighter note I have to admit that my educational attention was sometimes diverted and in fact I would sometimes play hooky. I always regarded the proximity of The Columbia Law School near Yankee stadium to be an important benefit. There were more than a few beautiful days in the spring and fall when some of us in the class would elect to skip the afternoon classes and drive the 15 minutes across the Macomb Bridge to attend a Yankee game. This caused me to realize that the law school has a major marketing advantage over our downtown rival, NYU Law School. I can't imagine any baseball fan thinking that having the ability to go 15 minutes from NYU and through the midtown tunnel to Citi field to see the hapless Mets is an amenity.
Second, concerns my professional career. Graduating from Columbia Law School opened the door for me to obtain my first professional position at a highly regarded New York law firm. It did not hurt that many of the partners were Columbia Law School graduates. I can't overstate the networking opportunities created by graduating from Columbia Law School during my career. My favorite networking experience occurred when Ellen and I traveled to Sydney, Australia to visit our daughter, Brooke, who was attending a University of Pennsylvania junior semester away program in Sydney. When in Sydney, I ran into a lawyer who upon learning that I was a lawyer told me that he spent three years in Columbia getting his law degree. I became very excited. I told him I went to Columbia Law School too and I was excited to meet a fellow alum here in Sydney. He quickly deflated my balloon. He said, “Richard, I did not attend Columbia Law School. I attended law school in British Columbia.”
Third, I greatly appreciate the unique experiences that I have experienced by getting involved as an alum. I have had great satisfaction working with my dear friend Nkonye, head of Admissions, and meeting and getting to know the Richman Fellow Scholarship recipients. The kids are just amazing. One of them, prior to law school, was Jerry Brenner’s personal representative in Baghdad negotiating the Iraqi constitution. Another student was the daughter of the first African American women to go to an integrated public school in South Carolina. I am also currently excited by the progress we have made by recently launching the Richman Center for Business Law and Policy Policy, a joint venture with the Business School. Thanks to Dean Schizer, it was my good fortune, to be seated next to the U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts at dinner one night after he was chief judge of Columbia Law School Moot Court. I learned at dinner that the chief judge is a big sports fan. Most relevant to me was the information from the Chief Justice that the Supreme Court held its own NCAA March Madness basketball gambling pool. The pool has 200 members, yet the Supreme Court actually has 200 employees and even the chief justice’s young children are betters. The bet is $5 per person. It was with delight that I was able to use this information the next morning in our office to confront our company’s general counsel who had been arguing with me that our similar company NCAA March Madness gambling pool was an illegal betting operation.
Fourth and not least, are the great friends I made in law school and although it’s been over 35 years since I graduated, some of my best friends in life are still my Columbia Law School classmates. Unfortunately, in those days, we were divided in sections by alphabetical order. I must confess that there is a lack of diversity among these friends. No, not the usual case of diversity: race, religion or ethic background, but an alphabetical lack of diversity since most of the last names of these friends start with the letters between M and Z.
In conclusion, I cannot say enough what a difference Columbia Law School has made in my life and I just want to end by saying thank you Columbia Law School!