Peter Scotese, the Chair of the board of trustees at FIT, joined in 1970. He discusses his appointment to the Board of Education and his advantageous textile manufacturing experience as the CEO of Spring Industries. Scotese lists board members he worked with at the start and later notes how the board has increased its reach. He describes the on-going support that the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries provides FIT and touts the unique offerings of the school such as the Shirley Goodman Resource Center. Scotese also mentions industry support and the ways in which adjunct professors provide a contemporary vocational education to the students at FIT. He then discusses various departments and how their growth is shaped by the industry. To illustrate, he mentions Andrew Goodman and the founding of the buying and merchandising department. Scotese says that the fur industry is pushing FIT to build a program, and that he sees quite a lot of opportunity in the emergence of home fashions. Finally, Scotese explains his Horatio Alger award and pays homage to successful designers such as Emilio Pucci, Nicole Miller, Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein.
Psychology professor Barry Karp began at FIT in 1968 and was tenured in 1971. Shortly thereafter he became active in the FIT union. Around 1986 he became administrator of the Welfare Fund. Karp discusses changes in the department’s coursework and the introduction of classes such as the Psychology of Color. He talks about changes in the student body over his time at FIT and states that FIT has more non-traditional students than at its inception; many students are coming back to school instead of coming straight from high school and the college has gained international appeal. Karp remembers the familial atmosphere of FIT in the 1970s and shares a yearbook from 1969. He mentions FIT’s growing global perspective, and talks about the appeal of their art-oriented Saturday classes for high school students. Finally, Karp discusses his daughter’s time at FIT and how it has led to a successful career in packaging design.
This is an interview with four executive members of the Union of United College Employees (UCE) at FIT: Joseph Garofalo, Judy Wood, Juliette Romano, and Arthur Levinson. The four begin by explaining their backgrounds and initial involvement with FIT in the 1960s and 1970s. They discuss how difficult it was to get promotions under the administration of Lawrence Bethel, and how the union had to fight for many rights such as faculty status for “non-classroom faculty.” They also discuss the crowded state of the FIT offices before 1976 and the steadying role the union played in such chaos. The four then describe their connections to the NYC labor movement and close relationships with the Central Labor Council and the Municipal Labor Coalition. State and federal connections also played an important role, and Judy Wood describes her active political involvement with councilman Ed Sullivan. The group then mentions their parent organization, the AFL-CIO, and further union connections with the United Federation of Teachers. They take a moment to remember a strike at Radio City Music Hall, and how they convinced a union to pause the strike to facilitate an FIT graduation, kick-starting a long friendship. The group pays homage to Marvin Feldman, an FIT president they found especially supportive. They mention an upcoming negotiation and go one to detail how union negotiations with the school and city work. Finally, the four describe the union’s relationship to students and the creation of the George Levinson Scholarship Fund in fond memory of his legacy.
Annette Piecora joined FIT in 1977 as a clerical assistant under Gladys Marcus and Jean-Ellen Gibson, the chair of the social science department. Piecora would work in both the personnel department and faculty services department before finding a long-term position in the president’s office. Piecora mentions meeting her husband, Professor Steve Harrington of the social services department, through FIT. Piecora worked with Marvin Feldman and Allan Herschfield, and discusses how she began working for the Board of Trustees as assistant secretary of the college. Piecora expresses excitement for recent funding which would allow distance learning and talks of planning an upcoming 50th anniversary holiday party. She then lists many changes at FIT in faculty and student make-up and also mentions how its rapid growth and budget cuts have led to a loss of community in some senses. However, she credits the important work of the union in restoring gain-sharing relationships and holding the college together. Picora describes her work with the Student Faculty Cooperation which determines funding for various arms of Student Life. Finally, she remembers the dedication of the Marvin Feldman Center and goes on to discuss budget cuts and her own work on the union’s executive committee.
Allan Hershfield, who had been the president of FIT for 2.5 years at the time of this interview, elucidates the qualities that set the school apart from other higher education institutions by explaining the school’s direction and high placement percentages. He details close relationships with the industry via advisory councils such as the Fragrance Action Council and emphasizes the economic impact of the apparel industry on the city of New York. Hershfield talks a bit about the international nature of the workforce and describes a soon-to-be FIT design incubator. He also mentions the board of trustees and describes FIT’s advantageous status as both a SUNY school and community college. Hershfield then delves into the Educational Foundation and scholarships made possible by founders such as Morris Haft. He describes the bi-partisan legislative support FIT receives, and finally, discusses student projects and a particularly underestimated alum who became an extremely successful bridal designer.
