Meet the 2018 Alumni Medalists

Abigail Forget
September 29, 2018

Columbia Alumni Medalists are recognized for building Columbia's community—whether regionally, online, in specific Schools, or in cross-campus initiatives. Medalists are honored at University Commencement and each fall at the Alumni Medalists Gala during Columbia Alumni Leaders Weekend. Learn more about this year's recipients:

John C. Connell, Esq. '76CC is a partner/shareholder with Archer & Greiner, P.C., in Haddonfield, N.J., where he practices civil litigation as a first-chair trial attorney in jury and bench trials and appeals in state and federal courts. As the head of the firm's Appellate Advocacy and the Media and Communications Law groups, he recently appeared as counsel of record to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, representing Simon Shiao Tam in Matal v. Tam, obtaining a favorable 8-0 decision in a precedential trademark/First Amendment dispute. Connell has been actively involved with the Alumni Representative Committee (ARC) for almost 35 years and chaired the regional Southern New Jersey ARC for some 25 years. He is a class agent for the 1976 Columbia College class and has been active on the Reunion Committee. He has also served as chair of the Columbia University Club of Philadelphia (CUCP), which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary as the oldest alumni club outside of New York City. He has made a concerted effort to include the representation and participation of all divisions of the University among CUCP’s members and leadership. During Connell's tenure as chair, CUCP was recognized in 2015 with the Domestic Club of Excellence Award. He is also a member of the Columbia Alumni Association’s (CAA) Associations and Clubs Committee. Three of his four children are College alumni.

Joseph Ehrlich '92GS is executive vice president of Owens Group Insurance. He joined the Owens Group in 2004 and represents the third generation of the Owens family to work at the firm. He leads its private equity and financial services practice area. Ehrlich is a known expert on representation and warranties, and transactional insurance products, frequently giving presentations and educating lawyers and other professionals. Prior to joining the Owens Group, he spent many years practicing law with O’Melveny & Myers LLP and its predecessor, O’Sullivan Graev & Karabell LLP. During that time, he assisted clients in evaluating, structuring, negotiating, and consummating private equity transactions. Ehrlich graduated cum laude from Columbia with a BA in Classics in 1992. He received his JD from New York University’s School of Law in 1997. He also serves on both the Owens Group Board of Directors and its Advisory Committee. Among other philanthropic activities, Ehrlich is a member, and the immediate past president, of the NYU Law Alumni Association Board. He also volunteers as chair of the Columbia University Benefits Committee, and is a member of the CAA Strategic Planning Committee. At the Columbia University Club of New York, he is a board member and chairs the Membership Committee. Ehrlich is a former board member of the CAA, having joined the board shortly after it was launched. While on the CAA Board, he served on several committees, including the Leadership Weekend Committee, where he also moderated a panel on Alumni Relations and Development. He was also an original member of the CAA Collaboration Committee.

James P. Gerkis '80CC, '83LAW is a partner resident in the New York office of Proskauer Rose LLP, an international law firm where he practices corporate law and has extensive experience in sophisticated U.S. and global corporate transactions. He has presented at numerous industry and bar association conferences, and has authored many legal articles. Gerkis was admitted to Columbia College without finishing high school, and he received his BA in 1980. He majored in political science and was on the staff of the Columbia-Barnard Course Guide. Gerkis received his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1983, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and a teaching fellow. He started doing alumni interviews for Columbia applicants upon his graduation from law school. He is the president of the Columbia University Club of New York and serves on its Board of Governors. Gerkis also serves on the Columbia College Fund Development Council (FDC) and the Board of Directors of the Columbia College Alumni Association (CCAA). Previously, he was co-chair of the FDC and served on the Executive Committee of the CCAA. He also has worked as a class agent for the College and has been on reunion committees for both the College and the Law School. He is on the board of directors of HABA-Hellenic American Association for Professionals in Finance. He is an active member of The Hellenic Lawyers Association and he received the 2017 Attorney of the Year Award from that organization. Gerkis lives in Larchmont, NY with his wife, Agathy Vasilopoulos Gerkis '84, '85GSAS. They have two daughters, Catherine, a risk and quantitative analyst, and Laura, a special education and early childhood teacher.

