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On the occasion of being honored for a lifetime of achievement in fashion by the National Arts Club, Ruth Finley decided to reveal the secret of her enduring success — ambition at an early age.

“When I was 11, I told my father that I knew I would go to college; work in my chosen profession, which was a journalist; get married and have a successful career in New York,” Finley disclosed to her friends, family and the fashion crowd at the event last week.

This story first appeared in the December 9, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Finley, the founder and publisher of the 65-year-old Fashion Calendar, received the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for being an industry force for decades as the master planner of New York’s fashion week schedule. She’s also been involved in countless galas and charities, including Citymeals-on-Wheels and LightHouse for the Blind, as well as helping new designers organize their shows.

Born in Haverhill, Mass., the octogenarian graduated from Simmons College, wrote for the New York Herald Tribune and worked in window display at Lord & Taylor before creating the Fashion Calendar.

“She saved my neck many times,” said Helen O’Hagan, former Saks Fifth Avenue executive who would organize the store’s fashion shows years ago. “We always had to be first.”

“She’s the cutest, the sweetest. She’s my calendar girl,” said Betsey Johnson, as she bear-hugged the petite and beaming Finley.

“Ruth has been a constant for all of us designers. She’s the magic behind the scenes of fashion week,” said Carolina Herrera, a former recipient of the National Arts Club medal.

Before Aldon James Jr., president of the National Arts Club, presented Finley with her medal, letters of congratulations were read, including one from Ralph Lauren, who commended Finley for tackling the magnitude of organizing “an entire industry on one calendar.” He also took the opportunity to put in an unofficial request. “How do you feel about moving the shows later in the spring?” Lauren wrote.

“It’s been a very, very special evening,” Finley said. “The Fashion Calendar is sort of my first child, but my three sons, their wives and my grandchildren are all here. I have a great family and a great career. I am extremely happy.”

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