Belmond couple endows fashion show’s highest award

A $25,000 gift from a Belmond couple is ensuring a bright future for Iowa State University’s The Fashion Show 2014.

Lora and Russ Talbot are providing the endowment toward the show’s highest honor, the Best in Show award. To heighten the prestige and impact of the Best in Show scholarship, the couple’s gift will increase the award from $500 to $1,000 for this year’s show, in addition to endowing a fund to ensure the award is financed on a perpetual basis.

“Their gift of sponsoring the Best in Show award, as well as other scholarships, has led to an increased level of excitement on the part of our students,” said Bob Bosselman, professor and chair in apparel, events, and hospitality management. “Competing for a $1,000 top prize is significant, and is just another way our fashion show stands out relative to our peers.”

Katelyn Hall, a senior in apparel, merchandising, and design and producer of The Fashion Show 2014, added that the higher prize encourages designers to bring their best to the show.

“As a designer in a Midwest school, we are constantly underestimated,” Hall said. “The Talbots’ support shows us that our community believes in us and is rooting for our success.

Students on The Fashion Show planning committee work to raise about half of the $20,000 to produce the show including costs to build the set, to print the programs, and to fund nearly $8,000 in annual scholarships. The other half comes from ticket sales.

“We are using the Talbots’ endowment of Best in Show as a springboard to double not just the monetary impact of that one specific scholarship, but to double the entire scholarship impact of The Fashion Show overall,” said fashion show faculty adviser Sarah Bennett.  

The Talbots’ involvement began last year, when they provided a $500 gift for the Best in Show award and became “friends of The Fashion Show” as gold sponsors.  

The couple attended the show for the first time last year in support of a family friend, Amy Soma, who graduated from Iowa State in December with a degree in apparel, merchandising, and design and served as an assistant producer for The Fashion Show.

Impressed by The Fashion Show

The Talbots said they were originally inspired to give because of their relationship with Soma. But after seeing the show, they were impressed by the talent and professionalism of the student-run production.

“The Fashion Show was spectacular,” Lora Talbot said. “It’s even more impressive to know that it’s an all-student event. We knew we wanted to be a part of that exciting program. We wanted to be involved at some level.”

For this year’s show, Lora and Russ Talbot also provided money for a $500 award for first place in special occasion wear and a $200 award for second place in professional day wear, and are again “friends of The Fashion Show” as gold sponsors. They even donated gift cards to help students offset costs of building materials and supplies for production.  

The Talbots said they hope that their endowment will encourage gifts from others.

“We want our giving to make a positive difference,” Russ Talbot said. “We like to lead by example and create momentum with the hope that others will be inspired and motivated to become more involved in giving at all levels.”

Bennett, a lecturer in apparel, merchandising, and design, is confident the Talbots’ endowment will impact other supporters of the show.

“The generosity of the Talbots doesn’t just help cover the costs of this year’s show, it builds a foundation that will hopefully encourage others to think about how they can help The Fashion Show — and therefore the entire apparel, merchandising, and design program — grow in the future,” she said.

A history of involvement 

The College of Human Sciences is not the only area of the university impacted by the Talbots’ dedication. Even though neither attended Iowa State University, they have been friends and loyal supporters for many years.

Their relationship with Iowa State began with the College of Veterinary Medicine, where they have established the Russell G. and Lora L. Talbot Scholars in Veterinary Medicine scholarship program. This endowed fund currently provides four-year scholarships to seven students each year. 

“As we reflect on our lives and see how truly blessed we have been, we understand that we have a responsibility to share and give back to help others,” said Russ Talbot, a retired special agent with the Internal Revenue Service.

In addition to their financial generosity, the Talbots are active life members and sustaining life donors of the Iowa State University Alumni Association, where Lora Talbot is the only non-alumni representative on the board of directors and Russ Talbot is a board associate. 

Both are Iowa State University Foundation governors and members of the Order of the Knoll W.M. Beardshear Society and Campanile Society and are active in the Cyclone Club. They received the Cardinal and Gold Award in 2013 for advancing philanthropic efforts and providing dedicated and long-term service and creative leadership to the university.

“We spend much of our time as volunteers, supporters, cheerleaders, and donors in activities related to education,” said Lora Talbot, a retired executive officer with Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System. “When we witness our contributions having a positive impact, it gives us further impetus to do more.  We want to do our part in helping to move the university forward.”

The Fashion Show 2014 is a student-run event in its 32nd year. The show will be held at 7 p.m. April 5 at C.Y. Stephens Auditorium. Tickets are $16 for students and $22 for adults and are available at the Iowa State Center Box Office, or online for $28 through Ticketmaster.


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Kelly Hanfelt, senior director of development, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-1849, khanfelt@iastate.edu

Bob Bosselman, professor and chair, Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management, Iowa State University, 515-294-7424, drbob@iastate.edu

Sarah Bennett, lecturer, Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management, Iowa State University, 515-294-7527, sbennett@iastate.edu

Katelyn Hall, producer, ISU Fashion Show, kjhall@iastate.edu

Tara Lackey, writer, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-9424, hsnews1@iastate.edu