The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 Dean's Award for Distinguished Achievement, which celebrates exceptional GSAS alumni who have exerted a profound impact not only in academia, but in the larger world as well. Award recipients are recognized as models of what a Columbia graduate student can accomplish.
Robert H. Grubbs, Ph.D. '68, Chemistry
A native of Kentucky, Robert Grubbs came to Columbia University to conduct research with Professor Ron Breslow in the Department of Chemistry. After earning his Ph.D. in 1968, he joined the faculty of Michigan State University in 1969, then moved to the California Institute of Technology in 1978, where he is now the Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry.
Grubbs' research has made significant contributions to the field of organic chemistry. In 2005, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded him and two others with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis. Prior to their work, metathesis was a poorly understood chemical reaction. Grubbs developed powerful new catalysts for metathesis that enables custom synthesis of valuable molecules, including pharmaceuticals and new polymers with novel properties. Metathesis has led to industrial and pharmaceutical methods that are more efficient, simpler, and environmentally friendly.
In addition to his scholarship, Grubbs has mentored several hundred students and postdoctoral fellows in his career. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering. He has been recognized with many prestigious awards in addition to the Nobel Prize, including the Franklin Institute's Benjamin Franklin Medal, the American Chemical Society's Arthur C. Cope Award, and the American Institute of Chemists' Gold Medal.
Jacques Pépin, M.A. '72, French and Romance Philology
A native of France, Jacques Pépin served as the personal chef to three heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle, before moving to the United States in 1959 and becoming the director of research and new development for the Howard Johnson Company. Pépin valued his academic pursuits, earning his bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1970 and continuing his studies at the Graduate School in French and Romance Philology, where he received a Master of Arts in 1972.
In the decades since, Pépin has built a reputation as an acclaimed chef, television host, prolific author, and respected teacher. His many popular programs on public television include Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen, Essential Pépin, and Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, which he co-hosted with Julia Child and which won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2001. As an author, he has published numerous best-selling cookbooks and written columns for the New York Times and Food & Wine magazine. He also teaches the next generation of chefs as the Dean of Special Programs at the International Culinary Center in New York, and as the co-founder of the Master of Liberal Arts program in gastronomy at Boston University's Metropolitan College.
In addition to the Emmy, Pépin has earned many prestigious awards in his career, including three of France's highest honors: the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, des Arts et des Lettres, and du Mérite Agricole. He is also the 2005 recipient of the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.