Columbia Journalism School

Dean's Medal for Public Service

The Medal for Distinguished Service is awarded by the Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism.

It recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to society through his or her professional accomplishments and civic involvement.

Past Winners

2013: David H. Thorne '71
2011: Howard Paster '67
2010: Michèle Montas '69
2009: Robert H. N. Ho ’58
2008: Phil Hardberger ’60
2007: Adrian Benepe '81
2006: Madeleine May Kunin '57
2005: Daniel J. Edelman '41

2013

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David Thorne '71 was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Italy and to the Republic of San Marino on August 17, 2009. Thorne has a lifelong personal connection to Italy. He moved with his family to Rome in 1953 when his father, Landon Thorne Jr., was appointed by President Eisenhower to administer the Marshall Plan for Italy. He grew up in Rome learning fluent Italian and nurturing a deep appreciation and knowledge of Italy’s culture, politics, and society.

After leaving the Foreign Service, his father published the Rome Daily American, established and directed the Italian branch of Banker Trust Company, and served as trustee of the American Academy in Rome. Thorne and his family have continued to support the American Academy and the arts in Italy and Boston for over fifty years. On a personal sports note, during his years in Italy, Thorne could not escape the infection of soccer mania. He played soccer in college and has continued to play league soccer in New England. As long as they are not competing against the U.S. team, he remains an Italian-team “tifoso” during European and World Cup play.

He is co-founder of Adviser Investments and has been an investor and entrepreneur in a wide variety of business ventures, including marketing consulting, real estate, publishing and financial services. He recently sold his publishing business to Martha Stewart Omnimedia. Thorne is a former President and current Board member of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and led the design oversight team for its new building in Boston.

He graduated from Yale University in 1966 with a BA in American History and received a master’s degree in from Columbia Journalism School in 1971. Thorne served in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1970 and is author of “The New Soldier” (Macmillan 1971). He is married to Rose Thorne and has two children. 

2011

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Howard Paster ’67 has worked on behalf of such varied institutions as the Little League and the White House.  A former chairman and chief executive officer of Hill & Knowlton, Paster is executive vice president, public relations and public affairs, of WPP Group.  Prior to joining the WPP group, he was Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and assistant to President Clinton who, when he heard that Paster would be honored, wrote “your talent and skills as a newspaper reporter laid a strong foundation for a truly spectacular career.  I was proud to have you as a member of my team when I was President, and your journalist’s instinct and tenacity were integral to the major legislative achievements of my first year in office.”

Paster’s hugely successful legislative record included NAFTA and the economic stimulus package. 

In addition to his government service, Paster has devoted himself to Tuskegee University, joining the board and serving as chair of its development committee.  He worked for the Little League Foundation, where he is a trustee, raising the necessary funds to build a new stadium and bring Little League to inner city children.  He was president of the Sidwell Friends Parents’ Association and Vice chair of the Advisory Council of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. 

Paster is known far and wide for the wisdom and fearlessness of his counsel.  Along the way, he has served as a generous and wise mentor to countless young people. 

Throughout his career, Paster has devoted a tremendous amount of energy and heart to building a better future for all Americans, demonstrating what a noble endeavor public service can be.

Read President Clinton's letter to Paster

2010

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Michèle Montas '69 is an award-winning journalist who has dedicated her life to securing democracy and freedom in Haiti. Spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from January 2007 until her retirement in 2009, Michele was in Haiti during the terrible earthquake that destroyed more than 250,000 lives and 70 percent of the country's capital. She was immediately asked by the UN Secretary-General to come back to the organization as an advisor to his special representative in Haiti.

Montas formerly headed the French unit of U.N. Radio and, in 2003-04, she served as the spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly. As spokesperson for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Montas represented an international organization committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights. Montas is the former editor-in-chief and anchor at Radio Haiti-Inter, where she began reporting in 1973.

Working with her husband, Jean Dominique, she exposed human rights abuses, political corruption and state-sponsored violence in their native Haiti. The couple’s work resulted in their arrest, harassment and forced exile. Her husband returned to Haiti and was assassinated in 2000. Montas took over the radio station, but shut it down in February 2003 and fled to New York after her bodyguard was gunned down on Christmas Day 2002 in an attack on her home and she received several death threats. These events were chronicled by Jonathan Demme in a film called "The Agronomist." With her husband no longer at her side, she continues their work of promoting democracy and human rights in Haiti.

2009

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Robert H. N. Ho ’58 is chairman of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation. After Journalism School, Ho worked as a reporter with the Pittsburgh Press, then joined National Geographic Magazine. He moved to Hong Kong in 1962 and worked for the Kung Sheung Daily News, which was established by his late grandfather, Sir Robert Ho Tung. He was elected chairman of the Newspaper Society of Hong Kong in 1985. In 1987, he retired from journalism.

Ho is a significant supporter of the arts, particularly arts education, in Hong Kong and mainland China. He has also worked to bring a deeper understanding of Chinese arts, both traditional and modern, to the rest of the world. To promote creative education, Ho’s Foundation established an innovative arts education project that has helped over 1,000 students to find their voices through photography and creative writing. Other projects support literary arts and dance. To help revitalize traditional Chinese arts, the Foundation has supported modernized versions of the classic Kunqu opera developed by the renowned Chinese writer, Pai Hsien Yung, throughout Hong Kong and Mainland China. The Foundation nurtures young artists by supporting internships and scholarships for Chinese musicians in Hong Kong. It sponsors a number of other projects to encourage cross-cultural understanding and promote Chinese art and culture worldwide, including the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra’s tour of Canada in 2007 and a variety of museum exhibits in China and the United States.

