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Evelyn Lauder Remembered For Leadership And Cancer Research

Sophie Elkus |
December 4, 2011 | 7:18 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Evelyn Lauder at one of her many campaign events(creative commons)
Evelyn Lauder at one of her many campaign events(creative commons)
Daughter-in-law of cosmetic giant Estee Lauder and Senior Corporate Vice President of Estee Lauder Companies Evelyn Lauder passed away on Nov. 13 in her Manhattan home.

The socialite, active philanthropist and mother of two was 75-years-old and died of ovarian cancer. Lauder is known for expertly handling the Lauder empire after filling the role from her mother-in-law, as well as her involvement in breast cancer research. A survivor herself, Lauder raised most of the $13.6 million that created the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which opened in 1992 to focus on the treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer. 

Lauder is also credited for helping to popularize the pink ribbon worn in support of those battling the illness. Estee Lauder Companies estimate that her campaign raised $335 million towards breast cancer research and distributed 80 million pink ribbons. In addition to this feat, she is also known for creating the Clinique brand name and was first to wear the traditional white Clinique lab coat.

Her passion for fusing beauty and science and wealth of information available through the cosmetic company contributed to her love for health studies and nutrition. At 75, she was known for aging gracefully and maintaining her physical beauty and pride.

“For me it’s important to take advantage of the opportunities I have,” Lauder told a Harper’s Bazaar reporter. “I keep up with everything in terms of health, fitness, nutrition, skin care, hair, nails… I’m an avid reader of every women’s health newsletter from every hospital in the country. I absorb the science section of The New York Times. You know, I have a degree: I’m an A. A.D. Almost a Doctor.”

Perhaps her elegance in her older years is in part due to a happy life with her husband, chairman of the Estee Lauder Companies Leonard Lauder.

“Not a day goes by when we don’t say how much we love each other,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “Being loved at this age is really the thing that keeps me buoyant.”

Lauder is remembered for her concentration on helping others no matter her own medical struggles. After her diagnoses in 1989, she became an advocate for women’s health, but was never one to ask the public for empathy.

“My situation doesn’t really matter,” she told a reporter in 1995.

Her strength is reflected not only in her societal contributions but through her executive role in the Lauder empire as a powerful woman in charge.

“I was very strong,” she said. “I was much more tough than a lot of people. I was one of the few who spoke their mind to Estee.”

For a woman in the cosmetics industry, Lauder was one of the few who did not rely on plastic surgery to maintain a youthful face.

“I still see that lack of expression, the bulging between the eyebrows, certainly the distortion of the lips,” she said to Harper’s Bazaar. “I don’t like that. We’ve earned our faces.”

After a lifetime of making her mark on the world through her medical research support and company leadership, she certainly earned hers.

Reach writer Sophie Elkus here

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