A Triumphant Return
By Jonathan Vatner
After more than 70 years, 91-year-old Judith Kronick Mindell, Apparel Design, returned to FIT in October to share memories of her student days in 1945, when the college occupied the top two floors of the Central High School of Needle Trades.
She spoke to students, alumni, staff, and a large contingent of her family members in the John E. Reeves Great Hall, recounting what it was like to study fashion illustration and draping back when FIT was brand new. President Joyce F. Brown introduced Mindell’s talk, saying, “[She] was one of only 100 young people accepted—real pioneers participating in what Governor Thomas Dewey called ‘one of the most thrilling experiments launched in our state in my time.’ I can only imagine the kind of spunk, imagination, and courage it took for those first students to pin their futures on an institution with no history whatever.” Mindell recalled that she and her classmates worked incredibly hard: “There was no time to socialize.” Her illustration teacher insisted that the students take their sketchbooks everywhere and draw all the time. Mindell regretted that she had to leave FIT after her first year. “It was during the war,” she said. “My family had no money.” But she learned discipline and organizational skills that have served her throughout her life. She worked at a custom dress boutique in the 1940s, and in the 1980s owned her own consignment shop in Connecticut. She also had a bountiful and rich family life. It was one of her granddaughters who came across a box of Mindell’s old fashion sketches and declared, “I’m calling FIT.” She did, leading to her grandmother’s talk during the college’s Legacy Week. While on campus, Mindell also recorded an oral history—and donated her sketches—to FIT’s Special Collections and College Archives.