Chair of the Textile Development and Marketing Department Ingrid Johnson discusses developments in textile studies since her start at FIT in 1981. Johnson notes that course work has evolved from a more science-oriented approach to one that favors reverse-engineering textiles to fit end-use applications. She then illustrates the end-use applications of various fibers. Johnson describes her work as a home furnishing fabric developer before being recruited by Arthur Price to join FIT, and goes on to discuss successful alumni placement at companies such as Liz Claiborne, J. Crew, and Patagonia. Johnson notes the complexity of international sourcing and product development, and then describes the invention of EcoSpun, a recycled polyester textile, patented by alumni of the program. She discusses close connections with the industry and professional organizations such as the Textile Distributors Association. Finally, she describes the demographics of FIT’s student body and how the school attracts students with its international reputation.
This is an interview with FIT professor, architect, and designer Ron Lubman. He discusses his professional interior design experience and the future of design in relation to computers. Lubman was tapped to help found the Electronic Learning Facility, which educated students and faculty on the coming world of computers. He discusses how early demonstrations of computer-aided design were met with major opposition. Lubman goes on to discuss several courses he built on three dimensional space manipulation and how he instills in design students the ability and desire to illustrate technically. Lubman goes into how his coursework resembles Hollywood’s processes and touts Columbia’s “Paperless Studio” as the future of design practice. Lubman then discusses FIT students and how they can be overwhelmed by computer skills without proper motivation. Lubman was recruited to FIT after he gave a lecture on the future of computers in architecture and interior design. He talks about changes in the student body over time and finally discusses interior design faculty reactions to computer-aided design.
Professor of Interior Design and Chair of the Faculty Association at the time of this interview, Martin Zelnick was hired as a full-time professor in 1969. Zelnick received his BFA from Brandeis University and an MFA of Architecture from Columbia University. He discusses changes in student demographics, noting that students are less traditional and often older than when he started. He talks about how most faculty remain practitioners in their fields, and discusses the linkages between his department and the industry at large. Zelnick notes that professionals can be technophobic, so his students are ahead of the industry’s curve. He mentions that job placement largely falls on faculty and the students themselves, and that most of his students are working long hours during their studies. He touches on the relationship of the faculty association with the union and administration of FIT. He then talks about his hopes to expand the Interior Design Department and his feeling that FIT needs to invest in its graduate programs; he also hopes that FIT will focus on research. Finally, Zelnick says that industry interests can negatively impact FIT’s course development.
This is an interview with three professors of the patternmaking department at FIT: Christine Pupillo, Leonard Trattner, and Harry Greenberg. At the time of the interview, Trattner was chair of the department. Greenberg started at FIT in 1947 and describes an incident that occurred during the Board of Education’s two-day exam, which was a prerequisite to patternmaking instruction. The three delve into FIT’s uniquely specialized program wherein students learn to make slopers. Trattner, a 9th generation textile worker, started as an FIT student in 1964. He discusses his upbringing and life-long connection to the garment industry. They talk about what the union has done for the industry at large and innovations of their department, including classes taught in foreign languages for international students. The three discuss the department’s highly successful VFI program which brings in students who have dropped out of high school or had minor encounters with law enforcement. Greenberg and Pupillo describe their experiences as first-generation immigrants, how that experience often relates to their students, and their own very early starts in the garment industry. As most faculty do, they remain involved in the industry to stay abreast of technological advancements. Greenberg talks about meeting his wife and how he came to be recruited for his initial position. The three discuss the minutiae of patternmaking and the skills their students take to the field. They then talk about changes in student demographics and their hopes for an upper division. Finally, they discuss the Irving Curtis Scholarship Fund and the Harry Greenberg Scholarship Fund, as well as the scholarship provided by Symphony Fabrics.
