Write Columbia's History
Opening Doors with a Columbia Education
Barry Siegel
Alum
Columbia College 1961
School of Law 1965
Graduate School of Business 1965

Columbia College mercifully rescued a callow, untutored Queens youth from terminal dullness. From Professor Lionel Trilling, I learned that all great literature is "subversive," from Professor Daniel Bell that many of the problems we face as a nation are resistant to the old left/right divide constructs, and from Professor Wallace Sayre how public policy is really driven. Professor Walter Metzger, not to disrespect the late Professor James Shenton, was the one who made history come alive for me. From them and many others, I received a priceless, enduring gift of intellectual curiosity.

I couldn't get enough of Columbia, so I wound up with three degrees, including a JD from the Law School and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business.

My subsequent 35-year career was largely concerned with public-policy issues relating to our nation's capital markets. A highlight was forming an association of 600-plus CEOs of major corporations, dedicated to strengthening their shareowner base and enhancing our nation's capital markets. Member companies included AIG, Lowe's, U.S. Steel, and Motorola. Helping companies with employee stock-option plans, dividend-reinvestment plans, and electronic filing of documents with the SEC were examples of our activities. We had offices in New York (American Stock Exchange) and Washington. Other cofounders were Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas (my mentor) and C. V. "Woody" Wood, Jr. (my boss), who built Disneyland in Anaheim and imported the London Bridge to develop Lake Havasu in Arizona.

Oddly, I recall having two meetings with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Arthur Burns (Columbia College 1925) in the span of one month in 1976, one of which was a College alumni dinner when I was lucky to join his table. The memory lingers of his punctuating his most carefully calibrated answers to our questions with his pipe puffings.

A Columbia education opened all kinds of doors for me. I became a voracious reader, an avid fan of classical music and art, and a civic leader in my community. (Note how the local press announcement of my stepping down from a civic post in the accompanying picture bumped the story of Hillary's only visit to our town—heh heh!)

This past year, I was asked to interview candidates for the class of 2008. This reawakened many pleasant memories for me and reconnected me with the singular vitality of the Columbia experience.



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