Lauder’s 30th Birthday Bash: The Largest Gathering of Lauder Alumni in History!

Lauder Celebrates 30th Anniversary with Alumni Gathering, New Capital Campaign

by Ying Wang WG’14

It was over 30 years ago that brothers Leonard and Ronald Lauder were caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic on their way to visit an Esteé Lauder plant in Long Island. As they inched along the expressway, the brothers began talking about the increasing need for globally-minded business leaders and the lack of educational institutions that emphasized the combination of business, finance, foreign language and cross-culture proficiency. Thus, in what may be the “most productive traffic jam in history” according to Ronald, the concept for the Lauder Institute was born. Three decades and over 1,500 alumni later, the Lauder Institute is recognized internationally as one of the world’s premier intuitions for grooming global business leaders.

This past weekend in New York City, over 700 alumni, students and distinguished guests gathered to celebrate this milestone and plan for Lauder’s bright future.  The three-day affair was organized by the Lauder Institute Alumni Association under the leadership of Leonardo Navarro (Lauder/WG ’11) and Matthew Axelrod (Lauder/WG’11) and would not have been possible without the generosity and support of the Lauder family. Festivities kicked off with a reception at the Neue Galerie, co-founded by Ronald Lauder and continued into Saturday with a Lauder alumni forum during the day, a spectacular gala at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), addresses by iconic global business leaders PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi and Executive Chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies William Lauder, and a variety of activities to connect and engage the Lauder community.

“It’s a rare thing for me to see a dream fulfilled…but I see it tonight,” Ronald Lauder opened up to guests during the gala. “You make me very proud. You are the very best.”

Lauder Director Mauro Guillen with Class of 2013 Lauder alumnae Lisa Lovallo, Paula Herrera, and Alicia Figueroa.
Lauder Director Mauro Guillen with Class of 2013 Lauder alumnae Lisa Lovallo, Paula Herrera, and Alicia Figueroa.

A Gift to the 21st Century

In a world that is increasingly connected and where cultural sensitivity is as essential as business acumen, the mission of the Lauder Institute is more relevant than ever. PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi described the Lauder Institute as “the 20th century’s gift to the 21st century,” emphasizing the need for business leaders who know how to thrive in a multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural  environment. The Lauder Institute provides its graduates with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate a rapidly changing global landscape and enables them to step into leadership roles where they will draw on their Lauder education, whether that is in microfinance in Peru, private equity in the United Arab Emirates, leading Condé Nast’s business in China,  directing innovation for the Peace Corps, starting a successful business in Brazil, or working at a global company such as McKinsey and Google in locations spanning the globe.

A global leader, according to Nooyi, is not simply someone with passport full of stamps, but rather someone who can feel at home in every city. The key is to have empathy for different cultures and communities as well as to be constantly curious.  With products in over 150 countries, a consumer company like PepsiCo needs to “be local in every country,” says Nooyi, making investing in understanding and giving back to the local communities in which they operate extremely important.

The theme of “giving back” was echoed throughout the weekend’s events, as alumni were encouraged to help shape the future of the Lauder Institute through contributing their ideas, time and resources. During the evening Alumni Gala, Lauder Advisory Board member René Kern WG/Lauder ’90 unveiled the Institute’s first ever capital campaign to raise $20 Million to invest in building the next generation of global leaders. The Lauder family will match dollar for dollar the first $10 million raised by Lauder alumni and friends. Contributions will go towards increasing the already strong financial aid provided to Lauder students, promoting innovation through developing new programs like the global program, investing in new technology and more.

Feeling the Lauder Love

The 2013 Lauder Alumni Weekend represented the largest gathering of alumni in Lauder history, with attendees traveling as far as Asia and Europe to attend the celebrations. The strength, diversity, and vibrancy of the Lauder community was on full display as the tight-knit community celebrated Lauder’s first 30 years and looked forward to the future.

For current Lauder students in the classes of 2014 and 2015, it was encouraging to see the strength of the alumni bonds and to fell the momentum of three decades of Lauder love.  As one alumnus perfectly encapsulated: “I may be a bachelor, but I have the largest family in the world.”