Alan Fishman, the son of Shirley Goodman, discusses Goodman’s role in the early days of FIT. Goodman had worked on the World’s Fair with Grover Whalen, and was eventually introduced to the group of successful businessmen who were founding the institute out of the High School of the Needle Trades. Fishman describes his mother’s intense and lasting advocacy for the institute, though she came in without fashion industry experience. Fishman began working in the FIT mail room during his high school years. He recalls putting fliers together to announce that FIT was building a new building with the firm Deyoung & Moskowitz. Fishman then launches into a colorful description of the exchange trade fair with the U.S.S.R. in Moscow. He witnessed the infamous “Kitchen Debate” between Nixon and Krushchev and performed with a host of American models to showcase the American take on fashion. Following that summer, Fishman attended Cornell and graduated in 1966 with two years spent in Italy. He was briefly drafted, but exempted from service in Vietnam due to his family situation. He returned to FIT in 1966 as a part-time faculty member in the Fine Arts Department. Fishman discusses FIT’s international involvements and his placement at the Polimoda school in Florence, Italy for 7 years at the behest of Marvin Feldman. He describes FIT’s demographics in the 1960s and how those have changed in the years since. He then discusses other roles he has held at the school including time spent working with Deyoung & Moskowitz on the development of the FIT campus. He explains the Fine Arts Department’s role at FIT and the founding of the Artisan Space Gallery. Finally, Fishman notes his mother’s involvement with the “Inner Circle,” an elite group of leading women in the fashion industry.
In this interview with Dr. Alfred Sloan, Jr. he discusses his 1958 arrival at FIT following two years of teaching at Orange County Community College, another SUNY school. He was a veteran of World War II and had spent over ten years working in the fashion industry. Sloan discusses FIT’s first home at the Central High School of Needle Trades and their eventual move to the C building. Sloan lists various founders of the school and their roots on 7th avenue in the garment industry. He describes how the fashion buying and merchandising department has grown over the years thanks to strong industry support. Sloan then mentions Rosalind Snyder and the birth of the liberal arts department at FIT. He applauds the success of FIT’s curriculum and mentions that it has served as a model for other fashion schools across the world. Sloan notes that from the 1940s to the mid-1960s, FIT had a community service requirement for students. He mentions several department Chairs and FIT’s model of requiring professional studies in the first two years in contrast to traditional liberal arts colleges. He lists the courses he teaches and mentions student placement rates. Sloan then discusses the historical success of women at FIT; a characteristic of the school he finds particularly important. Sloan describes the results of an ongoing demographic survey his department asks students to complete and FIT’s international reputation. He finishes the interview with memories of the referendum on FIT’s name in the 1970s and a brief moment of fame on the now defunct FIT baseball team.
This is an interview with Doctors Joe Costelli and Barry Ginsberg of FIT. Costelli was the chair of the math and science department at the time of the interview and Ginsberg a retired professor emeritus. Ginsberg begins by describing his start at the institute in 1956 under former Department Chair Bill Leider. At the time there were approximately 20 faculty members and 200 students. He describes the tight-knit quality of FIT and weekend trips to the Hotel Grossinger. In tandem with his work as a math teacher, Ginsberg worked as the director of admissions alongside Marion Brandriss. He explains various internal leadership posts such as his time as the department chair and his time with the faculty committee. He goes on to detail the creation of rudimentary, and ultimately mandatory, arithmetic classes for pupils based on the prompting of Jeannette Jarnow. He then explains the selection process by committee of President Jarvie and his return to teaching, his “first love.” Costelli takes over the interview and describes his educational background in biology and subsequent start at FIT in 1975. Costelli explains the heavy involvement of the math and science department in the running of the school. He goes on to describe the middle states review and the writing of his textbook, Introductory Biology and Molecular Approach. He details the lineages of FIT’s liberal arts deans as well as the chairs of his department, and how the institute used industry input to evolve its coursework. Costelli remembers FIT being run as a tight ship with a hard-line dress code and also recalls the institute’s struggle to procure air conditioning from New York state. Finally, Costelli describes how the demographics of the school have changed and how they move ever deeper into computer-centered learning.
Edith Sancroft, professor of health and physical education at the time of this interview, and former Dean of Liberal Arts, joined FIT in 1964. She immediately began a large expansion of the school's dance program and talks about the introduction of an intermediate level of dance for her more advanced students. Sancroft sees choreography and dance as a natural partner to fashion design; her students benefit from the knowledge that body movement has to offer. She pays homage to the 1960s as a period of great growth for FIT. With the formation of the union and the presence of the Civil Rights Movement, the curriculum offerings at FIT grew in variety and scale. During this period, she was also able to offer master classes in dance with guests such as Syvilla Fort, Charles Wiedman, and Mary Anthony. Sancroft talks about how her department has changed and its eventual separation from the Math and Science Department. She also discusses the growth in diversity within the student body. Sancroft laments the loss of intimacy at FIT and remembers its former familial nature. That being said, she gives a lot of credit to faculty members such as Mildred [last name unknown] who wrote a series of grants to support the creation of the educational skills program, an invaluable part of FIT’s curriculum.
