WJA Honors Helene Fortunoff With Women in Retail Scholarship


The Women’s Jewelry Association Foundation (WJAF) has partnered with the Fortunoff family to launch a new scholarship for women in retail in honor of the late Helene Fortunoff.

Fortunoff (pictured), who helped transform her husband’s family business into a nationally recognized jewelry chain, died in November 2021.

The Helene Fortunoff Women in Retail Scholarship will give recipients opportunities to further their careers through education and management training.

The $7,500 scholarship will be awarded annually to a retail professional who wishes to develop her management skills. The award will support education for talent management, project management, effective communication, collaboration, managing conflict and resolution, and merchandising and marketing.

The application period for WJA Foundation scholarships is March 1 to April 30, 2023. Applications are available at the WJA site.

The announcement comes on the eve of what would have been Helene Fortunoff’s 90th birthday.

Helene Fortunoff helped found WJA in 1983 and served as the group’s president from 1992 to 1995. In 1989, she was recognized with WJA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

She also received an honorary appointment as Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy in 1997 and the American Gem Society’s Triple Zero Award and Jewelers of America’s Gem Award for lifetime achievement in 2006. The latter award was presented to her by Lauren Bacall, a longtime spokesperson for the Fortunoff brand.

Helene Fortunoff, Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall (left) with Fortunoff at the Gem Awards

“Continuing our mom’s legacy with this WJA scholarship is very important to our family,” Helene’s daughters, Esther and Ruth, said in a statement. “Helene was an inspiration and a mentor to so many women throughout her career. She was committed to higher education and always encouraged our team of all female buyers to take classes, read articles, and stay on top of changes in the jewelry industry.

“Jewelry was her passion. She loved her life in retail, traveling the world, and working with other women. Helene was a brilliant leader and would be proud to know her legacy will live on in the next generation of women in retail.”

(Photos courtesy of the Women’s Jewelry Association)

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By: Rob Bates

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