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The YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund raised over $2 million at its 45th annual Geoffrey Beene National Scholarship Awards gala, including a generous donation from Lady Gaga — who is also in talks with the organization to set up a recurring scholarship in her name. Over 1,200 guests attended the dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, which honored Phillips-Van Heusen chairman and chief executive officer Emanuel Chirico, Macys.com president of merchandising Jeff Kantor and Visionaire founders Cecelia Dean, Stephen Gan and James Kaliardos.
Host Mary Alice Stephenson kicked off the evening by strolling onstage in a bathrobe, noting that if it weren’t for the future generation of designers, merchandisers and retailers supported by the YMA FSF, “We’d have nothing to wear.”
On cue, 100 smartly dressed scholarship recipients from schools around the country then marched out from the wings into the grand ballroom to a standing ovation from the assembled crowd, which included Diane von Furstenberg, Isabel and Ruben Toledo, Estee Lauder group president John Dempsey, VF sportswear coalition president Karen Murray and Calvin Klein men’s design director Italo Zucchelli.
Four students were awarded $25,000 Geoffrey Beene National Scholarships and another four were awarded $10,000 runner-up prizes.
Dean, in a Grecian dress by Givenchy, reminisced about her own college days at Barnard. “I loved my education there and I thought it was amazing to be in New York City and have Manhattan as your campus. I totally gave into all the tempatations but I was a serious student also. I did English and French literature. It was great, but I would never want to go back,” she noted.
The Bronx-born Chirico attended Fordham University and recalled wanting to go there as a child. “It was this big, beautiful university and from five years old I would walk through and imagine going there. So when I was accepted, it was one of the biggest thrills of my life,” he noted.
There were at least two high-profile college dropouts, however, amongst the many scholars in the gilded room. “I went to F.I.T. and Parsons but I quit,” said Toledo with a giggle. “But now I have an honorary doctorate from Otis. So I didn’t graduate but I’m constantly learning.”
Similarly, Gan first attended school in the Philippines, followed by Boston College and Parsons, but never received a degree. “I was in New York and I couldn’t wait to start working. I was just one of those eager beaver kids,” he rememberd. “I didn’t want to be sitting in class and wanted to be out there doing it. You have to do what’s right for you. Should I not be saying this at a benefit for scholarships?”