2014 marked the 25th anniversary of Georgetown's Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research, named in honor of renowned Washington Post fashion editor Nina Hyde, who raised awareness and funds to help fight the disease. Beyond her advocacy for breast cancer research, Hyde supported young designers and journalists throughout her career, including Georgetown alumna Jura Koncius (F'75). At this anniversary, Koncius shared her memory of the hope and goodwill that became Hyde's legacy.
As a student and features editor for the Georgetown Voice, Koncius dreamed of becoming a fashion editor like Hyde. She decided to reach out to the editor for advice.
"I did that old thing—I wrote a letter," said Koncius. "I wrote, 'I'd really like to be a fashion editor someday. Would you talk to me?' and she did."
Koncius established a relationship with Hyde and, after graduating, assisted her on photo shoots for the Post. She was later hired as Hyde's assistant and has now been at the Post for 38 years.
During their time together, Koncius noted that Hyde took her work very seriously, reporting on international fashion trends for nearly 30 years and treating the subject as a social science. While Hyde counted designers Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Evelyn Lauder among her close friends, she remained a grounded, approachable woman who wore practical shoes, enjoyed a good bargain and treasured friends, family and fun.
As a recent college graduate living away from home, Koncius spent time in the welcoming company of the Hyde family. She often rode to work with her boss, and it was on one of those rides, in 1985, that Hyde shared worrisome news about a problem with her mammogram. She soon learned that she had advanced stage breast cancer at age 53, and that a tumor on her first mammogram three years prior had been missed.
At first, Hyde kept her illness to herself so as not to burden those outside her family. She went to the National Institutes of Health as a patient of renowned oncologist Marc Lippman, M.D., and followed him in 1988 to Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he served as director. Eventually, Hyde realized she could help others by sharing her story. She spoke publicly about her cancer, and encouraged women to get mammograms earlier, make time to get screened every year, find out about family history of cancer and support breast cancer research.
Designer and friend Ralph Lauren mobilized the fashion industry to answer Hyde's call for research support, and together with Post publisher Katharine Graham, co-founded Georgetown's Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research in 1989. In a speech she delivered that year, Hyde said she was shocked and deeply moved by the generosity and determination of her friends. The following year, she lost her battle with the disease.
The fashion industry and the Post continued to support the center after her passing. In 1990 Koncius, her colleague Martha Sherrill and other volunteers from the Post organized a massive fundraiser in Washington, D.C. called Super Sale, featuring donated designer clothing and accessories offered at bargain prices. The popular sale was held annually for nearly a decade. In 1994, Ralph Lauren and the Council of Fashion Designers of America partnered to start the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign, selling t-shirts with proceeds benefitting the Nina Hyde Center. These combined efforts contributed millions of dollars to the center's early work. At the 1996 Super Sale, the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research honored Lauren with its first Humanitarian Award, presented by Princess Diana, at a star-studded event.
In the 25 years since its founding, the Nina Hyde Center at Georgetown Lombardi has been consistently ranked among the top 10 breast cancer research centers in the world. Koncius is proud that her alma mater is home to the renowned center named for her friend and mentor. At a time when many women fought their cancer battles privately, Nina Hyde's public advocacy inspired a legacy of hope for eradicating breast cancer that continues at Georgetown today.