CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Traub family — and industry heavyweights who are like family to them — gathered Monday evening at Harvard Business School to unveil a fellowship honoring the late Marvin S. Traub, B.A., 1947, M.B.A., 1949. The fellowship, the brainchild of Value Retail founder and chairman Scott Malkin, will provide financial aid to business school students who want to pursue fashion and retail careers.
“Beacon, counselor, mentor and friend, Marvin was all those to me,” said Malkin.
Lee and Marvin Traub’s three Harvard-educated children (Peggy, 1980; Jimmy, 1977, and Andrew B.A., 1974, M.B.A., 1978) joined their mother. Grandson Alex graduated from Harvard in May.
Professors told stories of Traub’s frequent visits to campus and his passion for connecting with students. “He wasn’t unbiased about the fact that he wouldn’t be disappointed if they joined Bloomingdale’s,” said Walter Salmon, HBS professor emeritus. After speaking to a class, Lee and Marvin Traub would always gather a group of students for lunch. Over the years, Traub helped several employees get into HBS.
“My husband dreamed of having something in his name at his beloved Harvard,” Lee Traub said. “For this, my family and I are very grateful.”
After a private reception to unveil the fellowship, the group adjourned to a lecture hall where Bergdorf Goodman president Joshua Schulman and Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive officer Michael Gould gave talks that were part Traub homage and part retail career lessons for the gathered students.
Schulman said he followed Traub’s Bloomingdale’s career even as a pre-teen. “I sent him a letter when I was 12 years old giving him a lot of unsolicited advice about when and where Bloomingdale’s should open stores in Southern California,” he said.
Traub did not heed the advice, but responded with a personal invitation the next time Schulman was in New York.
The two struck up a friendship during Traub’s second career as dealmaker and brand strategist running Marvin Traub Associates. They met often in Paris and London.
“I’d get a call to meet Marvin at the Lanesborough Hotel [in London] for breakfast at 7:30 only to find out I was the second of three to four breakfasts he had planned,” Schulman recalled. “My hour would be up and here would be [Harrods chief merchant] Marigay McKee coming in for her 60 minutes.”
Traub was a genius at “connecting the dots,” Schulman said. He told students this is the crucial quality for success in fashion — creativity can’t be isolated from operational focus, and vice versa.
Schulman told students the days of narrow career paths are over. He cited boundary-breaking careers, such as Natalie Massenet, a former editor who founded Net-a-porter, and Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey, who will move into the ceo role next year.
Gould talked about Traub’s intellectual curiosity, his focus on developing others. These are enduring leadership qualities, he said.
“Nobody remembers the numbers. Marvin didn’t remember the numbers, but clearly there are a lot of people, and some of them are in this room, who he developed who do remember him,” Gould said.