The I.A.L. Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts

About the Award

Each year, the Varsity Show presents the I.A.L. Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts to a Columbia or Barnard alumnus/a who has demonstrated continued commitment to, and has found success in, the arts. 

The award, named in honor of I.A.L. Diamond, a Varsity Show and Hollywood legend, is the highest honor bestowed by the organization to Columbia graduate and is presented at a reception before a performance of that year’s Varsity Show.

In 1941, I.A.L. Diamond became the only man to ever write four consecutive Varsity Shows.  A talented and incisive comedy writer who used to pen articles for the Columbia Daily Spectator, he took New York by storm with the Varsity Show productions of his own: You’ve Got Something There (1938), Fair Enough (1939), Life Begins in ’40 (1940), and Hit the Road (1941).

After graduating from Columbia, Diamond moved to Hollywood and went on to pursue a successful career writing and producing screenplays including Love Nest (1951) and Monkey Business (1952).  He teamed up with Billy Wilder to write Love in the Afternoon (1957), Some Like it Hot (1959), and the Academy Award winning screenplay, The Apartment in 1960.

The Columbia Daily Spectator named I.A.L. Diamond one of the 250 Greatest Columbians of all time in 2004, and the Varsity Show is honored to remember him as one of the greatest of our team.  As an individual devoted to the art of writing comedy for screen and stage, I.A.L. Diamond embodied the Varsity Show’s commitment to entertainment.

Past Recipients



In 2017, the I.A.L. Diamond Award was presented to Adam Belanoff, who co-wrote, co-directed, and performed in the Varsity Show from 1982-1984 with "Columbia Graffiti," "Fear of Scaffolding," and "The New 'U.'" He is credited with reviving the Varsity Show in its current form after a decade-long hiatus. Adam Belanoff is also recognized for his contributions to American television, writing and producing shows which include The CloserMajor Crimes, and Cosby

In 2016, The Varsity Show presented the I.A.L. Diamond Award to Peter Lerman, who graduated from Columbia College in 2005 and composed V109, "Dial 'D' for Deadline." Peter Lerman is an accomplished songwriter and composer for theater, television and film. His original musical, Brooklynite, was a New York Times Critics' Pick and he has won the Stephen Sondheim Young Artist Citation Award, a Dramatists Guild Fellowship, the Jonathan Larson Award from the American Theatre Wing, and the Kennedy Center-ACTF Musical Theater Award.

In 2015, The Varsity Show presented Alexa Junge with the I.A.L. Diamond Award. Alexa Junge is an accomplished television writer and producer. She wrote, performed, and directed for The Varsity Show in 1984 and 1985. Junge has been nominated for 4 Emmy's and 2 Writer's Guild of America Awards for her critically acclaimed work on Friends and The West Wing.

In 2014, The Varsity Show presented the I.A.L. Diamond Award to Greta Gerwig, who graduated from Barnard College in 2006 and acted in three Varsity Shows during her time here. She is associated with the mumblecore film movement and is best known for co-writing and playing the title character in the film Frances Ha. Recently she starred off-Broadway in The Village Bike at the Lucille Lortel Theater.

The Guardian



In 2013, the Varsity Show presented Kate McKinnon with the I.A.L. Diamond Award. Ms. McKinnon graduated from Columbia College in 2006, and acted in three Varsity Shows: V109, V110, and V111. After college, she starred in The Big Gay Sketch Show and was a regular at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Last year, Ms. McKinnon joined Saturday Night Live and is known for her impressions of Anne Romney, Penelope Cruz, and Ellen DeGeneres. She has been named to the Forbes "30 Under 30" for Entertainment — the magazine proclaimed that she is poised to join the ranks of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Wiig.




In 2012, Jenny Slate was the I.A.L. Diamond Awardee. Ms. Slate, Columbia College Class of 2004, has become a force in the comedy world, known both for her time spent on Saturday Night Live and YouTube persona, "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On." Ms. Slate is a Varsity Show alumna, having starred on stage in "Dial 'D' for Deadline." Mostly recently she has been involved in The Lorax and the HBO Series, Girls.

SF Sketch Fest
The Guardian

The 2011 I.A.L. Diamond Award was presented to Katori Hall, Columbia College Class of 2003. Ms. Hall has become a renown playwright for her work on The Mountaintop, a story of Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife on the eve of his assassination. The play starred Samuel L. Jackson as Dr. King. Recently, Ms. Hall has completed another piece, Hurt Village, about a housing project in Memphis, Tennessee.

In 2010, the award was presented to Tony Award winner Twyla Tharp. Ms. Tharp, a graduate of Barnard College, received a Tony Award for Best Choreography in the 2003 production, Movin’ Out. In 2010, Ms. Tharp received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreographer for her work on Come Fly Away.

Des Moines Register
Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer


In 2009, the award was presented to Tony Award nominee Diane Paulus. A graduate of Columbia’s School of the Arts, Ms. Paulus received a Tony Award nomination for her direction of the 2009 revival of Hair. In 2008, Ms. Paulus became the Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In 2008, the award was presented to Tony Award Winners Tom Kitt CC'96 and Brian Yorkey CC'93. Their work, Next To Normal, was produced Spring 2008 by Second Stage Theatre (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical. More recently, Next To Normal opened on Broadway in April 2009 and won a Tony for Best Original Score. The duo wrote the music, lyrics and book to the 100th Annual Varsity Show, "Angels at Columbia: Centennial Approaches."

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Noble Talent Management

In 2007 the award was presented to Tony Award nominee Brandon V. Dixon.  Mr. Dixon, a member of the Columbia College community, received a Tony Award nomination for his performance of Harpo in the Broadway-hit, The Color Purple.  He also originated the role of Simba in national tour of The Lion King.  In 2013, he will star in the Broadway show Motown: The Musical. Mr. Dixon performed in the cast of the 107th Annual Varsity Show.


In 2006, Art Garfunkel, Columbia College Class of 1962, became the latest recipient of the award. Mr. Garfunkel is best known as half of the folk duo Simon and Garfunkel, known for such famous classics as “Sound of Silence,” “Mrs. Robinson,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

GAB Archive/Redferns
Susan Johann Photography




Jeanine Tesori, Barnard College Class of 1983, received the award in 2005.  Ms. Tesori, a three-time Tony nominee, is best known for her work on Twelfth Night, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Caroline, or Change.  She was the music director for the 89th Annual Varsity Show and then returned a year later in 1985 to write the music for the 90th Annual Varsity Show, "Lost in Place."

In 2004, Terrence McNally, Columbia College Class of 1960, was the first recipient of the award.  Mr. McNally, winner of four Tony Awards and author of Master Class, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, and Ragtime, wrote the 66th Annual Varsity Show, Streets of New York.   Austin Quigley, Dean of Columbia College, presented the award to Mr. McNally before the 110th Annual Varsity Show.

The Los Angeles Times