Columbia Business School’s 100/50: Embracing Our Legacy campaign culminated its yearlong celebration of Black excellence at CBS with the 100/50 Celebration Gala, held October 9 at New York City’s Ziegfeld Ballroom. 

Organized and produced through a partnership between the CBS African American Alumni Association (4A), the Black Business Student Association (BBSA), and CBS leadership, the 100/50 campaign was conceived as a tribute to CBS's first Black student, Theodora Rutherford, who matriculated at CBS in 1923, and the 50th anniversary of the BBSA, which was established in 1973. 

More than 335 alumni, current students, supporters, faculty members, and school staff attended the gala, where Columbia University President Minouche Shafik and CBS Dean Costis Maglaras paid tribute to Rutherford, the BBSA, and 4A. (Watch the video above to see highlights from the event.)

Noting the BBSA’s prominence and importance to the greater CBS community and stressing the school’s commitment and “deliberate” focus on creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, Maglaras saluted the current 150 members and 3,000 alumni of the BBSA. 

“The club’s fundamental purpose is to provide resources to promote academic excellence and to foster professional and personal advancement,” Maglaras said. “I want to thank the BBSA presidents, past and present, and congratulate every member for serving such an important purpose to the school.” 

Dinner, dancing, and a live auction filled the evening, where more than $500,000 was raised for the African American Alumni Scholarship Fund. 

The School also announced the establishment of the Theodora Rutherford Award, which will provide four outstanding students with a stipend and the opportunity to meet and be mentored by a prominent CBS alum. In addition, the George Owens Trailblazer Award, named for George Owens ’50, the first Black president of Tougaloo College in Mississippi, known for empowering underserved communities, was presented to Portia Archer ’98, a former BBSA president who is a transformative senior leader of the G League of the National Basketball Association.

As DJ D-Nice took the crowd into the night, prominent CBS alumni reflected on what the BBSA means to them and the importance of the organization before, during, and after their time at CBS.

Jen Randle ’06 
BBSA President, 2005-06
Founder and CEO, SGNL

CBS: What does the 100/50 celebration mean to you?

Jen Randle: 100/50 is an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come and just how far we still have to go. We have so many fantastic Black folks that have walked the halls of CBS that this moment is an opportunity to celebrate their — our — excellence. At the same time, there is still so much more we can do to create access for prospective students and support for current ones. 

CBS: How important was the BBSA to you while a student at CBS?

Randle: The BBSA is the reason I chose Columbia Business School. I attended the prospective students day as part of the BBSA conference in 2003 (it wasn’t called ELEVATE then). As soon as I was amidst the community, I knew it was the place for me. I admired the energy, the authenticity, and the connection. 

I served as president in my second year, and it was vital to me that I did my part in maintaining the BBSA’s position within the broader CBS community. We raised the most money, hosted the largest conference, held the dopest parties, and had the most vibrant community. We were few but mighty — our presence was felt. 

CBS: How do you want to keep the ongoing legacy of the BBSA alive?

Randle: I keep the legacy of the BBSA alive by remaining active in the 4A. 

Kiara J. Reed ’16 (’16SIPA)
Global Product Partnerships, Google

CBS: What does the 100/50 celebration mean to you?

Kiara Reed: Admittedly, most milestones and institutions in the United States that reach the 100th anniversary are not centered around the Black experience. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first Black student to matriculate into CBS is remarkable. CBS was established in 1916, and Ms. Rutherford enrolled seven years later. Can you imagine her bravery? Not only is Ms. Rutherford’s story a testament to how gifted our community is but also a declaration of how far we have to go. 

BBSA celebrating 50 years truly shows the power of community. The organization stands on the shoulders of the many alums who recognized the need for a unified and safe space for Black students. Honeycomb hideouts, the BBSA conference, and BBSA retreat are memories that connect all BBSA alums. The endless study sessions, recruiting prep, and trip planning that make us laugh even after we’ve graduated many moons ago. I’m so proud of the BBSA and all that it has accomplished in its first 50 years.

CBS: How important was the BBSA to you while a student at CBS?

Reed: Words cannot express how fundamental the BBSA was to my experience at CBS. I was a late applicant to CBS, so I missed many of the admissions events and networking that brought incoming students together. My first event as a CBS student was the BBSA incoming students retreat where current BBSA students and alums came together to welcome us to CBS, give us the tips and tricks of surviving the Core, and to make sure that we developed a community within ourselves as we embarked upon recruiting, exams, and cluster life. In addition to recruiting and academic support, the BBSA afforded me multiple leadership opportunities serving as vice president of the conference, co-president of BBSA, and a member of the Diversity Coalition. 

A key moment was during the protests and calls for justice over the murder of George Floyd. BBSA was critical in providing safe spaces for students and being a voice to the administration on how to support all students at CBS. This extra support would not have been possible without BBSA. To this day, my closest friends, confidantes, and advisors are all from BBSA, and I’m so appreciative for it.

CBS: How do you want to keep the ongoing legacy of the BBSA alive?

