Larry Leeds

Foundations of Giving

FIT has plenty of traditions in common with other world-class institutions of higher education. Like them, we provide scholarships: $3 million to 2,000 students every year. Like them, we build first-class facilities and fund trailblazing faculty research. We are especially proud of our long tradition of being student-centered: continuously committed to each new wave of unconventional creators, transformative innovators, and provocative thinkers. 

But because, as a part of SUNY, FIT is publicly funded, there is one tradition we’ve been missing: a strong tradition of giving. The truth is, tuition and public support are not enough to ensure that the college remains able to provide industry-relevant programs, scholarships, and emergency financial assistance to all deserving students. Significant private funding is needed … so we decided to start what is for FIT a new tradition: Giving Day.

The idea began in 2020, when in celebration of FIT’s 75th anniversary the FIT Foundation board launched a series of campaigns and special events, including the launch of our first annual Giving Day. A generous contribution by longtime 

Foundation board member Larry Leeds was leveraged as a matching grant for grassroots contributions from faculty, staff, alums, and friends of the college— and it worked! In a single 24-hour period we met our goal, raising over $100,000. With this remarkable achievement began a beautiful new tradition of giving at—and to—FIT.


When you give to FIT, the end result is simply productive. Every dollar—or every thousand dollars—you give has a multiplier effect. Since a substantial number of our graduates leave FIT qualified for successful careers—and since rewarding employment is the gateway to the economic well-being of any community, city, and nation—that’s a lot of bang for the buck. I feel good knowing my contribution creates opportunity and access for talented and creative students who are seeking—and finding—lives of professional excellence in design and business.


I’ve been very blessed by being financially successful. One gets considerable satisfaction by helping other people and making the world a better place. But if you’re going to give your hard-earned funds to philanthropy, you must evaluate where your contribution will have the most leverage. First find a cause you believe in. Then evaluate where your contribution will do the most good.


For me, FIT is in the upper echelon of institutions that give you the biggest ‘bang for your buck.’ The college is run in an admirably competent way; it upholds very high educational standards without wasting funds, and the cost per student—relative to the excellent education students receive—is quite modest. The salient thing to know is that FIT graduates more students every year than Yale—and 95 percent of FIT graduates get jobs. This is particularly meaningful given that a large segment of our students do not come from wealthy families. Getting a career-focused education provides the backdrop for creating a financially sound life.

Laurence (Larry) C. Leeds, Jr. has served for decades as a member of the FIT Foundation board, and has donated generously to the college. As chairman of Buckingham Capital Management, Inc., he manages the RAF fund, focused on retail, apparel, and footwear-related equities. Leeds’s career has its roots in the apparel industry. In 1955 he joined the Manhattan Shirt Company, founded in 1857 by his great-grandfather, rising through the ranks to become chairman and CEO. Leeds has served on the boards of many organizations, including Carnegie Hall, D.A.R.E New York, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York Junior Tennis & Learning, and Alzheimer’s Drug Discover Foundation, and, as an alumnus, on the Development Board of Yale University.
Community Matters
Giving Day 2021, was a testament to the power of FIT community. In addition to Larry Leeds’s original matching grant, contributions poured in from every direction, from FIT trustees and foundation board members to faculty, staff, and alumni. Donations ranged from $5 to $10,000. We asked some donors why they gave and what FIT means to them.

“FIT is an amazing launchpad for emerging creators and future visionaries across fashion, beauty, retail, and marketing. Giving to this premier academic institution helps ensure that the next generation of leaders have the resources they need to realize their full potential at FIT and beyond.”

Executive Group President,
The Estée Lauder Companies;
Board Member, FIT Foundation 

“Every day I come to work I ask myself, What can I do to make things better for students? One way is to give a few dollars to help with a scholarship. The amount of money you give doesn’t matter; it’s about doing good. The FIT student body is incredibly career-oriented. Whether they’re studying liberal arts, business, or design, FIT students tend to think far ahead. They’re proactive about building a future for themselves—they’re not waiting for someone to do it for them. Contributing on Giving Day is a terrific way to recognize and reward that independent spi”

Associate Dean for Student
Academic Support

“I gave because I know how important it is to have full community participation. I’m proud to be on the faculty at FIT, and I know that my contribution, however modest, enables FIT to deliver life-changing educational opportunities for students.”

Associate Professor and Chair,
Textile/Surface Design

“During a pandemic it is important to keep our students’ well-being top of mind. I decided to donate last year because so many students and families have been impacted by the ups and downs caused by COVID-19. Without some assistance, many students will not have the option to return to school based on their families’ financial circumstances. Now more than ever is the time to donate.”

Head of Account Development,
Fragrance and Beauty, Chanel;
Board Member, FIT Foundation

“Making a gift to FIT on Giving Day was an easy way to support a great college. It’s a way to help make opportunities available to incredibly talented students who have—time and time again—demonstrated not only their scholarship, but also their creativity and positive energy. I think of it as helping the future leaders of the design industries and the City of New York! For me, giving was a no-brainer and hopefully others will follow suit.”

Member, FIT Board of Trustees