During its 250-year history, Columbia University has been home to and has produced a remarkable array of writers, poets, scholars, scientists, and statesmen-many of whom have written eloquently about their experiences at the university. Excerpting memoirs, novels, and poems, My Columbia collects a broad range of these reminiscences into a collective portrait of a university and the city of which it is such a vital part.
Beginning with George Templeton Strong, whose diaries of mid-nineteenth-century New York were a literary sensation when published in the 1950s, and ending in the latter part of the twentieth century, My Columbia recounts the life and work of students, faculty, and university leadership on Columbia's campuses. Here are Michael Pupin, the Serbian immigrant who became a celebrated physicist; Margaret Mead, a transfer to Barnard and later the most influential anthropologist of her day; Thomas Merton, who went from high-living college days to renown as the country's most famous Trappist monk; Zora Neale Hurston, Barnard's first African American student; Jack Kerouac, the Columbia football recruit who turned into the bard of the Beat Generation; Max Frankel, a student journalist who went on to lead the New York Times; Dwight D. Eisenhower, president of the University from 1948 to 1952; and many more.
My Columbia tells of the pleasures and disappointments, the challenges and rewards, the diversions and serious issues facing those who have studied and taught at Columbia. A wealth of personal recollection, it portrays various eras at America's great urban university through the eyes of more than forty writers (and one artist), many of whom, in one sense or another, came of age at Columbia and in New York.