FAA alum donates sculpture, joins new mentoring program initiative

Jeffrey Breslow, FAA alumnus, donated his sculpture “New Day” to his now retired former professor and friend, Edward Zagorski.

Standing in the Research Park directly across from the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign, Breslow presented the sculpture in Zagorski’s honor on Oct. 26.

Breslow said his inspiration to donate the sculpture stemmed from all Zagorski taught him. In fact, he said Zagorski is the reason he ended up in the field of industrial design.

“This is somebody I’ve known all my life, for 53 years we’ve been dear friends,” he said. “I met him when I was 17 and he was 39, and now I’m 70, and he’s 92. We’ve been life-long friends.”

Breslow said Zagorski changed his life in a “very profound way” when he first met him.

“He taught me about industrial design,” he said. “I switched from Bradley, where I was failing out of school, and transferred to the University of Illinois in order to study industrial design, and ultimately study with him.”

His close relationship with Zagorski is the reason he got involved in the new mentoring program for FAA.

“My goal as a mentor is to be able to help and influence young people and give back, primarily,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky in my life to have three mentors, Ed was the first, and certainly the most prominent, but I’ve had two other mentors. I find that most people in life never have a mentor — not one.”

Michele Plante, FAA career services coordinator, said that the new professional mentoring program, open to seniors in the college, aims to help bridge the gap between being a student and working as a professional.

“The goals are to provide insight for our students into their professional field, to extend their network of contacts, and to give them practice interacting with professionals in a video chat medium,” she said. “The program also provides a method for alumni and friends of the college to connect directly with Fine and Applied Arts and our students.”

Breslow recently retired from his position as CEO of his company, Big Monster Toys, leaving the company in the hands of his partner, Don Rosenwinkle. Breslow said this is yet another way Zagorski had a hand in his success, as Rosenwinkle was among the countless other students, and people, he said Zagorski has touched.

“I hosted his 90th birthday party in Champaign two years ago. We had 75 people from all around the country and a couple from England come,” he said. “My story is not that unique. He’s influenced many people in his career. … Everybody just reveres him and adores him; he’s the kind of teacher people wish they had. I was lucky enough to have him.”

Katie Khau, senior in FAA and mentee of Breslow, said the mentoring program provides a rare and valuable resource to students, similar to what Breslow experienced with Zagorski.

“Sometimes you feel lost at school,” she said. “It’s nice to have someone to ask questions. Normally you don’t have a professional you can ask questions about the market, or a job you want. It’s hard to get that in a teacher or mentor; just to connect with someone in my field is really nice.”

For Khau, having a mentor with as much success as Breslow has had is helpful, but not her only focus.

“I feel very gracious,” she said. “He’s been a great mentor. He’s really helpful. It’s nice to get to know him as a person, and not just the ex-CEO of Big Monster Toys.”

The common ground between he and Khau makes for an enjoyable time spent mentoring her, Breslow said.

“The girl I’m mentoring wants to be a toy designer,” he said. “I mean that’s what she wants to do, so it’s kind of a nice gift for me.”

Danielle can be reached at [email protected]