Revson Fellowship Celebrates 30 Years of Developing New York City Leaders

April 1, 2009Bookmark and Share

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Columbia University's Charles H. Revson Fellowship, which selects ten mid-career New York City civic leaders to come to Columbia for an academic year of reflection and intellectual enrichment on campus.

Learn more about the Revson Fellowship. (8:47)
Through the leadership of former Charles H. Revson Foundation president Eli Evans and the late Columbia professor Eli Ginzberg as its founding director, the Revson Fellowship has welcomed 290 fellows to Columbia's campus since its inception in 1978-79.
"People are coming to the University both for an individual, contemplative plan of study and also to work as a group and feed off each other," said Columbia sociology professor Sudhir Venkatesh, current director of the Revson Fellowship Program. "[They] then use that moment where they can learn from each other to go back and make a difference in the city."
Fellows are selected on the basis of their civic leadership, past accomplishments and commitment to public service in New York City. They reflect the broad diversity of the city, coming from a variety of professional and educational backgrounds, and fields as varied as education, philanthropy, media, labor and the arts.  The Fellowship provides financial support, tuition and access to university resources, faculty and courses.
"Like many advocates I felt like I was good at what I did but I could be a whole lot better," said former fellow Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group Straphangers Campaign.  "So it seemed to me ideal to be able to take a year off and try and improve my skills and my insights."
Fellows spend their time on Columbia's campus taking courses, engaging faculty in discussion and attending seminars with the other Revson Fellows. Unlike structured degree programs, the Revson Fellowship encourages its participants to take courses from departments across the University, creating a multidisciplinary approach to study.  In addition to their academic work, fellows meet collectively each week for a meal and discussion with an invited guest speaker addressing issues facing New York City.
Many of the fellowship's nearly 300 alumni continue to work in New York and remain active in the Revson community. Alumni include three MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award winners; many public officials, including a state senator, City Council members and two New York State Supreme Court Justices; journalists, advocates and leaders at the city's most prominent foundations, community-based organizations and think tanks.
"The impact of this program has been profound," said Julie Sandorf, President of the Charles H. Revson Foundation.  "And I don't think that New York would look the same had there not been the cultivating and nurturing of these extraordinarily passionate people who were given a chance to really think and dream."