She announced to a classroom of 30 students at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York that she was establishing a $1 million scholarship fund in her name.
“I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, for those of you that may not know, and growing up in St. Louis, the fashion industry always felt so far away, like millions of miles away,” she told students. “I always knew that I wanted to be a part of it, but I never really imagined how to make that happen for myself, and I imagine that’s the case for maybe a lot of you.”
Simmons, who herself was launched into the fashion world as a teenage model and never went to college, explained that $500,000 of her fund would go to FIT and the rest would go to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and Rush Philanthropic Art Foundation.
She is among just a few famous women who have chosen to give back in this way — at least in a widely publicized way. Oprah Winfrey has given millions to Morehouse College in Atlanta, and founded the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Janet Jackson (and brother Michael) established the Rhythm Nation scholarship through the United Negro College Fund for students majoring in visual or performing arts, English and communication. Alicia Keys teamed up with Blackberry last year to provide scholarships for young women studying science and technology.
Visit any hallowed college campus and you’ll get the feeling that giving to educational institutions was once de rigueur for the wealthy. But now that many of the most high profile spenders in our culture are actors and musicians who never went to school, they aren’t exactly getting libraries named after themselves.
Simmons acknowledged her own unusual path when announcing her fund. “This is like wish fulfillment on my end to tap into that formal education,” she said.
Giving back to your own alma mater has a number of benefits, beyond the personal satisfaction of knowing you directly helped students better their lives.
By keeping your school in good financial standing, you’re keeping up the value of that line on your resume. Alumni association events are amazing networking opportunities, where you can meet fellow donors both older and younger than you. And then, if you’re one day lucky enough to be able to donate enough to put your name on a scholarship fund (or something bigger), that’s priceless publicity.
In addition to providing would-be fashionistas with an education, Simmons has just brought our attention to KLS Collection, the womenswear line she is launching in November. And we don’t mind it one bit.