Story by Shannon Dale
“Growing up, I was fascinated by my mother’s wardrobe. She wore beautiful pieces and had a way of putting outfits together that was so elegant,” says Sophie Lei Aldrich (MBA, ’88), former Colorado State University employee and longtime supporter of the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising.
Aldrich joined CSU as the first director of development for the College of Home Economics (now Health and Human Sciences), and continued to work in development for the Colleges of Professional Studies and Business for many years. Her relationship with the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising began 30 years ago when Aldrich was traveling in Taiwan and purchased historic Asian garments. Knowing their cultural significance, she donated the pieces to the CSU historic textiles collection that existed at the time.
Years later, Aldrich connected with former Avenir Museum curator and Legacies Project honoree Linda Carlson, who shared how beloved her donated items were. From that point on, Aldrich was inspired to collect textiles on all of her travels, bringing things to the museum each year.
‘Hardworking, creative women’
“Most of the pieces I’ve donated were made by women with an impressive amount of skill and talent,” explains Aldrich. “These hardworking, creative women were inspiring in their dedication and love for their children. That was the story that always touched me most about some of my favorite textile pieces from Asia.”
During a recent trip to the Avenir Museum, Aldrich was asked how she would like to be further involved with the museum collection. When she started thinking about why she loved textiles so much, Aldrich realized her mother was a true inspiration.
Aldrich’s mother, Ai-Hwa Lucy Doe Lei, grew up in Shanghai, China. Living all around the world, Lei finally settled in Taipei, where she opened an etiquette school. She was the consultant for contestants entering the Miss China pageants and was also a consultant for the 1966 film Sand Pebbles, starring Candice Bergen and Steve McQueen.
To honor her mother’s legacy, Aldrich recently named the lobby of the newly renovated and expanded Avenir Museum after her. The Ai-Hwa Lucy Doe Lei Lobby in Avenir Museum invites all students of design to mingle in a state-of-the-art learning environment, and affirms CSU’s commitment to inclusion and excellence. The first garment to be featured in the lobby display case is a gorgeous embroidered blue silk cape trimmed with fur that Lei wore to the Sand Pebbles cast New Year’s Eve party.
Aldrich and her husband, Ted, wanted to ensure that her mother’s love for textiles was shared with generations to come, establishing the Sophie and Ted Aldrich Asian Textile Endowment. This new fund will support lectures and exhibits with an Asian focus with a specific emphasis on Chinese textiles, Lei’s passion.
“Sophie and Ted’s continued support has enabled the museum to grow in new and exciting ways. The Asian Textile Fund will help to shine a light on an important portion of the collection that is not often publicized,” says Avenir Museum Curator Megan Osborne.
Private support from passionate donors like Sophie and Ted Aldrich propelled the museum’s significant renovation and expansion project, which was opened to the community at the end of January. The new space includes three galleries, classroom and seminar space, a library, a conservation laboratory and expanded collection storage and management areas. It is open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 216 E. Lake St., on the east side of the University Center for the Arts. The Avenir Museum is part of the Department of Design and Merchandising in the College of Health and Human Sciences.