Columbia University Dean's Award for Distinguished Achievement

Presention of Award by Henry C. Pinkham, Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, to Sybil Shainwald
May 19, 2009

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences holds in highest regard intellectual pursuit in the cause of public service.  Today we honor you, Sybil Shainwald, an alumna of the Graduate School, for using your Columbia education in the service of countless women around the world and the field of women’s health care as a whole.

A native of New York City, you came to Columbia to study Political Science.  Since completing your law degree at New York Law School and receiving your admission to the bar in 1976, you have been a fierce and powerful advocate for women’s health, tackling and winning cases that other lawyers had rejected as impossible.  In your practice, the law has always been a way to combat injustices and right wrongs, never simply a source of profit.

The list of landmark cases in reproductive rights with which you have been involved is lengthy.  You have challenged multi-national corporations on behalf of women in the United States and in developing countries harmed by contraceptives and medical devices whose side effects had a far-reaching and sometimes permanent impact on their health.  For these women, so often ignored or dismissed, you have fought for recognition, for compensation, and for regulation that will protect future generations.

You have volunteered thousands of hours outside of your law practice to further the causes of consumer advocacy and women’s health, serving as chair of the board of directors of the National Women’s Health Network, and on the boards of the Consumer Interest Research Institute and the Hysterectomy Educational Resources and Services Foundation.

You have built a distinguished reputation as a lawyer whose passion and willingness to take risks is matched by your skill and diligence.

In recognition of your exceptional career, and for being a model of what a Columbia graduate student can accomplish, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is delighted to present you, Sybil S. Shainwald, with the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Achievement.

Henry C. Pinkham
Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences