By and  on October 23, 2006

NEW YORK — LaVelle Olexa may be shy and soft-spoken, but her usual grace and charm held up in the company of 250 friends, family and colleagues Thursday night at the Harmonie Club, where the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising, the College for the Business of Fashion, honored her by announcing a scholarship fund had been established in her name.

"God, I'm nervous, and that doesn't happen to me that often," admitted Olexa, senior vice president of advertising, sales promotion and public relations at Lord & Taylor. "I came with notes prepared because I thought this was going to be a roast." There were several laughs, though the event was a tribute that included a video retrospective of her life, with photos of her as a model on the runway, as a finalist in the Miss Universe contest, at her wedding to Kenneth Greenfield and with some of her friends, including the late Oleg Cassini. The party raised $80,000 for the school, which, according to LIM's president Elizabeth S. Marcuse, has an over 90 percent job placement rate of graduating students.

After taking a summer job at Neiman Marcus and meeting the legendary Stanley Marcus, Olexa knew fashion retailing was her calling. "I fell in love with a business that provided me with a world that was perfect for me and I knew it right away. My wish is that they [LIM students] find a position as rewarding and fulfilling as the one I have enjoyed." Olexa is on LIM's industry advisory board.

She once held executive fashion posts at The Denver, May D&F and Woodward & Lothrop. In 1989, she became Lord & Taylor's senior vice president of fashion merchandising, and last March took her current position.

Among those in the Harmonie Club crowd was Kathryn Crosby, wife of the late Bing Crosby. She sang White Christmas at the unveiling of Lord & Taylor's holiday windows last year. Also on hand were designers Yeohlee and Joanna Mastroianni, Marianne Cassini and artist Chakaia Booker, who creates sculptures from old tires and has been featured in L&T windows.

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