Professor Alfred V. Sloan, Jr., died July 27. Working in FIT’s Fashion Buying and Merchandising department (now Fashion Business Management) from Sept. 10, 1958 to Dec. 22, 2015—a total of 57 years—he holds the record as FIT’s longest serving full-time faculty member. The following is an excerpt from a retrospective piece written by Greg Herbowy on his 50th teaching anniversary. The full article, “Gold Standard,” ran in the spring 2009 issue of Hue magazine.
Newton Godnick, Fashion Buying and Merchandising chair for 18 years until his 1992 retirement, credits Dr. Sloan as author of much of the department’s founding curriculum and a consummate teacher whose guidance goes beyond the discipline. In 1968, Sloan founded the London Scholars program, FIT’s first study abroad offering; shortly thereafter, he started an FBM faculty exchange program between FIT and the University of Huddersfield in Yorkshire, England. “Students aside, he’s been a counselor to countless fellow faculty,” Godnick says, “and I know for a fact he was considered umpteen times for senior administrative positions at SUNY. Every time, he chose to stay in the classroom.”
“A soldier’s place is in the trenches,” replies Sloan, a fourth-generation Manhattanite who served in the U.S. Army in World War II. This winter, the veteran professor shared some memories of his life and career—and of an ever-evolving FIT, as seen from the front lines.
“I travel a lot,” he says, “and I used to have to explain what I did. Now I don’t have to say anything except, ‘I teach at FIT.’”
“I was the second person hired to teach Fashion Buying and Merchandising. The chairperson, Jeannette Jarnow, had started the program two years earlier, picking off 18 or 19 design students, kind of taking them aside and saying, ‘Hey, want to learn how to make some real money?’
“In my first year at the college, FIT was on the top floor of the High School of Needle Trades. Our enrollment was maybe 450. I remember riding the elevator one day with Lawrence Jarvie, who at that time was SUNY vice chancellor for two-year colleges, but later became president of FIT. He made mention of the college’s imminent move to a big building all its own, now known as the Marvin Feldman Center. He said, ‘I hope you’ll be able to fill it!’ Boy, did we ever.
“How have the students changed? Not a lot—they’re bright, respectful, middle-class kids with strong values. Today’s students are maybe weaker on the mechanics, but much stronger on social awareness. And the student body is much more diverse. In one class last year, I had 25 students from 11 different states, two Canadian provinces, and three foreign countries. At what other college do you get kids like this?
“I teach Merchandise Planning and Control—which never changes; it’s like teaching Shakespeare—and Consumer Motivation in Fashion, which changes from minute to minute. I love teaching it to our foreign students, because you’re not just teaching them the course, you’re teaching them the American way of life.”