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.
Emanuel Weintraub, an alum of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.), discusses his upbringing and family life in the Depression-era Bronx. He initially chose the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) because it was free, and he received a scholarship. Weintraub briefly discusses his course work there in conjunction with work done at New York University. He graduated in 1947 with a degree in Industrial Management as part of the second graduating class of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). He discusses his professional start as a plant engineer at the Lily of France Corset Company and early interest in consulting work. After briefly describing his enlistment during the Korean War, Weintraub delves into the founding of his own consulting firm, Emanuel Weintraub Associates, Inc. The firm consults in three areas: industrial engineering and manufacturing, organization and organization structure, and marketing and market research. Weintraub describes his ongoing relationship with Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) presidents such as Marvin Feldman. Then, he discusses his company?s work in-depth; how they assess companies? organizational functionality and various national studies they have done to advance the field. Finally, Weintraub discusses the growth of off-shore production and how he thinks it will negatively affect marketing and other adjacent industries in the United States.
Vice President of the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries Sidney Bernstein discusses his childhood and educational development in New York City. The launch of his successful real estate career put him in proximity to myriad furriers in the city. Eventually this led him to become more and more involved with the fur industry. He discusses the origins of the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries and its work abroad at the Shenkar School in Israel. Bernstein initially became involved with the Fashion Institute of Technology as a real estate advisor. He describes the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)?s rising reputation within the fashion industry and how the Institute has become an important asset, particularly for textiles. He briefly discusses scouting physical spaces to facilitate the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)?s growth, and then explains how he came to found a scholarship for students there. He talks fondly of Thanksgivings spent with international scholarship recipients at his family home and delves a bit into his personal life. Bernstein then circles back to the fur industry and how, in many ways, it is returning to its roots as a family business. Bernstein was the longest serving member of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)'s Support Foundation. He passed away in 2004.
This is an interview with Marvin Feldman, the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s longest-serving president, whose term ran from 1971 to 1992. The interview begins with a summary of Feldman’s military background and education, followed by his early work experience for the Ford Foundation and United States government agencies. He then explains his search for college presidencies in both the private and public sectors, and how he ended up at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). He describes the administration, faculty, and physical plant when he joined as president, and the Institute’s evolution from a two-year community college to an institution offering a four-year baccalaureate. Feldman then delves into the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s interfacing with both the New York State government and various industry groups. He describes the hierarchy of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s administration and its management style. Feldman goes on to explain how departments grow and develop into viable courses and majors, and gives a detailed description of the Marketing program. He discusses the growth of international fashion merchandising, and then introduces two new Master’s programs. Finally, Feldman discusses the industry’s need for trained workers and how the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) will function in the years ahead.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gibbs Murray, Chair of the Display and Exhibit Department at the time of this interview, talks about the origins of the program as a double degree in fashion display and photography in the 1960s. He discusses how the Display and Exhibit Department’s singular, comprehensive nature has led to exponential levels of enrollment in recent years, and mentions student exhibitions in conjunction with companies such as Chanel, Patrick Kelly, and Romeo Gigli. Murray details a close relationship with the National Association of Display Industries, and talks about how the advisory council gives valuable feedback to students. He discusses the student body and notable alumni from the program, emphasizing that FIT is uniquely situated for the study of visual merchandising. Murray then mentions industry seminars put on by the department and underscores the value of FIT’s 2-year vocational training. Murray ends the interview with his hopes for an art and design shop at the school.