A Look Back at the Medal for Excellence

Since 1964, Columbia Law School’s most prestigious award, the Medal for Excellence, has been presented at the annual Winter Luncheon 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.​

The blue ribbon of the Medal for Excellence superimposed on an image of the Law School

Cabinet secretaries, judges, distinguished faculty, and civil rights advocates—recipients of the Medal for Excellence represent exceptional members of the Columbia Law School community. Honorees of the past 10 years include Antony Blinken ’88 (2016), Nina Shaw ’79 (2019), and for the first time, a father (Ira M. Millstein ’49 in 2014) and a son (Jim Millstein ’82 in 2020). Although the pandemic prevents us from gathering this year in person at Winter Luncheon to celebrate two new honorees, we offer a look back at winners from 2011 to 2020 and their achievements.  

See images from the past 10 years of Winter Luncheon and read more about the honorees below. Note: all honoree titles are as of the date of the award.

Medal for Excellence honorees

Judge Gerard E. Lynch ’75, Dean Gillian Lester, and Stephen Friedman ’62 at the Winter Luncheon


Honorees: Stephen Friedman ’62, chairman of Stone Point Capital and the retired chair of Goldman Sachs, and Gerard E. Lynch ’75, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and Paul J. Kellner Professor of Law.

2016 Medal for Excellence honorees Alison Ressler ’83 and Antony Blinken ’88


Honorees: Antony Blinken ’88, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, and Alison Ressler ’83, partner at Sullivan & Cromwell.

2015 Medal for Excellence recipients Roberta A. Kaplan '91 and U.S. Senior District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum ’53 with Dean Gillian Lester, right


Honorees: U.S. Senior District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum ’53 and civil rights attorney Roberta A. Kaplan ’91.

2014 Medal of Excellence honorees Edgar G. Rios ’77 and Ira M. Millstein ’49


Honorees: Ira M. Millstein ’49, senior partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges and founding chair of the Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership, and Edgar G. Rios ’77, co-founder and managing partner of SHD Oil & Gas and co-founder of the Los Padres Foundation. (See Columbia Law School Magazine, Spring 2014, p. 15.)

Morton L. Janklow ’53 and U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. ’83 at the 2013 Winter Luncheon


Honorees: Morton L. Janklow ’53, literary agent and co-founder of Janklow & Nesbit Associates, and Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. ’83, U.S. Solicitor General.

2012 Medal for Excellence winners Jeh Charles Johnson ’82 and Richard Paul Richman ’72 J.D., ’73 M.B.A with Dean David Schizer


Honorees: Jeh Charles Johnson ’82, general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense, and Richard Paul Richman LAW ’72, BUS ’73, pioneering real-estate developer and chairman and founder of The Richman Group, Inc.

2011 Medal for Excellence honorees Max Berger and Stephen Case


HonoreesMax W. Berger ’71, founding partner of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, and Stephen H. Case ’68, managing director and general counsel for Emerald Development Managers.