New School News

Parsons to Honor Sheila C. Johnson and Donna Karan at 2012 Fashion Benefit

Parsons The New School for Design has announced that it will honor Sheila C. Johnson and Donna Karan at the 2012 Parsons Fashion Benefit. Johnson, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who serves as Chair of the Parsons Board of Governors, and Karan, one of the school’s most renowned alumni and also a board member, are being recognized for their significant contributions to the field.

“Sheila and Donna have set an example for our students as women who have risen to the top of their chosen fields and have shaped contemporary culture. They also share Parsons’ deep commitment to the future of design,” said Parsons Executive Dean Joel Towers. “Both have been active voices here at Parsons, and continue to lend insight and support to important new initiatives at the school.”

Among the initiatives Johnson has championed at the school is the creation of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, an award-winning exhibition and public programming center that enables Parsons to connect its students and the general public to broader issues in the world of art and design.

Through the endowed Donna Karan Professorship, Karan has enabled Parsons to develop an innovative new graduate program in Fashion Design and Society, where select designers are able to refine their craft while gaining a global understanding of the field. In addition, the endowed Stephan Weiss Design Strategies Dialogues brings to campus leading thinkers at the intersection of design and business. Beyond Parsons, Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation has worked to preserve cultures, empower children and advance wellness in communities around the world.

“Since I first set foot at Parsons, I have been amazed by the incredible talent of its students,” said Johnson. “It is an honor to be recognized by the school, especially alongside Donna, who has become a great friend and inspiration to me.”

Said Karan: “Parsons gave me my start in the industry, and to be able to support future designers is incredibly important to me. I am particularly excited to be honored with Sheila, who has been so instrumental to the success of Parsons, as well as to celebrate the first graduating class of the new MFA in Fashion Design and Society.”

A highlight of the Fashion Benefit is the runway show of select collections by graduating students. This year, in addition to collections by graduates of the school’s legendary BFA program, the show will also feature the first thesis collections by students in the new MFA in Fashion Design and Society, which launched in 2009.

The Fashion Benefit, now in its 64th year, raises funds for scholarships at Parsons, a global leader in art and design education with programs that span the disciplines. Past honorees include Reed Krakoff, Vera Wang, Francisco Costa, Diane von Furstenberg, and Marc Jacobs. For more information, please visit

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