Evelyn Lauder, who died of complications from non-genetic ovarian cancer on Saturday, had a swarm of close friends throughout her life. Yet many close friends who attended her funeral today did not have a clue that she would die so soon.
Classic Evelyn. "It was never about her. It was always about you," Liz Robbins, a prominent Washington lobbyist, told me this morning over breakfast before she headed to the invitation-only funeral for her good friend.
You can read the news reports about Evelyn Lauder's contributions to cancer research: She founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which has raised more than $350 million since 1993. She created the Pink Ribbon as a symbol to raise awareness about breast cancer around the world. She built, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in Manhattan, a full-service haven for women with breast cancer--which Robbins used when cancer struck her two years ago. "She was constantly helping friends, helping people she didn't even know but heard about through friends, and she helped mankind," says Robbins, who spoke with Lauder by phone a few weeks ago and didn't realize that was dying.
"None of us knew how ill she was over the last four and a half years," adds Estee Lauder (EL) board member Lynn Forester de Rothschild.
Lauder, who was 75, had moved into a world of privilege from humble beginnings. She was born in Vienna, Austria, survived the London Blitz during World War II, and arrived in New York by boat with her parents, who were escaping Hitler's occupation. At 18, Evelyn was a freshman at Hunter College when she met Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder's son, on a blind date. They married and were together for 52 years. "Evie," as people close to her called her, left a teaching job in New York's public schools to join Estee Lauder, where she helped develop brands such as Clinique and Aramis and rose to senior corporate VP and head of fragrance development worldwide.
Lauder, whom I last saw at Fortune's 2010 Most Powerful Women Summit, had serious business chops, but her greatest legacy will be the countless people she helped. De Rothschild, who is CEO of E.L. Rothschild Ltd. and has been an Estee Lauder director since 2000, told me a story yesterday about shopping for Bobbi Brown cosmetics at Neiman Marcus and asking a saleswoman how she liked working for Bobbi Brown, which is an Estee Lauder company. As de Rothschild recalls, "The saleswoman said to me, 'How do I feel about Estee Lauder? I owe my life to Estee Lauder. Twelve years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My supervisor was at a group-wide company meeting and somehow in a conversation with Mrs. Evelyn Lauder, my supervisor informed her of my condition. Mrs. Lauder did not know me from Adam, and yet I received a call from her. She talked to me for hours. She had her personal doctors consult with mine. And I am sure she saved my life.'"
"That was Evelyn Lauder," as de Rothschild says. "She saved lives and never asked for anything in return."
Given that she started with a trunk show in Austin, Texas, in 2003 and generated more than $100 million in revenues last year, Stella & Dot CEO Jessica Herrin chose a fitting theme for her 2011 confab of sales reps: "Women Behaving Boldly."
Herrin was just one of the bold business-builders on a panel that I led at the Stella & Dot event, called Hoopla!, in San Francisco in early July. MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 26, 2011 10:39 AM ET
by Patricia Sellers
This week, TIME Magazine presents the 25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century.
Interesting that TIME, Fortune's sister magazine at Time Inc. (TWX), includes just two businesswomen on its list. Both -- Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey -- are entrepreneurs. Since her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO), is struggling these days, Martha didn't make this year's Fortune Most Powerful Women list. Oprah, whose power keeps expanding and MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 22, 2010 12:12 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
In this weekend's New York City Marathon, thousands of runners will be sweating it out for hundreds of causes and charities. One of those diehard do-gooders: Unilever (UL) CEO Paul Polman.
Polman, whose global brands include Lipton and Hellman's and Dove, stopped by Fortune's offices this morning to tell us about his weekend plans. This Saturday night, he'll be hosting a pre-marathon pasta dinner (with his company's MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 5, 2010 2:36 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
"The biggest startup on the planet." That's the way Steve Jobs described Apple (AAPL) last evening here at the D: All Things Digital confab put on by the Wall Street Journal.
Come to think of it, the best big companies tend to be run like startups. Think about Starbucks (SBUX), where the guy who built the business practically from scratch returned as Mr. Fix-It CEO after things went MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 2, 2010 10:27 AM ET
by Patricia Sellers
So much optimism in the air....and yet, so many people seeing black clouds.
Last week, I told you about the gloomy economic view of Meredith Whitney, the influential financial-services industry analyst.
This morning I had breakfast with Cheryl Bachelder, the CEO of AFC Enterprises (AFCE) and president of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. That's right, the chicken chain. Like Whitney, Bachelder sees more pain than gain in the year ahead.
"Now we have MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 12, 2010 1:02 PM ET
I interviewed Carlyle Group's Sandra Horbach, who heads the private equity giant's consumer and retail group, at the Women's Alternative Investment Summit in New York last week. I shared a few highlights, and since the session drew terrific audience feedback, it's worth giving you more of Horbach's smart talk about managing through the recession, investing into the recovery, and navigating a career in private equity, where few women dare MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 8, 2009 3:21 PM ET
I was not in Germany for the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago today. But I got a front seat to business history-in-the-making three months later, when I went to East Germany to report a story about Coca-Cola's (KO) aggressive ramp-up in Europe following the Communist collapse.
It seems like yesterday.
Talk about a capitalist invasion. I remember how euphoric--genuinely euphoric--East German consumers and shop-owners were to suddenly have access MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 9, 2009 2:22 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Greetings from Atlanta. I'm here for Fortune's "Most Powerful Women Evening With..." Atlanta is tonight's stop in a series of regional dinners that we're hosting annually in addition to the main event, the Most Powerful Women Summit. I'll be interviewing Food Network star Paula Deen, the silver-haired, Southern-cookin' entrepreneur and star of the Food Network. Also with us: the top women execs at companies like Coca-Cola (KO), Home Depot (HD), Delta Airlines, (DAL), UPS (UPS), and MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 2, 2009 3:55 PM ET
"You're seeing less of Ford and G.M. and more of Oscar Mayer and Kellogg."
-- George Belch, chairman of the marketing department at San Diego State University, in the New York Times. While financial services companies like Citigroup (C) and automakers like Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) are cutting ad budgets, companies like Kellogg (K) and Kraft (KFT), maker of Oscar Mayer products, are stepping into the advertising MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Oct 7, 2009 6:04 PM ET
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