Lee C. Bollinger
President, Columbia University
National Press Club Luncheon Speaker -- April 2, 2003
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Lee C. Bollinger, now the president of Columbia University, was president of the University of Michigan in 1997 when two lawsuits alleged the university used a quota system that unfairly benefited minority applicants. Bollinger allocated considerable resources to defend the university's admissions policies. Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger -- a debate many observers believe is the most important civil rights case in a generation.
As Michigan's president, Bollinger was unusually well prepared to defend the university's policies, because he's also a noted legal scholar. After graduating from the University of Oregon and Columbia Law School, Bollinger served as a law clerk for Judge Wilfred Feinberg on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and later for Chief Justice Warren Burger on the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1973, Bollinger joined the Michigan law school faculty. He served as dean of the law school from 1987 to 1994, then briefly as provost of Dartmouth College. He returned to Michigan as the university's 12th president in November 1996.
Bollinger's primary research interests have focused on free speech and First Amendment issues. But he's also the recipient of several awards for his strong defense of affirmative action in higher education, including the National Humanitarian Award from the National Conference on Community and Justice.
He has published numerous books, articles, and essays in scholarly journals. Beyond academics, Bollinger supports the arts and humanities. An Arts of Citizenship program, introduced as part of his inauguration at Michigan, encouraged interdisciplinary research, interaction with guest artists and working with community partners.
Bollinger is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge University, and a member of the Boards of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the Royal Shakespeare Company of Great Britain.
Bollinger was born in Santa Rosa, Calif., and was raised there and in Baker, Ore. He and his wife, Jean Magnano Bollinger, have two children.
Learn more about the affirmative action cases.
University of Michigan