Reed: It's up to all of us to keep the ongoing legacy of the BBSA alive. My hope is that CBS continues to highlight and embrace the importance of the BBSA and 4A community while providing current and incoming students with the resources and opportunities to excel. We successfully achieved this with the 2023 Alumni Homecoming and 100/50 Scholarship Gala, and I hope these events become models for future fellowship and community engagements led by CBS. Personally, I’ll continue to donate to the scholarship, deepen relationships with my BBSA family, and work with CBS to amplify the academic, professional, and leadership legacy of the BBSA.

Lonald Wishom ’21
BBSA Co-President, 2020-21
Account Executive, Salesforce

CBS: What does the 100/50 celebration mean to you?

Lonald Wishom: I look at BBSA/4A as this really cool and important family, so the 100/50 is the celebration of the roots of this family tree. In recent years, there’s been a new focus on DEI (along with the subsequent backlashes we are seeing now), but since we’ve been at CBS for 100 years and been intentionally cultivating a formal community for 50 years is really powerful.

CBS: How important was the BBSA to you while a student at CBS?

Wishom: BBSA was and continues to be the single most amazing part of my CBS journey. Whether it was a study group, recruiting support, [or] going out for fun, I met my closest friends in BBSA, and seeing those people get their dream jobs, get married, and start families is really a blessing.

CBS: How do you want to keep the ongoing legacy of the BBSA alive?

Wishom: It’s interesting because I was BBSA co-president during the immediate fallout of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, so I saw the most robust set of promises of commitment to DEI in 2021. Two years later, I’m seeing all of those promises broken [by society in general] and the fundamental idea that diversity is good is being attacked.

I think we keep the BBSA legacy alive by challenging groups to be bold in the face of the “anti-woke” movement and the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action and to call it what it is … an attack on the idea that the Black experience is inherently valuable. I believe we keep the ongoing legacy of BBSA alive by affirming that our experiences, our brilliance, our creativity, our Blackness is inherently valuable and by challenging groups like Columbia, corporations, investors, and the like to be intentional about making sure our presence in these spaces flourishes in spite of the backlash to Black progress. 

So many institutions are actively scaling back their DEI efforts because they are afraid of lawsuits, so I hope the BBSA legacy will inspire them to have an ounce of the fearlessness and determination of Theodora Rutherford and the founders of BBSA during overwhelming circumstances.

Naomi Buie ’21
BBSA Co-President, 2020-21
Vice President, AlixPartners

CBS: What does the 100/50 celebration mean to you?

Naomi Buie: The 100/50 celebration symbolizes progressive elevation. When I look at the current state of BBSA and the strength of our legacy, I'm reminded that our achievements and opportunities are the fruits of generational hard work, perseverance, and courage. Theodora Rutherford bravely pioneered the path for us, and over the years, the collective efforts and contributions of each class have helped transcend our legacy. I feel an electric sense of pride to belong to an elite lineage of Black excellence. The celebration has been an acknowledgement of gratitude for our journey and the obstacles we've overcome, and a refreshing reminder of the potential and power we possess.

CBS: How do you want to keep the ongoing legacy of the BBSA alive?

Buie: It's important for alumni, current and future leaders of BBSA to continuously think of how we can fuel BBSA's growth and impact. I love to see the substantial growth in the number of Black students at CBS, and I'm inspired by how the club’s activities have transformed over the years. It is exciting to see the scale of our conferences and events, the caliber of our student and alumni talent, and the culture we are defining at CBS. As beneficiaries of this great lineage, it is our responsibility to build upon this momentum and preserve the mindset of paying it forward. I encourage each of us to think creatively about how we can contribute resources to support BBSA’s initiatives and to alleviate critical issues surrounding Black students and communities. We can keep the legacy alive and thriving by always thinking like a student — stay curious, stay informed, and stay actively engaged.

Alicia Davis ’22
BBSA Co-President, 2021-22
Consultant, McKinsey & Co

CBS: What does the 100/50 celebration mean to you?

Alicia Davis: It is awe-inspiring to be a part of both 100 and 50 years of history at Columbia Business School and the Black Business Student Association. To me, that means that Black students have not only staked our claim to belong at such a prestigious institution but have taken that opportunity to go on to become leaders and trailblazers in the business world and beyond. As a past BBSA president, I’m filled with the utmost pride to witness that within 100 years, Columbia went from having its first and single Black student to today having over 100 Black students not only attending but serving as presidents, leaders, and recipients of nearly every major club, honor, and award the school has to offer. Theodora Rutherford has paved the way for us to continue to reach new heights in excellence.

CBS: How important was the BBSA to you while a student at CBS?

Davis: BBSA was home during my time at CBS. Community was and is our advantage to surviving and thriving at institutions like CBS, and BBSA provided that tenfold. I owe BBSA for helping me with classes and careers, introducing me to lifelong friends, and growing me as a leader when I served as co-president. When I look back at my time at CBS, the memories of BBSA and serving my community are the fondest. 

CBS: How do you want to keep the ongoing legacy of the BBSA alive?

Davis: Community is our greatest advantage. I look forward to continuing to come together with alumni and current students to celebrate our wins and history, help elevate each other to positions of success, and develop each other into leaders who not only do well but also do good in the world. I hope to continue the legacy by always pouring into BBSA to help the new generations prosper and by contributing to the history through breaking more barriers as a Black woman every day.


Learn more about the School’s 100/50: Embracing Our Legacy campaign.