Sam Edelman Encourages LIM College Class of 2024 Graduates To Embrace Fears and Take Risks

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On Friday morning, veteran footwear designer Sam Edelman gave a keynote speech to the graduating class of LIM College at the David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center. Edelman spoke to over 400 students who received their master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees at the ceremony.

Elizabeth Marcuse, president emeritus and former president of LIM College, introduced Edelman, noting his influence in the contemporary footwear space for over 45 years from building his namesake businesses to establishing the footwear divisions at Ralph Lauren and Espirit to working alongside Kenneth Cole.

In his speech to the Class of 2024, Edelman — FN’s 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award winner — gave graduates three pieces of advice: use fear as a motivator, find mentors and take chances. Edelman reflected on his own extensive career and experiences to give students tips for success.

“You are going to be afraid as you go out into the world. If you are not afraid, the job is not challenging enough. If you are not afraid, you won’t go anywhere; you won’t learn. Fear is OK, just work through it,” Edelman said. “You’ll get really good at what you are doing, and you’ll be amazed that you were nervous and scared in the beginning. You’ll learn, and soon answers will become second nature.”

As someone whose career has spanned decades, Edelman has continued to evolve with his consumers and learned an important lesson from a mentor. “I learned that fashion without marketing is not fashion. There has to be a story. The graphic arts are sometimes as important as the making of a garment,” Edelman said.

Jacqui Wenzel (class of 1979), Pascal Nguyen (class of 2017), Sam Edelman, LIM College President Ron Marshall, Joshua Danforth (class of 2005).
Jacqui Wenzel (class of 1979), Pascal Nguyen (class of 2017), Sam Edelman, LIM College President Ron Marshall, Joshua Danforth (class of 2005).

In closing, Edelman remarked on how he and his wife, muse and co-founder Libby together took risks when they started Sam & Libby back in 1987 and then launched Sam Edelman in 2004. (The latter, owned by Caleres, continues to expand and delve into new categories.)

“After today, you will take a lot of chances, and I hope they will lead you to success,” Edelman said. “Success comes many things from many things but it doesn’t come from making money. It comes from family, love, health, feeling good about your decisions and finding something that makes you really, really happy. I found that in shoes.”

At the end of his speech, LIM’s president Ron Marshall presented Edelman with an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree and the Distinguished Achievement Award.

Marshall also gave an address to the class of 2024, reflecting on his time as a CEO prior to his career in education.

“I always noticed the people who got things done, especially those who stretched out of their comfort zones to take on things they may not have felt ready to handle,” he said. “These are the people who other successful people want to work with.”

The college’s Maxwell F. Marcuse Award, the college’s highest alumni honor, was awarded to Jacqui Wenzel (class of 1979), founder and president of JW Merchandising LLC. Other notable awards went to Joshua Danforth (class of 2005), senior director of visual merchandising at Walmart, who received the Shining Star Alumni Award. Pascal Nguyen (class of 2017), manager of marketing and consumer analytics for Coach, was bestowed the Rising Star Alumni Award.

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