Dean Emeritus at the Department of Business and Technology at the time of this interview, Jack Rittenberg discusses his many roles while at FIT between the years of 1963 and 1992. He talks of the development of degrees within the baccalaureate program such as those in advertising and menswear, the latter being a degree that Rittenberg co-developed with Ted Roberts. He talks extensively about the school’s early existence in the C Building and the growth of the physical campus as FIT became more than a commuter school. Rittenberg remembers the building of the library and how space for the clothing collection allowed them to split from a storage arrangement with the Brooklyn Museum. Formerly a buyer for Bond Stores, Rittenberg has enjoyed showing FIT’s collections off to friends and visitors. Though Rittenberg was retired at the time of the interview, he was still teaching a spring merchandising course as well as industry seminars. He talks about strong relationships with alumni of the school and how retirement has allowed him to keep in touch with many of them through travel. Rittenberg talks about the faculty tendency to continue to work in the Industry so as to remain current. He also discusses the uniquely driven nature of the FIT student body. Rittenberg then goes into detail about the liberal arts program and gives a deep history of the founding and development of FIT from its roots as the Central High School of Needle Trades. He briefly discusses international students and changing demographics of the school and then launches into a discussion of the evolution of attitudes within the industry in regards to race and sex. The interview ends with a brief discussion of the decline of the fur industry.
Jean Ellen Giblin, the Vice President of Academic Affairs at the time of this interview, explains how she came to FIT as an economics professor in 1970. She was later Chair of the Social Science Department as well as the curriculum committee. After a time, she was asked to work on the development of the new upper division program which had a marketing option in international trade. She talks fondly of that creative work and how it led her to become the acting Dean of the Business and Technology Department, and ultimately led to her role at the time of the interview. Giblin reflects on the intimate nature of FIT when she joined and how that has evolved due to the growth of the school and its development of a 4-year program. Industry pushed for the creation of a 4-year program, though FIT maintained an upside-down approach to education wherein specialties were taught before general liberal arts. Giblin discusses FIT’s approval by the Board of Education and SUNY, and then talks about the support provided by the Educational Foundation. She talks about how industry advisory boards keep each program relevant, and then launches into a discussion about FIT’s international and domestic student body and how it has evolved through the years. FIT has also evolved its own programs to serve a wider array of industries in the city. Giblin praises the wide-ranging work of unions at FIT. She then discusses statutory campuses and FIT’s graduate program launched by Bob Gutman. Finally, she talks about the inherent creativity of the faculty and discusses the future of the school.
Judith Parkas, the Executive Vice President of FIT’s union, discusses her many roles at FIT. In addition to her union work, Parkas was a professor of Biology and Physical Anthropology as well as the project director of the Tech Prep Grant. Over the years, she helped develop and evolve FIT’s curriculum. She discusses the inception of the union and their early contentions with the Board of Trustees. There were also initial difficulties in unifying adjunct and full-time faculty, but Parkas emphasizes how the inclusivity of the union has been hugely beneficial in affecting change at the institution. She discusses how contracts have evolved to be more effective over time, especially thanks to Lou Stoller. She mentions affiliate unions such as the New York State United Teachers union and how FIT’s supportive working conditions have led to low turnover. Parkas talks about the school’s founding around the time of the G.I. Bill, and Shirley Goodman’s lasting legacy at FIT. While FIT’s deep connection with the city and the fashion industry has remained, the student body has become increasingly diverse and international over time. Parkas briefly discusses the differences between the Board of Trustees and the Educational Foundation. Parkas then discusses the development of a 4-year program at FIT, and goes on to describe the Tech Prep Grant that FIT procured from Cauley-Perkins. This program has allowed FIT to implement preparatory curriculum for mid-range high schoolers as well as secure summer employment. Parkas mentions distinguished alumni, and a couple fond memories of her own at FIT. She finishes the interview with a run down of her political involvement around the city.
