Stephens College announced today a $1 million gift from Jeannene Booher, a 1956 graduate of the fashion program, to establish The Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture Series to benefit the School of Design. The series will finance visits by industry leaders to campus to share their experience with students who are preparing for or interested in a career in fashion and design.
“One of the things I am most interested in is making sure our students have contacts in the fashion industry,” Booher said in her remarks.
As a student at Stephens, Booher met several fashion icons whom later changed the trajectory of her career. She hopes her gift will do the same for other fashion students.
Booher’s contribution is the second $1 million gift Stephens has received this academic year. The first came from Phyllis Henigson, a 1954 Stephens College graduate, to support the College’s new Physician Assistant Studies program.
Dr. Dianne Lynch, Stephens College president, said the lecture series would continue to elevate an already prestigious fashion program.
“As Stephens claims its place among the premier fashion programs in the world,” she said, “it is this kind of professional access and creative inspiration that will distinguish it, raise its international profile and ensure that it is building upon the reputation of the program that educated and motivated Jeannene Booher.”
Finally, Lynch said Booher’s generosity is a reflection of the Stephens woman.
“The woman I am honoring today—and a woman who is so generously honoring Stephens—embodies our community’s longstanding tradition of talent, ambition, determination and commitment to being the best, the very best, at all she does,” she said.
Jeannene Booher knows firsthand achieving success in the fashion industry requires more than raw talent. Up-and-comers need advice, encouragement and connections.
That’s why Booher, a 1956 graduate of Stephens College who has worked with some of the best designers in the country, has donated $1 million to establish The Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture Series to benefit the School of Design.
“I had a wonderful experience at Stephens,” said Booher, who has served in the past as a Stephens College Trustee and member of the Executive Committee. “I am very happy to be able to do this.”
After graduating from Stephens, Booher went on to study at the Parsons School of Design in New York City and worked with a number of design greats, including Pauline Trigère, Adele Simpson and Arnold Scaasi. She became a partner and designer for the Maggy London dress company for 10 years. Eventually, she started Jeannene Booher Ltd., where she created her own line of dresses and two-piece outfits that were sold at Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.
Dr. Monica McMurry, dean of the School of Design, said it is support from alumnae such as Booher that continues to elevate the caliber of the fashion program, which is ranked among the best in the world.
“The establishment of this lecture series will be added recognition and prestige of an already impressive program,” she said.
McMurry said Booher is one of the most successful designers to come out of the Stephens fashion program. She not only created stunning clothing but owned companies at a time when women in the fashion world rarely wielded such power.
“Jeannene Booher is a talented and ambitious woman,” McMurry said.
The first guest lecturer sponsored by the new series is an old friend of Booher’s, Marylou Luther, editor of the International Fashion Syndicate and writer of the award-winning Clothesline column, a question-and-answer fashion advice feature that is read weekly by more than 5 million people. Her coverage of the European collections appears in newspapers throughout the U.S.
Luther will present “Straight from the Runways” at 7 p.m. this evening in the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall on the Stephens College campus.
Booher says industry leaders such as Luther can change the trajectory of a student’s career when they make a campus visit. That’s what happened to her when New York fashion icons Mary Brooks Picken and Madam Eta Hentz spoke to her fashion class at Stephens.
Picken authored 96 books on needlework, sewing and textile arts, including “A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion.” Hentz, a designer from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, is best known for her Grecian-themed collection of 1943.
“They both took an interest in me and gave me their numbers,” Booher said.
Later, when Booher was a student at Parsons, she reached out to Picken, who took the young designer under her wing and introduced her to influential people in New York. She once took Booher to a cocktail party at the home of Edward R. Morrow.
Hentz would later put Booher in touch with Trigère, an unconventional designer who did not sketch her designs but rather cut and draped from bolts of fabric. Many famous women, including Beverly Sills, Evelyn Lauder, Lena Horne, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis and Wallis Simpson, wore her fashions.
Booher remembers her first visit with Trigère. The designer glanced at Booher’s sketches and tossed them aside.
“Then she asked me, ‘Where did you get that coat you are wearing?’” Booher recalled. “I said, ‘I made it.’”
Impressed with her work, Trigère hired her on the spot.
Today, Booher is retired from fashion and enjoys traveling and painting at her home in the Berkshires.
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