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President Emeritus, Columbia University; Chancellor Kent Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

John W. Kluge Distinguished Visitor - Class of Fall 2010

Michael Ira Sovern was the seventeenth president of Columbia University (1980-1993) and is currently the Chancellor Kent Professor of Law at Columbia Law School.


Sovern joined the Columbia faculty in 1960, became dean of the law school in 1970, and was named the university’s executive vice president of Academic Affairs and Provost in 1979. During his term as president, Sovern quadrupled the university’s endowment, recruited prominent faculty, and presided over the opening of Columbia College, the university’s main undergraduate division, to female students.


He was a law consultant for Time magazine from 1965-1980, served as special counsel to New Jersey Governor Brendan Thomas Byrne from 1974-1977, was the co-chairman of the Second Circuit commission on Reduction of Burdens and Costs in Civil Litigation from 1977-1980, chairman of the New York City Charter Revision Commission from 1982-1983, and chairman of the State-City Commission on Integrity in Government in 1986.


Sovern is the author of Legal Restraints on Racial Discrimination and Employment (New York Twentieth Century Fund, 1966), Cases and Materials on Law and Poverty, co-author (West Publishing Co., 1969), and Of Boundless Domains (University Press of America, 1994). In addition to receiving honorary doctorates from Tel Aviv University, University of Southern California, and Columbia University, Sovern has also received the Commendatore Order of Merit from the government of Italy as well as the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star from Japan.


Sovern is as a member of the board of the Shubert Organization and the Asian Cultural Council and Atlantic Philanthropies He also has been a founding member of the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the American Foundation for AIDS Research, among others.

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