FIT Alumni Share Stories of Resilience at 2022 Commencement

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On May 24 and 25, FIT held its 2022 commencement ceremonies. The speakers, all of whom were FIT alumni and distinguished leaders in their respective creative fields, included Ken Downing, Laure Heriard Dubreuil, Stacy Flynn, Ralph Rucci, and Karin Tracy. More than 3,700 students were awarded associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in 31 programs—with more than 2,100 in attendance at five ceremonies at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. On May 19, nearly 100 students were awarded master’s degrees in seven programs in FIT’s Haft Theater, where Sarah Holbrook presented the keynote.

“It was a pleasure to welcome back each of these distinguished FIT alumni,” said FIT President Joyce F. Brown. “Highly accomplished, they served as inspiration for our graduating students. I know their presence added to the sense of joy for the Class of 2022.”

All told, there were six events—one for the School of Graduate Studies and five for undergraduates at Central Park. Each ceremony had its own keynote speaker, a renowned FIT graduate, each of whom shared their advice to the graduating class on pathways to success, as well as their own experiences with adversity, and how they turned that around to create achievements in their lives and careers.

Ken Downing, an officer of Hearst Luxury Collections E-Commerce and an alumnus of FIT’s Fashion Design major who received a President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement, noted that:

Success relies on creating a commotion! And delivering an emotion. The emotion is often what’s missing today in fashion and design. Create desire! The true barometer of success is the customer wanting, desiring what you create. The customer votes with their wallet. Always remember that. 

Laure Heriard Dubreuil, founder and creative director of The Webster and an Advertising and Marketing Communications graduate who received a President’s Award for Creative Excellence, advised:

As you take your next steps in your life and career, if I can impress upon you just one thing, it would be to trust your gut to the fullest, no matter how unbelievable an idea might seem. It is one of the most honest reactions you will have in your life, and you must fight to see them through.

Stacy Flynn, CEO and co-founder of Evrnu and a Textile Development and Marketing graduate who received a President’s Award, encouraged the graduates not to let adversity define them:

The power you hold is unfolding. Listen and trust that you will know exactly what to do, even if it’s not what you thought. You will face adversity. It is one moment in time. You do not carry it for long; let it go. These collective moments encompass your life. Make them count.

Ralph Rucci, founder and designer of RR 331 LLC and a Fashion Design graduate who received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the State University of New York through FIT, encouraged the graduates to lean on their network, but also to remain humble:

You are only as good as those who also surround you. It’s all a unified effort. The most important thing you can maintain is your humility. There’s no such thing as failure. … Never become morose over disappointment.

Karin Tracy, managing director of industry, retail, fashion, beauty, luxury for Meta and a Fashion Merchandising Management graduate (who received a President’s Award), encouraged the graduates to focus on change and adaptation:

In the end, it’s all about anticipating the next moment. Your success, your continued success and longevity inside our industry will be predicated by anticipating the next moments. Pivot, change, and adapt. Giving the customer what they want, and what they want before they even realize it.

Find videos of all of the 2022 commencement ceremonies on FIT’s Vimeo channel. 

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