Margaret (Margie) McBride Lehrman '70JRN is a TV news producer and executive who spent 30 years at NBC News in Washington, DC. There, she earned two national news Emmys, the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Reporting (from China), and worked in 40 countries. Her career includes radio, newspapers, magazines, and staff jobs at Peace Corps and the U.S. Senate. In six years on Columbia Journalism School's Alumni Board, she worked on the School’s Centennial Committee, chaired both the Development and Programs Committees, and was board vice chair. Now she represents the Journalism School on the Alumni Trustee Nominating Committee. In 2015, she received the School’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Lehrman has co-chaired nearly all her class reunions, and continues to meet with students, research potential donors, and serve as a class agent. She is a member of Columbia’s 1754 Society and the CAA DC alumni club. She graduated with a BA from the University of Oregon where she’s endowed a fellowship and served 10 years as a UO Foundation Trustee. She is a skier and pilot, and has flown the North Atlantic in a small plane with her husband Michael Lehrman.

Dr. Thomas J. Magnani '80DM is a graduate of Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and has been practicing general and cosmetic dentistry in Manhattan for 38 years. He has been a Dental Medicine faculty member since 1980 and holds the title of assistant clinical professor. His many ties to the School include: President of the 1852 Society; member of the Admissions Committee for the Dental School; member of the Executive Board of the Alumni Association; member of the Board of Advisors to the Dean; and director of the Global Outreach Program for Central America. In 2014, Dr. Magnani received the Distinguished Alumni Award. He has lectured and given continuing education courses nationally and internationally, and is president of Columbia’s chapter of OKU, the dental honor society. His greatest achievement in dentistry is that his daughter graduated from Dental Medicine in 2017 and, after her residency, will join him in his practice.

Louis A. Parks '95GSAS, '03BUS, '12GS is a managing partner at Tyro Capital Management LLC, an equity hedge fund based in New York City. Over the last 35 years, he has spent a distinguished career on Wall Street in areas of investment management and capital markets. Parks began his career as an equity trader at Merrill Lynch and worked at global firms such as Morgan Stanley, Sanford C. Bernstein, and Raymond James Financial. While working at investment banks, his roles included senior managing director/head of equity trading and head of equity capital markets. From 2008 – 2013, he served as a representative to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association in Washington, DC.  Parks is a principal investor and advisory board member for several domestic and international investment funds and is vice chair of the Trustee Board of The League Education and Treatment Center, a non-profit school for autistic children and adults in Brooklyn, NY. He has dedicated more than 20 years as an alumni volunteer, including as committee chair for Development on the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Advisory Board, president of the GSAS Alumni Association, and chair of the Alumni Trustee Nominating Committee. In 2001, he endowed the Louis A. Parks Fellowship in Classics at GSAS and in 2010, he was awarded the Dean’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his service to GSAS. As a student, he played inside center on the rugby team, volunteered in the Office of Career Services, and graduated from the School of General Studies magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa.   Louis resides in New York City with his wife Ann and is the proud father of Kira, ’13BC, ’15SW, an LVAD/Heart Transplant Social Worker at Mt. Sinai Hospital, and Jenna, a Graphics Producer at MSNBC.

Teresa Saputo-Crerend '87CC, '92BUS graduated from Columbia College in 1987, the first fully co-educational class. Her brothers graduated from Columbia (Douglas, ’81CC and Paul ’'83CC) and her mother, Helen Norman Saputo, earned a Masters at Teacher's College in 1983. Saputo-Crerend was a captain of the women’s tennis team and a four-year Varsity "C" recipient. She remains close friends with her teammates, as well as her East Campus roommates. She returned to Columbia to earn her MBA from Columbia Business School in 1992. She worked for 15 years in marketing, 10 of those years for Evian Natural Spring Water/Group Danone, where she oversaw corporate sponsorship, including Evian’s multi-million dollar sponsorship of the US Open Tennis Championships in Queens, her hometown. Today, she consults for the Each One Counts Foundation, a foundation that provides complementary pain-relieving services for terminally and chronically-ill children and The Jesse Kolber Foundation, a foundation that provides access to and funding for college to high achieving, low-income students. Through all of life’s milestones Columbia has remained her focus and “community." She has served on the CCAA Board, the Dean’s Alumni Task Force, the Board of Columbia College Women and on the CAA’s Strategic Planning Committee. She served as co-chair of She Opened the Door, the first Columbia University women’s conference in 2018, where she worked with former tennis teammate Donna MacPhee ’89CC, president of the CAA, and former Alumni Medal recipient, Kathleen Crowley ’91PH, ’13PH. She relishes her work with women at the College and the University and is truly excited about the myriad opportunities for Columbia women on and off campus. She is a member of the Alumnae Legacy Circle, the Women's Leadership Council, and Columbia College Board of Visitors. Saputo-Crerend lives in Bedford, N.Y., with her husband Bill, and is the proud mother of Lucy '22CC, William, and Sabrina.

