Whenever we start a new academic year, I count my blessings. Living as we do in a world incessantly ablaze, it is gratifying to return to FIT and to focus anew on the business and challenges of my “work-a-day” life. Fortunately for me, and I believe for everyone at FIT, the work we do is the best and most fulfilling in the world: it is the work of education…the work of opportunity.
This happens to be a special year in the life of the college. It is our 70th anniversary. In 1944, FIT greeted its first students: 100 men and women who wished to pursue careers in the garment industry. They were beneficiaries of visionaries–bold, idealistic, risk-taking individuals who understood that even though their industry was then thriving, its future was not assured. They were tailors, manufacturers, labor leaders and educators who believed that education was the key to the future. For years they fruitlessly pedaled their appeal to the city fathers for an institution such as ours. When the state funded new technical schools for every industry except its largest–apparel–our founders put up their own money and struck their own deals to open our doors.
That is the spirit that continues to thrive here. Our resilience and remarkable growth over these 70 years provide a record of determined risk-taking, a record of idealism and accomplishment. This year 2300 new students arrived, offering new energy, new talent and new ideas–students eager to seize the day and ensure, once again, the future our founders envisioned.
That is why–no matter what is happening outside our doors–I am always so pleased to welcome our faculty, administrators, staff and students to another academic year. I feel privileged to be part of a community that creates opportunity for the next generation and the pathway to the future. I cannot help but wonder if our founders would recognize their industry as it has evolved over these 70 years–but I believe they would surely recognize their own DNA in the college that they created and be very very proud.