State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Join Us in Honoring One of the Founders of Earth Day


Today, in honor of Earth Day 2013, the Earth Institute is proud to honor an extraordinary woman who played a pioneering role in shaping how the world thinks about making our planet more sustainable for present and future generations.

The late Marilyn Laurie, a Barnard graduate is recognized as one of the founders of THE Earth Day.  A native New Yorker, Marilyn was a stay-at-home mother of two young girls when she saw a notice in the Village Voice inviting people to a planning meeting for what would eventually become Earth Day.

As a member of the organizing committee, Marilyn was able to convince the mayor of New York to close off Fifth Avenue to cars on the first ever Earth Day in 1970 so that the crowds could hear the guest speakers, including Paul Newman and Ali McGraw.

Marilyn’s success in helping launch Earth Day led to a freelance assignment writing an environmental supplement for the New York Times which, in turn, led to a job offer from AT&T creating environmental education programs for the company’s employees. By the late eighties, Marilyn had risen to the company’s highest ranks.  In her role as Executive Vice President of Public Relations and Brand Management, Laurie was the first woman to join AT&T’s 10-person Executive Committee.

Throughout her life, Marilyn was committed to public service. She was Vice Chair of Columbia University, a trustee of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and a director of the New York City Ballet and New Visions for New York’s Public Schools.  With all of her notable accomplishments, helping to found Earth Day and advocate for the environment was one of Marilyn’s proudest achievements.  When Marilyn passed away in 2010, she requested that a generous gift of $50,000 be made to the Earth Institute through her foundation so that the impact that she had had in her lifetime would continue on.

Owing to the perseverance and vision of people such as Marilyn Laurie, Earth Day is now celebrated in more than 192 countries every April 22nd to demonstrate support for environmental protection.  Marilyn took one very important step that changed her life and made our planet a safer, more sustainable place.  It is in this spirit that we ask you to follow in Marilyn’s footsteps and make a gift to the Earth Institute today. One small action, one gift in any amount great or small, holds the power to create profound and lasting change. By continuing to work together, our combined actions will guide our planet on a path to sustainability.


Marilyn Laurie
Marilyn Laurie

I would like to think I changed a few things along the way.  I’d like to think that I caused a fair number of people to care about the environment at a time when it was not an issue.  I’ve tried to work with entities that I think make the world a better place and I’ve tried to help them be more successful at what they do well.  It’s so important that what you do when you go to work in the morning matters to you.  And I hope the people who worked with me felt that way. –Marilyn Laurie

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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