NEW YORK — Master’s degree graduates at the Fashion Institute of Technology got some top-drawer advice Wednesday night from none other than William P. Lauder, chief executive officer of the Estée Lauder Cos.

He was the keynote speaker at the Capstone graduation project presentations of the 15 graduates of FIT’s master’s degree program of cosmetics and fragrance marketing and management.

Lauder praised the graduates for their two years of hard work, performed while holding down jobs and satisfying family obligations. He then lauded the industry for its innovation leadership in “dealing in wants, not needs,” and the amount of money raised for philanthropic causes such as “Look Good, Feel Better.” Lauder advised the graduates that what makes a brand special is the sum of all of its aspects.

“Putting together the whole makes the difference,” he said, while urging them to always be mindful of what the consumer sees. “It is the message that she actually receives that is important,” he added, noting that marketers can be mistaken in assuming how their work is received. “If you can say, ‘The message I sent is the message I intended,’ then you succeeded.”

The ceremonies, held in the Katie Murphy Amphitheater at FIT, also marked the debut of a new award. Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president of the Estée Lauder Cos., presented the first Estée Lauder Faculty Leadership Award to Karen Young, a professor of cosmetics product development, who has been teaching in the program for three years. The award, decided on by the students, is accompanied by an annual gift earmarked for faculty development.

Among the graduating students, the big winner of the evening was Melinda Hartley, who received three awards. Along with Joanna Renea and Danielle Raymond, Hartley received the Outstanding Scholar Award. All three students had achieved perfect 4.0 grade point averages. Hartley also received the Victoria’s Secret Beauty Student Leadership Award and the program’s highest honor, The Department Medal.

This story first appeared in the May 19, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.