Three Barnard alumnae — Brenda Aiken ’77, ’81PS, Maryam Banikarim ’89, ’93SIPA, ’93BUS, and Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald ’81 — were among 10 alumni honored with a 2019 Columbia Alumni Medal at the University Commencement on May 22. The medal is the highest honor bestowed by the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA).
Brenda Aiken, MD, ’77, ’81PS
Brenda Aiken’s long history of commitment to community began during the activism of the civil rights movement. The first in her family to graduate from high school and attend college and an alumna of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Aiken hosts alumni gatherings during the American College of Physicians national meetings, chairs the Campaign for Diversity, and speaks to first-generation and female medical students. She served as president of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Alumni Association from 2014 to 2016 and was the 2018 P&S Gold Medalist for Meritorious Service to the Alumni Association.
For two decades, Aiken worked in community clinics and private practice in Harlem and the South Bronx. She is currently president of the Susan Smith McKinney Steward Medical Society.
Maryam Banikarim ’89, ’93SIPA, ’93BUS
Maryam Banikarim is a professional change agent who teaches organizations how to build themselves through the lens of purpose. While at Barnard, the Iranian-born Banikarim took advantage of the many opportunities offered by the College and the City and won the prestigious Truman Scholarship. Barnard, she says, is where she really “came into myself.”
Banikarim earned a joint master’s degree in business and international affairs from Columbia and became a leader in marketing at corporate giants such as Hyatt and NBCUniversal. Currently, she is an executive adviser to Cove Hill Partners and was recently elected to chair the board of the press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders USA.
Banikarim remains active within the Barnard-Columbia community, having served two terms on the CAA Board.
“Barnard gave me the confidence to be bold, and chase my dreams and make a difference,” she says.
Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald ’81
At Barnard’s 2013 Commencement, Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald asked the graduating class, “How can you, individually and as a group, reflect on the meaning of your Barnard education and help ensure that the College remains as influential and relevant as it is today?”
Since her own Commencement, Caruso-FitzGerald has championed Barnard’s legacy. The founder and CEO of the Alberleen Group, an investment firm, Caruso-FitzGerald has been a Barnard Trustee since 2000 and served as board chair from 2010 to 2018.
Caruso-FitzGerald oversaw both the landmark decision to admit transgender students to Barnard and the College’s first major capital campaign. At 2018’s Annual Gala, she received the Frederick A.P. Barnard Award for her work on the College’s behalf.
“From the moment I set foot on campus in 1977,” says Caruso-FitzGerald, “I have truly loved Barnard and have been a devoted supporter of the College.”
— Photo by Eileen M. Barroso