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A Head for (Fashion) Business

Professor Emerita Elaine Stone finds a way to give back.

Keep it under your hat, but Professor Emerita Elaine Stone’s love affair with FIT, the fashion industry, and helping talented students pursue their dreams still burns brightly after more than 35 years on the job. 

Stone, well known on campus for the chic designer hats she is never without, officially retired in 2004 as head of FIT’s Enterprise Center, which she helped to create, and professor of Fashion Merchandising Management (FMM).

But the stylish and ebullient professor never really quit. She continues to teach Introduction to the Fashion Industry, for which one of her books, The Dynamics of Fashion, serves as a text. (Many students keep it permanently as a valued reference source.) She also helps select the annual winners of the two FIT scholarships that she personally endowed.

Of teaching, Stone says, “No matter how tired I am, or how rotten things may seem, when I close the classroom door it is a magical moment—one that has never dimmed for me.” As for her scholarships: “What a turn-on and a pleasure it is to give scholarships,” she says. “The awards give students a feeling about themselves because they’re being rewarded for their talent and their interest in retailing. I like conveying that message. I like sending them off with the feeling that they’re going
to succeed.” 

Her annual scholarships—the Minnie Mallov Stone Memorial Award, created in honor of her mother, and the Elaine Stone Scholarship Award—provide $1,500 and $2,500, respectively, for outstanding FMM students planning to pursue upper-division degrees and careers in retailing. Stone came to FIT after her own exemplary career in retailing, which began with Macy’s executive training squad and culminated in her post as vice president of the former Mangel Stores.

Her interest in her students continues after they graduate. She stays in touch with many and tracks their careers through the years. For their part, former and current students fill her files with letters of thanks and appreciation—such as one written by Jessica Webb ’00 after reading of Stone’s 2004 retirement: “Before you go, I want you to know… how you motivated me. I can honestly say that you left quite an impression on me. It’s not every day that you encounter passion. And you have that! Thanks for all you’ve done for me.” Stone’s collection of student letters includes those from her earliest students to the most recent—written by Ashley Matthews after finishing her first semester: “Thank you for the semester…. I enjoyed having you as a professor. You have such a wealth of knowledge about the industry. The first textbook I had to purchase was yours (which I have kept, by the way) and it was an honor to learn firsthand from that book’s author. I hope you have a wonderful summer and I will see you next year. Thanks again.” 

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