May 18, 2021
“We can build a prosperous, post-pandemic world that is greener, smarter, and more inclusive. I pledge to do my part,” said Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, upon accepting this year’s SIPA Global Leadership Award.

Georgieva delivered these heartfelt remarks before an online audience of SIPA alumni, friends, and supporters at the School’s 20th Annual Global Leadership Awards Gala. The event, held virtually on May 11, raised more than $650,000 that will provide critical financial aid support for SIPA students from around the world.

Each year the celebration recognizes leaders who have made exceptional contributions to the public good. Honored this year were Georgieva and also, in memoriam, the late Vartan Gregorian, who served as president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York for almost 24 years.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger kicked off the celebration by acknowledging the honorees and by praising SIPA for its efforts to broaden our collective understanding of global problems and propose solutions. The festivities featured recorded comments from both current SIPA students and notable SIPA alumni, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti MIA ’95, Nature Conservancy CEO Jennifer Morris MIA ’97, and others.

Georgieva was introduced by Robert Zoellick, the former World Bank director and former deputy U.S. secretary of state, who praised her coalition-building skills and her longstanding commitment to helping the world’s most vulnerable. Georgieva later joined SIPA Dean Merit E. Janow for a conversation about the IMF’s efforts to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Georgieva, who became the IMF’s leader just months before the pandemic thrust the global economy into chaos, spoke about the unequal impact of the pandemic on different countries, and how the disparity is affecting the global economy.

“We are coming out of the crisis with some countries doing much better than others,” Georgieva said. “As a world, we have to recognize how interdependent we are, that we are as strong as our weakest link, and make sure that we lift up everybody. Because if we don’t, we cannot bring the pandemic to a durable end. We will see mutations continuing to roll around the world, causing trouble even to the countries that are in the strongest position.”

The celebration also featured a moving tribute to Gregorian, who died unexpectedly on April 15. Among the highlights were personal reflections shared by two trustees of the Carnegie Corporation—Caroline Kennedy, the former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the director of SIPA’s Kent Global Leadership Program on Conflict Resolution.

Kennedy praised Gregorian for transforming American philanthropy into an agent for social change and intellectual excellence on a global scale, and for “supporting those on the frontlines of freedom, fairness, knowledge and human dignity.”

Guéhenno also praised Gregorian: “He had the same interest for human beings as he had for ideas. He had the gift of humanity, and that made him an incredibly generous man, intellectually and personally.”

Other highlights included uplifting performances by two world-renowned musicians: the pianist Lang Lang, and the mezzosoprano Joyce DiDonato. Each received SIPA’s inaugural Global Inspiration Award for their outstanding accomplishments as cultural ambassadors.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York delivered a special message to the SIPA community, calling upon members to join efforts to create a more prosperous, equitable economy and society.

“We can’t hope to do it without you: the students, faculty, and supporters. You must have a seat at the table. With your education, your insight, and your experiences, we can one day build a nation truly worthy of its founding ideals.”

— Beth L. Mauro

Watch now: Global Leadership Awards 20th Annual Gala

SIPA's Global Leadership Awards 20th Annual Gala: A Virtual Celebration