The Spirit of Friendship

 3 min read

On a crisp fall day in September 2019, Allen Sirkin visited the Fashion and Textiles Futures Center in Hayward Hall to have lunch with the recipients of the Allen Sirkin ’64, H’10 Scholarship, a fund that supports students pursuing degrees in fashion and textiles. Sirkin established the scholarship in 1992 when his children began enrolling in college and he witnessed firsthand the growing costs of higher education.

At the lunch, Sirkin asked the students—all juniors and seniors—questions about their education, internship experiences, and career plans. In turn, the students asked for advice about interviewing, job selection, and internship choices.

Sirkin’s a good one to ask. He knows the fashion industry and is no stranger to hard work. After studying textiles and marketing at Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science (PCT&S), now Thomas Jefferson University, Sirkin got into the fashion business as a merchandiser at PVH. He worked his way up, embracing opportunity at every turn, and came to hold executive positions at Manhattan Industries, McGregor, and Pony Apparel among others. Sirkin returned to PVH where he stayed for 30 years, retiring as President/COO 2012.

In addition to meeting the scholarship recipients, Sirkin was celebrating another step in his journey: the unveiling of the Allen Sirkin Sewing Lab, named in recognition of his lifelong support as a trustee and philanthropist.

The Sirkin family’s roots run deep at Jefferson. Bonnie, Allen’s wife, graduated from Jefferson Medical College—now Sidney Kimmel Medical College—as a cyto-technologist; his son, David, followed in his footprints and graduated from PCT&S in 1996; his grandson, Noah, is currently a premed student in the College of Life Sciences, class of ’23. Further out on the family tree, yet more Sirkin family members hold diplomas bearing some version of the Jefferson name.

One of Sirkin’s childhood friends, rock ‘n’ roll empresario Larry Magid, also studied at PCT&S with Sirkin in the 1960s. In January 2019, Magid told Sirkin he wanted to endow a scholarship at Jefferson in his name.

“Wow, why?” Sirkin recalls asking.

“You’re my friend,” Magid replied.

Inspired, Sirkin decided to match Magid’s gift. Together they created a scholarship to support students pursuing careers in medicine. They’ve named it the Sirkin/Magid Spirit of Friendship Scholarship.

“It's really been done in the spirit of friendship and that’s where the name came from,” Sirkin says. “It feels right. It sounds right. And I know it’s the right thing for both of us to do.”

Change is good. There’s no reason for us not to stay on board and embrace the newness as well as the history of what the school represents.

Allen Sirkin ’64, H’10

Back at the Hayward Hall lunch, Sirkin encouraged the soon-to-graduate fashion and textile students to be bold and inquisitive. He challenged them to see change as a means for growth. In the fashion business, he told the students, it’s “grow or die.”

Sirkin views the merger between Thomas Jefferson University and his alma mater through a similar lens.

“PTI, PCT&S, PhilaU, Jefferson—It’s a change dynamic,” Sirkin says, encouraging his alumni to embrace the potential of Jefferson as a singular, innovative institution.

“Change is good,” he says. “There’s no reason for us not to stay on board and embrace the newness as well as the history of what the school represents.”