Richard Streiter wore many hats at FIT, but at the time of this interview he was the executive director of the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries. Streiter joined FIT from Pratt Institute as Dean of Students in 1973. He discusses his recruitment by Marvin Feldman and his immediate push for the creation of a comprehensive primary care health service at the school. Streiter fondly remembers the raucous four-year stint of Mardi Gras costume balls held in concert with other art schools as well as FIT’s own talent show. He performed a surprising jazz trumpet set his first year and ended up in the 1976 yearbook for “streaking” at that year’s show. Streiter explains the legislative struggles involved in getting the upper divisions established and commends Feldman for championing FIT’s two-year program. He then talks about how the globalization of the fashion industry is reflected in FIT’s vibrant student body. Streiter discusses the development of Polimoda in Italy and his own move to New Delhi to help establish the National Institute of Fashion Technology. It was a struggle, but Streiter had support from an advisory group in New York and fought for the school’s survival. Upon his return, Streiter held a series of leadership roles at FIT and ultimately became acting director of both the Educational Foundation and the Shirley Goodman Resource Center. He mentions early FIT exhibitions such as the retrospective on Charles James. He then discusses the structure and evolution of the Educational Foundation. Streiter ends the interview with a depiction of an FIT tour through China which he led.
This is an interview with Lou Zaera and Aaron Schorr. Zaera is a professor in the economics department with a background in engineering. He discusses early work at FIT with word processors and the growth in demand for computer labs. At the time of this interview, Schorr was a professor in the manufacturing department and was the college’s first academic computer coordinator. Schorr talks about learning basic programming through keypunch cards. The two discuss their hopes to network the computers at FIT in the near future. In 1988 Schorr joined the Electronic Learning Facility, part of the Teaching Institute, which was a program built to instruct faculty on computer technologies. They talk about how money from the state allowed for the expansion of the computer labs at FIT and how they have been able to build programs for each discipline. Schorr details close-knit relationships with both technology and fashion, and how he uses those connections to better anticipate the future of their industries. They discuss various funding channels for the initiative including industry donations, private patrons, and public assistance. The two talk about what it’s like to negotiate with technology vendors and talk about diversifying the platforms and software to better educate their students. Zaera touches on how computer education has evolved since his time at Carnegie Mellon and the two delve into the student demographics. They note that students struggle more with math and language barriers than they have in the past. Finally the two discuss distance learning, conferences and the valuable industry seminars at FIT.
Chair of the Marketing Department at the time of this interview, Eve Pollack explains the educational and professional trajectories that led her to a position at FIT in 1978. As her father was a textile converter, Eve found a career in buying haute couture to be a natural fit. She worked in the financial sector as well before being offered an adjunct position teaching a class called “Introduction to the Fashion Business,” at FIT. Pollack discusses the changes she has witnessed in both the student body and the industry itself. She explains her philosophy on the pedagogy of marketing and how Marvin Feldman came to appoint her head of the Fashion Buying and Merchandising Department (FBM). Pollack then discusses linkages to the marketing industry as well as connections with other schools who send her students. As faculty adviser to the Merchandise Management Society, Pollack has set up an affiliation with the American Marketing Association. Each year the association puts on a competition in New Orleans, and Pollack’s students have won several times. Pollack talks about the upper division of FIT’s Marketing Department and how it has come to be recognized as a viable business school. She emphasizes that the future of marketing education is general and addresses all aspects of the industry. Pollack mentions a close relationship with John Pomerantz, who was on the board at the time, and talks about utilizing professional connections to find exemplary adjunct professors. Finally, she discusses the state of marketing in fashion as international sourcing increases and closes with a run down of her current faculty and students.
Elaine Stone, a professor in the Fashion Buying and Merchandising Department (FBM) at the time of this interview, also served as the coordinator of the Small Business Center and the director of the Center for Global Enterprise. She talks about her first encounters with FIT students while working at various department stores during the holiday season and her invitation to speak at the school. She was immediately taken with FIT and began teaching in 1975 after meeting Newt Godnick of the FBM department while they were buying for major department stores. She discusses the challenges of teaching and describes the close-knit nature of faculty/student relationships at FIT. She worked closely with the Taiwan Textile Federation while at FIT; and her deep international experience led her to help found FIT-affiliated programs such as the National Institute for Fashion Technology in India, Caricom in the Caribbean, Polimoda in Italy, and Shenkar College in Israel. She discusses the founding of the Small Business Center thanks to a faculty retreat put on by Marvin Feldman. With the support of Jeannette Jarnow, the FBM did a survey of alumni and found that 85% owned their own businesses, meaning there was a large gap in the department’s curriculum. What began with a class in business management became a huge cross-department program with federal grants supporting initiatives such as the Women Business Owner’s Association and the Export Assistance Service Extension. Stone describes how the center has also allowed for students to attain international internship experience and discusses linkages with national economic development associations. Stone penned three books during her time at FIT: Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Buying, and Exporting and Importing Fashion. She says a little more about her professional background and then finishes the interview with a ringing endorsement of FIT and her hopes for its future.