ULI New York Blog

‘Five Minutes With’ feat. Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University

This week’s ‘Five Minutes With’ series features Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University, whose project – Columbia University Manhattanville Campus – is a 2019 Awards Finalist for Excellence in Institutional Development.

Who has had the greatest influence on your career and what was the best advice he or she gave you?

My colleague for many years Professor Joe Sax. He was one of the founders and leaders of the environmental law movement in the United States. He taught me that the greatest and most original academic work can be combined with some of the most effective and consequential actions in the public sphere.


What qualities do you think are essential to be an effective leader?

I think a great leader will find the core of the institution he or she leads and create a future for that institution out of that essence. And, importantly, the leader must have the determination and dedication to do all the most detailed work to make that future a reality.

As a ULI NY Awards nominee, what makes you most proud of your project?

This new campus is a once-in-a-century opportunity to expand one of the greatest universities in the world and to do so in ways that reflect modern sensibilities about design, the academic mission, and the relationships with local communities and neighborhoods. Every step along the way, careful thought was given to these matters. New fields of research and education could be encouraged and established in these new spaces. The roles of established schools could be represented and integrated into in new ways (e.g., the School of the Arts was placed in a position to be the gateway to the campus). The architecture could relate to modern ideals of openness, transparency, light, collaboration, which is different from earlier periods when echoes of antiquity defined the facades of buildings that housed cloistered scholars. And the physical proximity to the surrounding communities are emphasized by not including any gates or guards, but with public access to the buildings on the street level, and by having welcoming activities to draw people in. All in all, we are extremely proud of the new campus and believe there is nothing like it in the nation.

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