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NEW YORK — Kay Unger has been elected chairman of the board of governors at Parsons The New School for Design, effective July 1.
The post has been held by Joseph Gromek, who continues as chairman of the board of trustees at The New School.
Unger, a 1968 graduate of Parsons, stepped down as cofounder and creative director of Kay Unger New York and Phoebe Couture in June 2012 to focus on philanthropy and other creative endeavors. She is chief executive officer of The Kay Unger Family Foundation Inc., which is primarily committed to cancer research and care and to funding scholarships. Since August, she has also been president and ceo of Kay Unger Design, a company whose products range from clothing and footwear to the home.
Unger was elected a trustee of The New School in 2011 and has served as a member of the Parsons board of governors since 2009. She is the first Parsons alumna to become chairman of the board of governors, which has 31 members.
“What I want to bring to the job is to tap into the amazing alumni we have — in the arts, graphics and technology, not just fashion,” said Unger on Monday. “It’s such a wealth of talent to bring to the students.” Unger said her primary responsibility will be to help encourage fund-raising and scholarships. “We’re more of an advisory board. I help facilitate what they need to get done,” said Unger, who was elected to a three-year term.
Her most recent initiative for Parsons was a partnership with Bloomingdale’s to create “b the next” an event in April that featured former Parsons fashion chair Tim Gunn and top Parsons alumni including Narciso Rodriguez, Tracy Reese and Lela Rose. “B the next,” raised funds for Parsons Scholars, a free art and design college-prep program at Parsons for motivated New York City public high school students from diverse backgrounds.
Joel Towers, executive dean of Parsons, said, “Over the course of the past several years, Kay has really reengaged with the school in a way that’s extraordinary. She’s not afraid to think about what’s next.”
Unger steps into this role at a time when Parsons and The New School are experiencing a transformation. The school is launching new degree programs and interdisciplinary study options to equip graduates for globalization, urbanization and technological innovation. In early 2014, The New School will open the University Center, a sprawling 350,000-square-foot building under construction at 65 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of 14th Street, bringing together students across disciplines.
“Kay’s role is to make sure the board and the school are really taking advantage of the whole building. The architecture is only as good as the people and the programs that go into it,” said Towers, noting that starting next year, the annual Parsons fashion benefit will be held at the University Center.
Parsons will launch a new undergraduate curriculum this fall that will enable students to study design in the context of the other disciplines across The New School. In addition, Parsons is increasing its international presence with the launch of a Paris campus this fall, as well as a partnership with a new school, the Indian School of Design and Innovation, in Mumbai.
Unger is a past president of Fashion Group International, and in that capacity helped raise more than $250,000 for the Evelyn Lauder Breast Cancer Research Center. She is also a founding member of The Committee of 200, an organization that advances women’s leadership in business; winner of the American Jewish Committee’s Human Relations Award for outstanding professional and civic achievements, and recipient of the Spirit of Life Award from the City of Hope Cancer Research Hospital.