KATHY IRELAND TO DELIVER NEW ENGLAND INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS
BUSINESS AND COMMUNITY LEADER CHERYL MERCHANT TO BE HONORED
EAST GREENWICH, RI – New England Tech’s 2014 commencement address will be delivered by world-class entrepreneur Kathy Ireland who is Chair, CEO and Chief Designer of kathy ireland Worldwide®. Ireland is one of the most influential and successful people in design and marketing, and is also a powerful advocate for women and children in need. A former supermodel who combined her fashion know-how, compassion for others, and common sense ideas to build a billion dollar brand, Ireland markets more than 15,000 products with designs in fashion, weddings, home and office. On Sunday, May 4, 2014 Kathy Ireland will share her insight about success with New England Institute of Technology graduates and their families and friends. The commencement ceremony will be held at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence beginning at 11 a.m.
Ireland appeared in 13 consecutive Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues in the 1980s and 1990s. Her first featured cover remains the top selling edition. She has acted in movies including the comedies Unnecessary Roughness, and Loaded Weapon I, and in dozens of television shows including the popular Melrose Place. She has written books for children and for busy moms and recently started her own publishing company. But it is the kathy ireland Worldwide® brand that has brought her the most success. With a focus on designing practical and affordable products, fulfilling her mission statement of “finding solutions for families, especially busy moms,” Ireland has built a fashion empire. In 2012, the former supermodel graced the cover of Forbes Magazine, which nicknamed her “Supermogul” for her success.
Ireland is committed to “putting people ahead of profits.” She is an advocate for women’s health issues and for the care and treatment of Down’s syndrome. She is an activist for veterans’ issues, global poverty eradication and education and family issues. She also supports numerous nonprofits including the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation and Feed the Children. When earthquakes hit Haiti, she quietly traveled there to help out in the orphanages. Ireland will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters during commencement for her work to improve the lives of others.
New England Institute of Technology will also confer an honorary doctor of humane letters on nationally-recognized business leader Cheryl Merchant for her contributions to the betterment of Rhode Island. Merchant is President and Chief Executive Officer of Rhode Island’s Hope Global. Known for her ability to motivate, inspire and lead innovative teams, Merchant has transformed the 131-year-old Rhode Island textile manufacturing company. Under her leadership, Hope Global has nearly tripled its revenue, product lines and market share in the automotive, industrial and defense industries. Merchant has accomplished this while focusing on teamwork, employee success and community involvement.
Hope Global employs 700 people around the world. The headquarters and largest operation is located in Rhode Island, with smaller operations in Mexico, the Czech Republic and China, and engineering sales offices in Detroit and Brazil.
Merchant got her start in the automotive field, working her way into supervisory positions at GM, Ford and Mazda, and eventually managing international operations for Lear Corporation in Mexico. She brings global experience to Hope Global, and has integrated helping others into the company philosophy. Charities that provide assistance to children and women in need are the focus at Hope. So are mentoring and training programs that help employees advance in their chosen fields.
Merchant is an active member of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, a Rhode Island Commodore, a trustee of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council, a trustee of Bryant University, and a member of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the Governor’s Workforce Board, which supports programs that bring business and education together. Merchant was recently named the 2014 New England Business Woman of the Year at Bryant University’s Women’s Summit.
This year marks New England Institute of Technology’s 73rd commencement ceremony. More than a thousand students will receive associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.