Pratt Institute Commemorates Alumni and Faculty Who Have Changed the World

Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue, NY, NY | 10.15.2012 | by Merry Esparza

Style 1 Media Waldorf-Astoria's Grand Ballroom was a nexus of creative energy on October 15th, when Pratt Institute hosted its 125th Anniversary Gala, a celebration of alumni and faculty whose work has transformed the world. More than 500 guests attended, raising over $1 million for student scholarships, and making it the institute's largest fundraiser yet. It was fitting for the golden gala to take place at the Waldorf-Astoria, which was designed in 1929 by Pratt alumnus Lloyd Morgan. The benefit honored the Pratt Family; Riedel Crystal of North America CEO, Maximilian Josef Riedel; theater, opera, and film director, Julie Taymor; and artist/portrait painter, Kehinde Wiley. (left: Julie Taymor, Maximilian Josef Riedel, Pratt Institute President Dr. Thomas Schutte, Kehinde Wiley)

Following an elegant cocktail reception, Pratt Institute President Dr. Thomas Schutte introduced the program with welcome remarks, thanks for the gala chairs, and the announcement of a $1 million donation by Trustee and Gala Chair Bruce Newman. The gift will fund future Pratt campus improvements. Dr. Schutte spoke of Pratt's 4,700 students "who represent the real promise of our future. With the incredible and intense education they receive at Pratt, they gain the knowledge and expertise to make a transformative impact on our world."

Board of Trustees Chair Bruce Gitlin introduced the Pratt Family, praising their continued active support, involvement, and service to Pratt since 1887, when Charles Pratt founded the school. He asked the family members to stand, to much applause from the crowd. Board Vice Chair, Mike Pratt, accepted the award on behalf of his family.

The program proceeded with the unveiling of the 125 finalists whose work will appear in 125 Icons, a new exhibition in honor of Pratt's 125th Anniversary. The exhibit will showcase the most iconic works by Pratt alumni and faculty as selected by the public, and will be on view at Pratt Manhattan Gallery from November 30th, 2012 through January 2013. Examples of these iconic creations include: New York City's Chrysler Building (William van Alen); Esquire magazine covers (Geroge Lois); Sesame Street's Big Bird (Kermit Love); Scrabble (Alfred Mosher Butts); OXO Good Grips (Tucker Viemeister); and the Dunkin Doughnuts logo (Lucia Derespinis).

Gala attendees received a firsthand testimonial to the good their generosity has produced. In a moving speech, undergraduate photography student Kevin Truong contrasted his childhood in a Malaysian refugee camp with his current life as a scholarship student at "one of the finest art and design schools in the world," where he is living his dream. "From the bottom of my heart," he told supporters, "I really want to say thank you."

In one of the evening's highlights, Gala Chair Marjorie Kuhn introduced T.V. Carpio, Dana Fuchs, and Martin Luther McCoy, stars of the Oscar nominated film, "Across the Universe." They performed four Beatles’ songs from the film’s score as a tribute to the director, honoree Julie Taymor. Theatre for a New Audience founder/artistic director, Jeffrey Horowitz, presented the award to Ms. Taymor, who told supporters: "There is no soul of America without the arts. Being here and being honored by Pratt is fabulous."

Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner presented the award to Riedel Crystal CEO and principle designer, Maximilian Josef Riedel, renowned for his innovative 0 line of stemless glassware. Mr. Reidel collaborated with Pratt students to successfully redefine his 175-year-old brand's vision, challenging them with opportunities to learn through working on real-world projects.

Philanthropist Russell Simmons presented the award to artist and contemporary portrait painter, Kehinde Wiley, best known for his depictions of urban black and brown men throughout the world. "We have a responsibility to take the riches in front of us and tell the truth about what is out there," said Mr. Wiley during his rousing acceptance speech.

The Empire State Building's lights glowed gold during the gala to symbolize Pratt Institute's yellow school color. The Waldorf's Grand Ballroom had its own glow from the creative energy of the many Pratt supporters present. Notable guests from the worlds of art, design, architecture, photography, media, theater, fashion, and philanthropy included: Pamela P. Auchincloss, Hamish Bowles, Arlene Dahl, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Helmut Jahn, Ed Koren, Fern Mallis, Juan Montoya, Carrie Moyer, Tom Otterness, Sheila Pepe, Sylvia Plachy, Karim Rashid, Marc Rosen, Hal Rubenstein, Stefan Sagmeister, Christiane Siedel, and Danny Simmons.

Pratt Institute is one of the largest and most prestigious independent colleges of art and design in the United States, offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the schools of architecture; art and design; information and library science; and liberal arts and sciences. BusinessWeek ranked Pratt among the top design schools in the world, and its interior design, industrial design, and architecture programs are consistently ranked among the top 10 in the nation. The college is located on 25 landscaped acres in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, with a Manhattan campus on West 14th Street. Architectural Digest recently named Pratt's campus as one of the 10 college campuses with the best architecture.

For more information, please visit: Pratt Institute and view the documentary, Treasures of New York: Pratt Institute.