NEW YORK — “Growing up in New York, I remember FIT as the place that prevented me from driving across town on 27th Street to the West Side Highway,” actor Alec Baldwin told the Fashion Institute of Technology’s 2,600 graduates on Friday. “But I remember it also as the place where people go to learn about clothing design.”
Baldwin, who delivered the commencement address at FIT’s 56th graduation, held at Radio City Music Hall, recalled how, as a student in the late Seventies, all the beautiful and well-dressed people he encountered were from FIT. They, he said, often examined his fashions with a raised eyebrow, and taught him one essential lesson in life: “Don’t wear horizontal stripes. Ever.”
Calvin Klein was scheduled to receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree, but didn’t make it to the ceremony because he was stuck in Europe, much to the disappointment of the students. As for those in the audience who sniped that the designer might have simply blown off the event, WWD verified that Klein, in fact, was booked that morning on the Air France Concorde from Paris and that the flight was indeed canceled.
The ceremony nevertheless opened with New York City Police Officer Daniel Rodriguez, who sang the national anthem, followed by Jessica D’Arcy Dean, president of FIT’s student association and member of the graduating class.
“When I started five years ago, I never dreamed I’d be standing here in front of the greatest, most amazing group of graduates,” she said. “Go out there and start that business, have that fashion show, and at least invite me to your gallery opening.”
Retired Kohl’s president Jay Baker was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Last year, Baker and his wife, Patty, donated $10 million to FIT, the largest gift in the college’s history. In his speech, Baker recalled how his parents had wanted him to become a lawyer, doctor or accountant, and were disappointed when he chose to work in retail instead.
“Today, mom and dad, I’m a doctor,” he quipped. “It is, other than when we got married, Patty, the most exciting day of my life.”
Joyce F. Brown, president of FIT, bid good luck to graduates and sent them off with a message of encouragement: “I recognized how much the landscape had changed this last fall. We must not let the enormity of the challenge ahead paralyze us. We must not be trapped into passivity.”
Michael R. Pelligrino, president of Anna Sui Corp., and Frank Zambrelli, vice president and creative director at Rockport, received alumni awards.