Have you ever wondered, as you walk around FIT’s campus, who were the people the buildings and facilities are named for? Here’s a selected list, with brief biographies.
David Dubinsky Student Center: Dubinsky (d. 1982) was a noted labor leader who was president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) for more than 30 years. He helped create the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), a federation of unions that organized workers in industrial unions, and was a founder of the American Labor Party and the Liberal Party of New York in the 1930s and 1940s.
Marvin Feldman Center: Feldman (d. 1993) was FIT’s president from 1971–92. During his tenure, the college began offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees—extraordinary for a community college; enrollment grew to 12,000 from 5,000; and six new campus buildings were constructed, bringing the total to eight. FIT’s original building was named for him in 1992.
Shirley Goodman Resource Center: Goodman (d. 1991) came to the college in 1949 to help draft the legislation making FIT part of the SUNY system. She served for many years as executive director of FIT’s Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries (now the FIT Foundation), a position she held until her death in 1991. For a time, she was acting president. “If there is a single person whose vision and guidance have been most influential in shaping FIT, that person is Shirley Goodman,” Marvin Feldman said.
Morris W. and Fannie B. Haft Theater: Morris Haft (d. 1968) cofounded the women’s coat and suit company Morris W. Haft and Brothers (1916-55), which, because of its size, was known as “the General Motors of the industry,” according to The New York Times. At its height, it employed 4,000 people and was the largest firm in the field. A noted philanthropist and collector of French impressionist and postimpressionist paintings, Haft was associated with the Central High School of Needle Trades, and served as chair of the FIT Board of Trustees from 1953 to 1968.
George S. and Mariana Kaufman Residence Hall: George S. Kaufman (d. 2018) was an FIT trustee (1982–2018) and chairman of the Kaufman Organization and Kaufman Astoria Studios. The Kaufman Organization has owned, managed, and developed commercial and residential properties for more than a century, and Kaufman Astoria Studios, which he founded, is a thriving entertainment and telecommunications center that played a pivotal role in bringing film and TV production to New York. A $4 million gift from the Kaufmans helped purchase and renovate the building on West 31st Street that would become Kaufman Hall in 2007. Kaufman was also a member of the Real Estate Board of New York, chairman emeritus of the board of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District, and a board member of numerous philanthropic and civic organizations.
Gladys Marcus Library: Marcus (d. 1991) was named dean of liberal arts after teaching at FIT for more than 20 years. She was instrumental in expanding and maintaining a broad-based liberal arts program at the college as an integral part of FIT’s career-oriented degree programs. A proponent of global education, she initiated an overseas curriculum. She was a member of Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools visiting teams evaluating colleges for accreditation.
Katie Murphy Amphitheatre: Murphy (d. 1975) was a vice president and influential fashion director of Bloomingdale’s. She contributed to the success of many designers, including Sonia Rykiel, Calvin Klein, and Issey Miyake, and helped Ralph Lauren make the transition from designing men’s clothes to women’s wear. Lauren said Murphy’s guidance “was like having a coach who watches over you when you are a kid. You remember everything he said. She always made me feel special.”
Nagler Hall: Isidore Nagler (d. 1959), an Austrian-born labor leader, held many positions in organizations that supported workers’ rights, serving as vice president of the ILGWU, general manager of the joint board of the Cloakmakers Union, secretary of the Jewish Labor Committee, chairman of the Federation for Labor Israel, and vice president of the New York AFL-CIO. With David Dubinsky, he was a founder of the American Labor Party and the Liberal Party of New York. “He led the cloak makers through the hard days of the Depression,” helping them win a 35-hour work week, according to his obituary in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center: Pomerantz (d. 1986) was founder and former chairman of Leslie Fay, Inc., a leading New York producer of women’s apparel from 1974-82. He served on the Board of Directors of FIT’s Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries from 1967-78. After his death in 1986, the building was named for him in recognition of a donation by his son, John J. Pomerantz, a former member of FIT’s Board of Trustees and foundation.
The following quotes were taken from the oral histories in the Gladys Marcus Library’s Special Collections and College Archives.
Marvin Feldman (1984): [When I arrived,] the self-esteem of the institution wasn’t anywhere near what it should have been. They did not understand that they were better than Harvard; it had such forward-looking criteria. This was an institution created by people who were denied their own opportunity for schooling; they were graduates of the coat and suit business on Seventh Avenue. They had a burning zeal and an appreciation of what education should be.... As you read [FIT’s] incorporation papers, the early people who developed this institution were right on target [with] the mix of general and vocational, education of the working people -- things that today we take for granted.
Fred P. Pomerantz (1981), answering questions for FIT’s oral history project.
Q: What did you learn about sizing by working with the government?
A: Well, I’m the first company in America that made petite dresses. We made petite dresses only.
Q: Starting in what year?
A: Right after the war. Because we did some work for the Army and over 65 percent of our orders were women five foot five and under. So they gave us the measurements and we had to make the dresses for the measurements…. We were the first one in business that ever made a petite.
Q: Did you call them petite?
A: Yeah. We used to advertise Leslie Fay Petite.
Shirley Goodman (1984): I felt very strongly, as did the founders, about establishing FIT as a community college. It was extremely important to keep … the support of the industry as a partner. It was quite unusual, but [the legislation] was written so that when FIT became a community college under the State University of New York, it would be supported in part by the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries…. [W]hen we broadened the programs of the college, we tried many times to change [its] name …, but it had become so well known as FIT—employers were advertising for “so many years of experience or an FIT graduate”—that no other name suggested ever took its place.