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Remembering Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner

Jeanette and Paul Wagner at HHT's 2013 gala.

Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner was a champion of New York City in the broadest sense, and the Historic House Trust was fortunate to have her as a long-standing and devoted board member. Jeanette and her husband Paul were honored at our 2013 Founders Award Dinner for their extraordinary service to the betterment of New York City's cultural and educational treasures. They also funded HHT's Jeanette & Paul Wagner Educational Program for Children with Disabilities, which worked to improve accessibility at our partner sites and make them more welcoming to children living with physical and cognitive disabilities.

Today, Jeanette Wagner’s legacy can be felt in many ways, not least through the annual holiday lighting of the Arsenal, the NYC Parks headquarters and location of HHT's office. This lighting began as her gift to the Friends of the Arsenal in commemoration of her 40th wedding anniversary with Paul. Her legacy can also be seen in HHT's ongoing Accessibility & Innovation Initiative, which builds on the foundations of the Wagner Program and continues it in innovative ways. 

Vice Chairman Emerita of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner’s career spanned marketing and general management on both domestic and international fronts. Prior to joining Estée Lauder in 1975, Jeanette held editorial and management positions with The Hearst Corporation, including Editor-in-Chief of all International Editions, which she founded, and Director of New Ventures. She was the first female senior editor of The Saturday Evening Post and an Editor of The Chicago Daily News.

Jeanette joined the Estée Lauder Companies as the Vice President, Director of Marketing of the Estée Lauder brand in the International Division. In that role, she revolutionized the process of bringing product to market and exploded the growth of the Lauder brand internationally. She was promoted to Corporate Senior Vice President in 1982, reporting directly to Leonard Lauder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. In this role she worked with Mr. Lauder to develop the strategic plans for the Lauder companies. In 1986, following the development of the company’s strategy for the last decade of the 20th century, Jeanette was named President, Chief Executive Officer of the International Division. Under her leadership the International Company became the global leader in the prestige cosmetics arena and the largest profit producing division. In 1998, Jeanette was named the first Vice Chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. As Vice Chairman, she directed new business developments for the Company, including management oversight for new strategic acquisitions. She has represented the Corporation in key global associations, serving three terms of a Presidential appointment to the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations and was the U.S. Chair of Group III (WTO Negotiations) of the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue.

Jeanette was actively involved in improving public school education in New York, serving as Secretary of the Board of the Fund for Public Schools through Mayor Bloomberg’s term in office. She was also appointed to the Boards of The Department of Cultural Affairs and New York City Center. Her philanthropy was extensive, including the support of several programs at the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor, NY, and the Young Writers Awards at the New York Society Library. She served on Library of America’s Advisory Board and the Emeritus Board of the Harvard Business School Club, and was Vice President of the Board of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, founder of the Friends of the Arsenal, as well as serving on the Board of the Fund for the City of New York, the Advisory Board of the New York City Cultural Commission, and the Board and Directors’ Council of the Historic House Trust.

Jeanette and Paul Wagner were great friends to New York City. HHT is sorry to have said goodbye to two such extraordinary individuals.

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