Columbia Journalism School isn't going to let a little thing like a $1 million lawsuit stand in the way of extending a heartfelt congratulations.
In a sign of admirable equanimity, the school helped spread the news that Sylvia Nasar, the author of "A Beautiful Mind" and a professor of business journalism at the school, had been named a Guggenheim Fellow in the field of creative non-fiction. The prestigious honor carries a cash grant and recognizes scholarship in the arts.
The catch is that Nasar hit the school with an embarrassing lawsuit last month. She is seeking a reported $923,000 in damages and accusing the school of misdirecting $4.5 million in endowed funds, according to the New York Times. She claims that the university violated her contract by failing to pay her research fees and manufactured "phantom I.T." expenses that she says she never incurred.
Nasar told TheWrap that she is still a faculty member at Columbia and, though she is currently on a leave, she is frequently on campus.
"I'm a tenured professor and I'm there and I intend to stay there until I retire," Nasar said. "I'm totally thrilled and honored to have gotten the Guggenheim."
She said the lawsuit is proceeding and that the congratulatory note was not a sign that anything had changed, although she recognized that it is unorthodox to continue to work for an employer you are suing.
"I know it's unusual, but that's the situation," she said. "There are no developments on the lawsuit side."
A spokesperson for the journalism school did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In addition to "A Beautiful Mind," which inspired a Best Picture-winning 2001 movie, Nasar has written for the New York Times, Fortune and the New Yorker.
She said she intends to use the fellowship to work on a new book dealing with Cold War spies. The new book, she said, grew out of research she had done for her previous book, "Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius."
Full disclosure: The author is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School
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