In the past two years, Cruz—himself a graduate of FIT’s Fashion Design program and now a noted bridal designer—has given more than $80,000 to endow a scholarship that benefits three Fashion Design students each year. Why go the extra distance and become a faculty donor? According to Cruz, it was a no-brainer.
“I noticed there was a need,” he says. “I saw very talented kids drop out because they couldn’t afford school, even though FIT’s tuition is relatively low. They just couldn’t do it—especially those from households with working or single parents who are struggling.”
Cruz remembers his own situation as a student here. A first-generation Puerto Rican New Yorker, he relied heavily on the help of his sisters and parents. “They joined forces and worked really, really hard to make sure I earned my degree,” he says. “And in those days, the cost of tuition was very low. So you can imagine how hard it is now for people from the same kind of background.”
If his family was the inspiration for his giving, the success of his students and his alma mater are the ongoing rewards. “Giving means a lot to me personally because the kids here are extremely talented,” he says. “I’m giving back to a school that shaped my life and opened so many doors for me.”
And maybe fame is a small part of the payoff? Cruz laughs: “Most of the students who get my scholarship don’t know that I’m alive!” he says. “They assume it’s named for someone who has passed away. Even the Ruben Cruz Scholarship winners in my class think it’s another Cruz altogether.” That, he says, is fine with him. “I actually prefer that it be anonymous,” he says. “My satisfaction comes from watching my students do well at FIT and go on to succeed in the industry they love.” quote box: “ I’m giving back to a school that shaped my life and opened so many doors for me.” Ruben Cruz