Apart from his passion to promote Chinese arts and culture, Ho is also very active in projects that increase modern understanding of the teachings of the Buddha. He has sponsored exhibitions of the sacred art of Bhutan, forums on Buddhism and multifaceted education courses. In 2005, he set a goal of establishing a global network of Buddhist research studies among the world’s top universities, and he has made good progress toward that goal. So far, the network includes the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, the University of Hong Kong, the University of Toronto at Scarborough and the International Buddhist College in Thailand. The latest addition, announced last autumn, will be Stanford University.

Colgate University, Robert’s alma mater, has an interdisciplinary science center named after Robert, and he has backed a number of other programs there. In Vancouver, Robert is responsible for construction of an Advanced Cardiac Imaging Centre and other medical research facilities.

2008

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Phil Hardberger ’60 is in his second term as mayor of San Antonio, the nation's seventh largest city. During the mayor’s first term, the city council tackled a $550 million bond referendum, the largest in city history and the first to focus on citywide improvements rather than projects by districts. Voters overwhelmingly endorsed a package to improve the streets, sidewalks, drainage, libraries and parks. Hardberger, a Texas native, served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, where he piloted the B-47 bomber. He then went on to serve as executive secretary of the U.S. Peace Corps during the Kennedy Administration and as special assistant to the director in the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity under President Lyndon Johnson. Following a distinguished legal career in San Antonio, he was elected associate justice and then chief justice of the Fourth Court of Appeals. His past honors include the 1999 Star of Texas Public Service Award for Judicial Ethics and Excellence and the St. Mary’s School of Law’s Rosewood Gavel Award. Hardberger was named Texas Judge of the Year in 2003 and was given the National Council of Chief Judges’ highest award in 2004.

2007

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Adrian Benepe '81 has worked for over 26 years protecting and enhancing New York City's natural and historic beauty. He continues this effort as Commissioner of the Department of Parks & Recreation, where he now oversees the operation of more than 28,800 acres and nearly 4,000 properties including almost 1,000 playgrounds, 600 ballfields, 550 tennis courts, 53 swimming pools, 35 recreation centers, 14 miles of beach, four major stadiums, and 2.5 million street and park trees. The facilities are maintained, programmed, and secured by almost 10,000 parks workers. Under Commissioner Benepe’s direction, the Parks Department works in partnership with over 1000 volunteer groups, comprising almost 70,000 citizen volunteers. Twelve of these groups raise $60 million in private donations to help restore and manage parks and enhance park programs. As commissioner, he has emphasized improving park facilities and programs for children, developing new waterfront parks and greenways, and making New York City bloom with millions of new flowers and hundreds of gardens. Benepe has certainly come a long way since he was a teenager picking up litter and mopping locker rooms in his first job with Parks & Recreation. I am pleased to award him the Dean's Medal for Distinguished Service and recognize his significant contribution to society through his professional accomplishments and civic involvement.

2006

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Madeleine May Kunin '57 is a former Governor of Vermont, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education. Kunin's remarkable political career has taken her from her home state of Vermont where she served as governor from 1985 to 1991 to the White House where she worked closely with the Clinton Administration as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and as U.S. deputy secretary of education. As governor of Vermont, Kunin focused her efforts on improving the quality of education and increasing public education funding. She created early education programs for low-income children and established state-wide kindergarten programs for all public schools. She also focused her attention on environmental issues. While in office, Kunin established programs to protect open spaces and farm land and helped retain Vermont's distinctive rural character. A former journalist and radio talk show host, Kunin is the first woman to have served three terms as governor of a state. Prior to her appointment as governor, she was lieutenant governor and a member of the Vermont General Assembly.

In Washington, Kunin served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education for the Clinton Administration and played a key role in establishing a more efficient system of managing student loans, initiated an office of educational technology and worked on a series of legislative acts including the Goals 2000: Educate America Act and the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act. During this period, she also served on the President's Council on Sustainable Development, the board of the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation and the President's Interagency Council on Women. She also was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Later, Kunin was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland by President Clinton, a post she held for the next three years and one that reconnected her to her birthplace. Born in Zurich, Switzerland, she immigrated to the United States in 1940 with her mother and brother. Kunin currently is a visiting professor at the University of Vermont and St. Michael's College. She is a recipient of numerous awards, honorary degrees and recognition for her work in education, the environment and human services.

2005

Edelman
 

Daniel J. Edelman ’41, founder and chairman of Daniel J. Edelman, Inc., the six largest privately-held and independent firm in the world. Edelman’ achievements span various arenas and causes, ranging from violence prevention to autism. One of his priorities as a business leader has been his responsibility to “give back” via charities, including Chicago Cares and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. This philosophy is also carried on by The Edelman U.S. network, which provides pro bono support to a range of national institutions, including Cure Autism Now, Partnering with America’s Promise to advance its mission of aiding inner-city youth, Global Business Coalition (GBC) against HIV/AIDS mission to focus the abilities of the global business community to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Edelman also serves on the Board of The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and the Committee for Economic Growth of Israel. Over the years Edelman has served on many other boards, including: Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Northwestern University Music School and the Save the Children Federation. He is also a former chair of the University of Chicago Library Board.

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