Michael J. Schmidtberger '82CC, '85LAW is the chair of the Executive Committee of the international law firm of Sidley Austin LLP. He previously served as co-head of the Investment Funds, Advisers and Derivatives group and managing partner of the New York office. His principal areas of practice are securities and futures-related funds, and related regulatory matters, with a specialization in hedge funds. Schmidtberger was ranked in Band 1 of Chambers USA in the category of Investment Funds: Hedge Funds from 2013-2017 and was recognized as an Eminent Practitioner in 2018. He received financial aid from both the College and Law School. From the College, he earned a BA, cum laude, as well as admission to Phi Beta Kappa and the Bennett Cerf Memorial Prize for Critical Writing. In his sophomore year, he co-founded The Columbia Guide to New York. In 1981, Schmidtberger cast his vote as the sole student senator present at the University Senate Executive Committee’s historic meeting, at which the decision to admit women to the College was made. In 1985, he earned a JD from the Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. He served two terms as a member of the CCAA Board of Directors and served as class reunion co-chair a number of times. He was a 2013 recipient of the John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement. Aside from work and Columbia, Schmidtberger is co-chair of the Board of Directors of the United Way of New York City. Mike, his wife, Margaret Sung, and daughters, Calee '22SEAS and Mollie, reside in New York City.

Helen Doyle Yeager '85BC is a managing director at MUFG, the leading financial services institution in Japan, and the world’s fifth largest bank. She manages the Institutional Client Group for the Americas and is a senior relationship manager at MUFG Securities. She graduated with a BA from Barnard College in 1985, and earned an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1989. Yeager has spent 25 years in the securities industry, working in senior management at several firms, including Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank. Shen was a two-time captain of the Columbia women’s basketball team, and for the past decade, has served as chair of the Alumnae Advisory Board for Women’s Basketball, spearheading an increase in fundraising and outreach. One of three female members on the Leadership Committee for the Columbia Campaign for Athletics: Achieving Excellence, and a member of The Women's Leadership Council, Yeager is a major supporter of the women's basketball program as well as the Campbell Sports Center. As a Barnard student, she was proud to be the female student representative on the inaugural committee when the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium was founded and, 25 years later, was honored as one of the 25 most influential women in the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium's history. She currently serves on the Board of Citius Baseball, a not-for-profit inner city baseball program based in Mt. Vernon, NY. Citius Baseball helps develop and prepare inner city and underprivileged kids, through high-level training and SAT Prep, for college and/or professional baseball.

Nick Yen '91SEAS, '92SEAS is the founder of Mad Scientists, a company with interests in modular building systems and product design. He also operates Orgo, a restaurant that he named after Orgo Night at Columbia. Yen was one of the founding members of CAA Singapore and continues to serve as an adviser. In addition, he is ARC chair and helps with Regional Clubs as the Alumni Delegate on the Associations & Clubs committee. Over the last few years, Yen has been spending much of his time shuttling between his responsibilities in Singapore, the family business in Thailand, and the CAA Board. A strong proponent of the Columbia education, he started as a tour guide in his sophomore year and has always been engaged. He hopes to continue to contribute toward a vibrant Columbia community in which students and alumni can engage on multiple levels to create long-lasting relationships. Yen is also a Columbia parent.