Endowed With Love
The world has suffered countless heartbreaks as a result of COVID-19, and each one hurts in its own deeply personal way. When Steven Frumkin passed away on July 23, 2020, the FIT community lost a dear friend and an esteemed colleague: a man we learned from, leaned on, and loved. New faculty were guided by his wise mentoring; students trusted that he put their needs front and center; colleagues and staff felt his respect and admiration. He was known for his kindness, fairness, and generosity of time and spirit. He knew how to connect with people.
Starting in 2012 and for eight years until his death, Steven Frumkin was dean of FIT’s Baker School of Business and Technology. He was the force behind the accreditation of the majority of the school’s programs by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs—a status achieved by fewer than half of the country’s higher-education institutions with business programs. This accomplishment helps expand the school’s reach, enhance its reputation, and support the recruitment and development of innovative faculty.
Dean Frumkin was known for working closely with student organizations and for securing funding for state-of-the-art technology for classrooms and labs. He was instrumental in developing various international programs, including FIT’s Fashion Business Management AAS program at SUNY Korea.
A storied career
Dean Frumkin’s academic career began at the School of Business Administration/School of Textiles at Philadelphia University. He joined FIT in 1994 as an associate professor in Textile Development and Marketing, a position he retained for six years.
But Frumkin’s 30-plus year career embraced more than just academics. His work in the textile, apparel, and retail industries included everything from fabric design to fiber innovations, sales management, domestic and international finance, U.S. customs regulations, retail product sourcing, and strategic development. He was senior vice president at Carleton Woolen Mills Inc.; president and general manager of hosiery company E.G. Smith/Keepers International; and president of Nazzareno Goti USA, an international sales, marketing, and consulting organization.
A respected international business executive and global marketing specialist, Frumkin received a 2004 Fulbright Scholar Award and was involved with a host of prestigious projects and positions. He served on the advisory boards of several textile and apparel companies and consulted in India, China, Trinidad and Tobago, and Japan. In 2003 he was appointed the associate director of the Laboratory for Engineered Human Protection, a Department of Defense research initiative to develop protective clothing systems for military and civilian first responders. He partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan—then newly independent countries of the former Soviet sphere—transition into the free market global system of world trade.For his expertise in advancing business relationships between the U.S. and Central Asia, in 2005 he was awarded the Volunteer Service Award from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.
A lifelong learner, Frumkin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in textile marketing and management from the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science in 1970 and an MBA in marketing from CUNY’s Baruch College in 1977. He participated in supply-chain management programs at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and, later, at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education’s Institute for Management and Leadership in Education. In 2015, he earned a doctorate in business administration from Argosy University.
“With Dean Frumkin’s passing, we have lost a most valuable member of our community. Through his leadership he not only earned the trust, affection, and respect of faculty, staff, and students, but also shaped the future of his school. ”
Dr. Joyce F. Brown
“I first met Steven after moving to NYC in 1975 to work in the textile industry.
He has been a client, friend, mentor, and in the most recent role, my dean at FIT.
Super smart, witty, and visionary, he always sought the long-term benefits for every business or collaboration he connected with.”
Associate Professor Textile Development and Marketing
“Steven was always recognizing achievements by his team members…never taking credit for himself but sincerely believing in the work of others. His sense of humor was legendary. Numerous times at meetings he would be listening to me and at the end of a presentation he would say ‘do it again but this time in English.’ And Steven was a caring person. When I lost my mother at the beginning of the year, he sent me emails and texts telling me that I had friends at FIT, and when I came back from France after the funerals, he hugged me. That tells it all. I will keep Steven in my mind and heart for the rest of my life. I know when I’m looking for insights and guidance for my personal and professional projects I’ll ask myself, ‘What would Steven have said or done?”
Jean Marc Rejaud
Assistant Chair, Advertising and Marketing Communications
“Steven was always willing to help everyone. He worked hard on accreditation—and he kept humor in everything. ”
Associate Professor and Associate Chair Technical Design
“When I was traveling a few years back, Steven told me to give my girls his number in case of an emergency when I was away. They never used it when I was away…but…one day I was in Steven’s office and his cell phone rings and he answers it…it is his personal phone so I start to leave. He motions for me to stay. So I do. I am listening to his conversation and he is saying things like ‘how are you doing? What’s going on? How can I help you? Yes, men can be jerks,’ etc.
So I thought it was his daughter calling. But about three minutes into the conversation I get up to leave again and I hear him say…‘Oh she’s right here,’ and hands me the phone. It’s my daughter Dina! I’m asking her ‘Why are you calling Steven?’ And she says, ‘I tried to get you but you were not answering. Steven told me I could always call him.’ And what is she calling about? She had a fight with her boyfriend. Every time I think of this story it makes me smile.’”
Robin Sackin Litwinsky
Assistant Professor, Fashion Business Management
“The first time I met Steven he asked which firm I began my career with. I said Montgomery Ward; he replied ‘Out of business.’ Then I mentioned Charming Shoppe; he replied ‘Out of business.’ When I mentioned Frederick Atkins, he said ‘Flug, it seems you’ve done a good job putting people out of business.’ So I asked him where he started and he told me. To which I replied ‘Out of business.’ We looked at each for a moment and we both began laughing. His final comment was, ‘Some industry we chose to work in.”
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Fashion Business Management
“I felt a kinship with him and it hurts to know we didn’t get to have one last lunch. ”
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Fashion Business Management
Honoring a legacy
Steven Frumkin is survived by his children, Jacob Frumkin and Sarah Benson, their spouses, and four grandchildren. To honor their father and grandfather, the family established the Dean Steven Frumkin Memorial Scholarship, an endowed fund to be offered in perpetuity.
“The first time our father’s death felt real was when I read an article about him two days later in Women’s Wear Daily,” says Jacob Frumkin, whose father died of COVID-19 a few months into the pandemic. “I realized then what an impact he’d had on so many people.” Jacob’s sister, Sarah Benson, agrees, saying, “Losing our father was sudden and hard. He was in Florida and we were in LA and New York, but because of Covid we couldn’t travel to be with him. So hearing about our father from people who knew and admired him—who were from all around the world, South Korea to New York—was, for us, a source of healing.”
“In particular, the outreach we received from the FIT community became a true source of learning,” Jacob adds. “Hearing recollections about our father from his colleagues, students, and professional associates allowed us to know him in a new and meaningful way. It made this terrible loss more bearable.”
When asked how she would describe her father, Benson says “He thought education was the foundation of everything. He really believed it should be the birthright of all people. He was humble, approachable, unpretentious, unconditionally respectful, the consummate New Yorker—and totally in love with FIT.”
“And he could handle stress impressively well,” Jacob Frumkin adds. “The accreditation of the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology was neither simple nor easy, but our father made it seem that way. So given his deep feelings of pride in FIT, and the collegial friendships he enjoyed, and the love of learning he inspired, we thought funding a scholarship in his name would be the perfect way to honor our father’s legacy. Sadly, he was still in his prime when he died,” Frumkin concludes, “but we hope this scholarship will allow his memory and work to live forever.”