Celebrating Veterans and a Lifetime of Service at Columbia's Annual Military Ball

On Friday, November 11, more than 400 veterans, leaders, scholars, and guests celebrated Columbia University's veteran community at the annual Military Ball. This year's event honored Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University and Seth Low Professor of the University, as the recipient of the 2022 Peter J. Awn Lifetime Service Award for his extraordinary support for military veterans and service members.

November 23, 2022

Established in 2010, the Military Ball is the premier event uniting veterans across the University community, with proceeds helping to underwrite academic and career transition programming for all veterans and military family members nationwide, financial aid for veteran students at Columbia University, and veteran student and alumni programming.

Elizabeth Bordi '23GS, Chief Inclusion Officer of the Military Veterans of Columbia University student organization (MilVets), opened the ceremony by taking a moment to recognize the prisoners of war and missing in action who were unable to attend the event with their fellow service members. This moment was followed by an invocation from Jewelnel Davis, University Chaplain, Associate Provost, and Director of the Kraft Fellows Program at Columbia University.

After the invocation, Lisa Rosen-Metsch '90GS, Dean of the School of General Studies (GS), remarked on the diverse educational paths that the nearly 400 student veterans at GS have chosen to pursue while noting that veterans are enrolled across all schools at the University.

“GS was created in large part to provide access to a world-class education to the thousands of service members returning from World War II, and has forged the path for highly-selective peer institutions to recognize what we have known since our founding—that military veterans bring extraordinary talent and potential to the learning community,” Dean Rosen-Metsch said.

After breaking for dinner, Dean Rosen-Metsch returned to the stage to introduce Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger as the recipient of the 2022 Peter J. Awn Lifetime Service Award for his remarkable efforts in making higher education accessible to military veterans and service members during his 20 years as president, the longest tenure of any in the Ivy League.

We love having people with vastly different experiences populate our classrooms, help us with our research, and help us serve the world.

University President Lee C. Bollinger

Accepting the award, President Bollinger spoke about facilitating the return of the ROTC to Columbia as well as the importance of the military student veteran community on campus.

“There is a point at which you have to think about the question of patriotism and a university: to what extent can you be an academic institution with all the values of independent inquiry and also care about the country in which you reside? My view was that it was time to rethink what had long been the reasons for a separation and to reestablish engagement.”

President Bollinger concluded by thanking the student veteran community for their participation in, and dedication to, embodying the values of Columbia University.

“Columbia is incredibly proud to have 600 military veterans across schools of our institutions. [...] We love having people with vastly different experiences populate our classrooms, help us with our research, and help us serve the world.”

The ceremony ended with closing remarks from Grayson Noyes '23GS, President of MilVets, and a toast by Ebonnie Goodfield '24GS, Vice President of MilVets.

“I ask of you just one favor, as you go on to do remarkable and consequential things—let us not forget our humble beginnings,” said Noyes.

This year's event was co-hosted by Columbia Veterans, Military Veterans of Columbia University, the Columbia University Center for Veteran Transition and Integration, and the Columbia University School of General Studies.