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12 Facts About Our Founder, Evelyn H. Lauder

Aug. 12, 1936-Nov. 12, 2011

Mrs. Evelyn Lauder was the Chairman of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which she founded in 1993. She was passionately committed to preventing breast cancer and finding a cure by funding the most innovative clinical and translational research in the world.

In honor of Mrs. Lauder’s passing on Nov. 12, 2011, we’ve collected some of our favorite facts about our formidable founder. 

1. Mrs. Evelyn H. Lauder was born Evelyn Hausner on Aug. 12, 1936 in Vienna, Austria. As a refugee of Nazi-occupied Europe, she came to New York with her family in 1940. When the ship bringing them to the United States arrived in New York, Mrs. Lauder’s mother woke Evelyn to see the Statue of Liberty, and it served as a source of inspiration for the rest of her life. Her remarkable life is truly the story of the American dream.

2. She met Leonard A. Lauder, her husband of 52 years, on a blind date at the age of 18. They married at New York’s famous Plaza Hotel.

3. Mrs. Lauder attended New York City public schools and was a public school teacher in Harlem before joining the Lauder family business.

4. She held many positions at The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., including serving as Senior Corporate Vice President and Head of Fragrance Development Worldwide until her passing in 2011.

5. In 1989, Mrs. Lauder initiated the fundraising drive that established a state-of the-art breast and diagnostic center at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Today the facility, known as the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center, sets a global standard for cancer care offering prevention, diagnosis and treatment services under one roof. 

6. In 1992, Mrs. Lauder and Alexandra Penney, then editor of SELF, created the signature pink ribbon, which has become the international symbol of breast cancer awareness. In that same year, she launched The Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign.

7. Mrs. Lauder, along with The BCA Campaign, achieved a first-ever Guinness World Record by illuminating 38 historic and iconic landmarks, ranging from New York’s Rockefeller Center to Australia’s Parliament House, in 24 hours all in honor of breast cancer awareness and research.

8. Mrs. Lauder was an avid and very talented photographer. Her work has been featured at The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles, Galeries Lafayette in Paris and numerous other galleries around the world.  She had two photography books published of her own work: The Seasons Observed and An Eye for Beauty.

9. Mrs. Lauder loved to cook. In 2006, she published a cookbook, In Great Taste: Fresh, Simple Recipes for Eating and Living Well. The book featured more than 125 deliciously healthy recipes inspired by her own diet and years of working with doctors and nutritionists at renowned hospitals around the country.

10. A vision of grace and beauty, Mrs. Lauder was featured on Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List. She was also named one of New York’s 100 Most Influential Women in Business by Crain’s New York Business.

11. In 2011, Mrs. Lauder and the entire Lauder family received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. The award is given to individuals who have dedicated their private wealth to the public good. 

12. Mrs. Lauder’s warmth, sense of humor, charm, extraordinary compassion and endless generosity made her beloved by anyone fortunate to cross her path. Nearly 1,500 people, from all walks of life, attended her funeral. The Empire State Building was lit pink the day of her funeral in her memory.