Still in fashion, and in charge, at 85

Dorothy Roberts '50
Dorothy Roberts '50

People have called Dorothy Roberts ’50 “Dot” since she was a young girl; these days, “Dynamo” would serve as an equally apt nickname.

The charismatic matriarch of New York City’s Echo Design Group — the company her parents, Theresa and Edgar C. Hyman, founded 90 years ago — is still actively involved in the family business, which started with scarves and has since diversified into such areas as handbags and gloves along with china and bedding. Echo has estimated retail sales of $250 million annually and is behind licensed products for Ralph Lauren and several museums, including Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

When Roberts formally joined Echo in July 1950, it was three weeks to the day after she graduated from Connecticut College. She had transferred from Carleton College for a simple but substantial reason: love.

“I had met my husband.”

Paul Roberts, who joined Echo in 1949, was a student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., just a car ride away, when Dot Roberts transferred to the College. He would become president of the company in the early ’70s but died in 1978.

Romance aside, there were other reasons she is glad she transferred to the College, including lifelong friendships. She’s among a group of Connecticut College alumnae who periodically reunite at Manhattan’s Yale Club.

She also fondly remembers her studies. Roberts majored in sociology with a minor in psychology, but another department left the most significant impression.

“There was a fabulous art history teacher, Edgar Mayhew. In the two years I was at the school, I took four of his courses, from the Renaissance through the Impressionists and modern art. He taught me so well I could go in any museum and tell you who the painter was.”

That knowledge proved key at Echo, where colorful, artistic prints play a central role in the brand’s success. Roberts became president of the business with her husband’s death in 1978 and since 1993 has served as chairman. Her children, Steven and Lynn, carry on the Hyman legacy as Echo’s CEO and vice president, respectively. A fourth generation — Steven’s son Charlie — has joined the company, and his mother, Meg, designs home furnishings and handbags.

The past year marked another milestone besides Echo’s 90th anniversary — Roberts’ 85th birthday in December.  She chuckles when people ask her if she founded the company, which happens quite often. “My God,” she says, “I’d be 120.”

But this octogenarian has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

“As long as I have something to offer the business,” she says, “I will be here.”

— By Marc Karimzadeh

April 17, 2014