NEW YORK – Columbia University Athletics celebrates the 2016-17 academic year with its annual year-end awards ceremony, the 96th Annual Varsity C Celebration, on Wednesday, May 3 at 7:30 PM. Today, we will look at this year's Alumni Award honorees, Rachel Flax Kaplan '03CC (women's diving) and Peter Leone '83CC (football).

Flax Kaplan was an invaluable component of the women’s diving squad from 1999-2003, and her strong dedication to the program has been evident for nearly two decades. Flax Kaplan’s collegiate highlight came as a senior at the Ivy League championships, taking second place in the three-meter springboard. The art history major earned Dean’s List honors every semester and was also an academic All-Ivy selection as a senior.


Her support of the program continued beyond graduation, serving as a member of the Varsity C Club since 2003 and chair of the Diving Advisory Committee since its inception. Kaplan has been instrumental in the establishment of the Gordon Spencer Fund for Diving, which has already raised more than $100,000 towards its quarter-million-dollar goal. Kaplan is currently the head teacher at Barnard College Toddler Center and continues to visit Uris Pool, where she coaches club diving.


Leone, an offensive lineman recruited by then-head coach Bill Campbell, has continued to make an impact on his alma mater and the football program throughout the years. As founder and president of the Columbia Football Players Club, Leone helps the program build support from alumni, providing fundraising for the team and mentoring current student-athletes as they navigate their post-graduate plans. For his contributions, he was the Connie S. Manniaty Distinguished Alumni Award recipient for Columbia football in 2014.


The Western Pennsylvania native’s contributions also include serving time as President of the Columbia Club of Pittsburgh, as well as chair of the Western Pennsylvania Alumni Representative Committee for more than a quarter century. Leone graduated from Columbia with a degree in economics and fashioned a successful career as a financial services representative for Northwestern Mutual for more than three decades.


The Alumni Athletics Awards have been bestowed annually since 1941 to an ardent and loyal alumnus or alumna who has been an outstanding contributor to Columbia Athletics for many years.


Check back on and on the Varsity C Celebration Facebook Event page for announcements regarding this year's student-athlete award nominees! 

Planning for this year's Celebration was done in conjunction with a Student-Athlete Planning Committee consisting of Rima Asatrian (Women's Tennis), Maddie Gott (Softball), Meredith Kalberer (Field Hockey), Lindsey Mendelson (Women's Tennis), Natalie Neshat (Women's Soccer), George Patterson (Lightweight Rowing), and Stanley Sandoval (Men's Soccer).

The Committee was charged to plan new, special ways to celebrate Columbia's incredible student-athletes. The Celebration will welcome back ESPN college basketball analyst Dalen Cuff ’06CC as the Master of Ceremonies and the location of this year's Celebration has been moved from Levien Gymnasium to the Roone Arledge Auditorium in Lerner Hall

The Celebration is free for student-athletes, coaches, and Athletics staff. Additional tickets can be purchased online by clicking here. Event sponsorship and ticket sales are directed to the Fund for Excellence, which supports all of our student-athletes and the funding for this event. Contact Maggie Johnson at for information on sponsorship opportunities.

Check back on and on the Varsity C Celebration Facebook Event page for announcements regarding this year's Alumni Award winners (Peter Leone '83CC and Rachel Flax Kaplan '03CC) and all of our student-athlete award nominees!