Ruth DeFries and Jeffrey Sachs Named University Professors

April 13, 2016

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am pleased to announce my appointments of Ruth DeFries and Jeffrey Sachs as our newest University Professors, the highest rank Columbia bestows on its faculty. It is fitting that Professors DeFries and Sachs receive this honor in tandem, as they are two of the world’s foremost scholars investigating how to ensure a sustainable future for our planet. As is always true, but especially so here, by recognizing their many contributions through this honor, we also strengthen their, and our, capacity to serve the entire Columbia community and the world.

Professor DeFries is Denning Family Professor of Sustainable Development and Co-director of the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development at Columbia’s Earth Institute. Her scholarship is committed to nothing less than understanding the changes experienced by the planet over the course of human existence. Professor DeFries’s institutional leadership led to the creation of several innovative Earth Institute programs, and her public advocacy is responsible for advances around the world concerning climate change, food and water insecurity, and nature conservation. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2006 and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008. In 2007, Professor DeFries received a Fulbright Award for Research in India and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Professor Sachs, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management, is a peerless economist who has dedicated his life to building a sustainable future and reducing global poverty. He came to Columbia in 2002 to serve as Director of the Earth Institute. Under his leadership, the Institute became the world’s premier institution for research, teaching, and public outreach regarding earth sciences and sustainable development. As the longtime Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General, Professor Sachs oversaw the adoption and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals as well as the Sustainable Development Goals agreed to last year. He is Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which convenes at Columbia and at our Global Center in Europe, under the auspices of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

I know we all join in congratulating Professor Ruth DeFries and Professor Jeffrey Sachs on their many achievements and on becoming Columbia’s newest University Professors.


Lee C. Bollinger