Skip to main content

Gloria Lang and Hannah Zalusky

Gloria Lang '69, left, with Hannah Zalusky '14, the recipient of the Gloria and Roger Lang PCCW Scholarship. Photo: Gloria Lang/Provided

'I promised I'd pay back every penny': How Gloria Lang made good

Gloria Lang '69 is a giant in the world of textiles for the home, especially bedding and towels. In the 1980s, she managed the first major U.S. retailer offering of high-thread-count sheets.

"We sat with manufacturers," she remembers. "We asked, 'What's the highest thread count you can make?" In those days, most sheets were 120-thread count. By reinventing the manufacturing chain of sheets sold in the U.S., Lang's company, Fieldcrest, was able to produce and market sheets and bedding under the Charisma label, with a thread count of 280.

"The pima cotton was grown in Arizona and spun in Switzerland. The looms weren't wide enough in Europe, so we shipped the yarn back to the United States, wove them in North Carolina, but we wanted it to feel like a men's Italian shirt, so we sent it to be finished in Italy," she says.

It was the first salvo in what Lang calls "the octane war for sheets."

After graduation, Lang worked at Abraham & Straus in Brooklyn, now owned by Macy's, for 25 years before retiring as chief information officer in 1996. She then worked in marketing, merchandising and sales for Fieldcrest Cannon Inc. She is now an adjunct assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, where she passes on her knowledge of textile manufacture, marketing, home furnishings, retail and product development.

When Lang was 16 and a junior in high school, her father died suddenly. He was 46. It was only with the help of a scholarship that Lang was able to attend Cornell.

"When I graduated," she remembers, "I promised I'd pay back every penny." Starting with a gift of $10 the year she graduated, she did just that. "I received a letter announcing the Martha Van Rensselaer Scholarship, which supported my studies, had reached its endowment goal," she says.

She moved on quickly to do more for Cornell; Lang has served on the Human Ecology Advisory Board, the Cornell University Council and the President's Council of Cornell Women (PCCW).

In 2010, when she heard about the challenge match initiative, in which Cornell would match scholarship gifts of $75,000 and greater on a 1:3 basis, PCCW was celebrating its 20th anniversary, which included a campaign to endow leadership scholarships for women students at Cornell. Lang and her husband, Roger, whose company offered a corporate match for charitable gifts, established the Gloria and Roger Lang PCCW Scholarship.

"They named a scholar right away, and I met her and she was wonderful," Lang says of Hannah Zalusky '14.

Although Lang is a lifelong New Yorker, a product of public schools, a trailblazer for women in an industry where the only jobs for women were as secretaries or assistants, and Zalusky is a Minnesotan who was homeschooled until ninth grade, the two women have more in common than you might think.

Zalusky works three jobs on campus, earns excellent grades, and is very focused and ambitious. "My parents pay for health insurance; I pay for everything else," shares Zalusky. "I work quite a bit. I've always been a little bit of a workaholic."

She has already paid off her student loans, a year before she expects to graduate.

"It was really great to meet her in person," Zalusky says of Lang, "because you just can't connect a person, a face, an identity to the people making it possible to go here.

"I knew that Cornell was my top choice because of the program and location, and I just felt like I really wanted to be here. But I didn't think I would be able to," she says.

Back to top