Interior design gifted $200k by former teacher

Photograph by Benj Salkind

A few weeks ago, the Interior Design program at Bellevue College received a very generous donation of $200,000 given by the family of Doris Katz, a former instructor and program chair who resided on Mercer Island.  The cash donation was one of the largest monetary gifts given to the college foundation in the past decade.

The Interior Design department was thrilled to receive such a generous gift from someone that meant so much to the school and the department. “Doris Katz was an influential part of the Interior Design program and this gift is very special to those who knew her and worked with her.  The donation will really help our students gain the valuable professional experience they will need to land jobs in the field”, said David Sandler, the Public Relations Manager in Institutional Advancement.

Katz grew the Interior Design department from only a few design classes into a nationally-accredited degree program because of her motivational attitude and innovative spirit.  Sandler said, “Doris Katz had a powerful and lasting influence on the interior design program. She introduced a number of key innovations, such as creating an advisory committee of design professionals to provide input on the curriculum, forming a student advisory committee and a robust alumni group, and requiring students to complete two internships before graduation. Her innovations helped build the foundation for where the program is today.”

Vice President of Instruction Tom Nielson said in an interview with the Mercer Island Reporter, “It’s a fitting tribute to Doris, who did so much to build the foundation for the program it has become today.”

The Interior Design program at Bellevue College awards certificates, associated degrees, and since 2010 is, a bachelor’s degree program. Bellevue College offers the only state-supported Interior Design program in the entire Puget Sound region. Interior Design is one of BC’s two bachelor degree programs. Other community colleges in the region do not offer interior design as a degree, but Bellevue College will continue to develop the program and the donation aids in the prosperous future of the program. Alreadynearly 500 students annually participate in the program.  The college program has grown significantly since the addition of the bachelor degree program and it will continue to incorporate new trends from the industry into the curriculum.

Nielson said, “This wonderful gift will allow us to continue building on the success of the college’s Interior Design program, which is already recognized as one of the premier programs in the region.” The donation was meant for students to obtain more hands-on experience and gain a better understanding of course material, as well as to help students connect with firms and professionals in order to launch their careers in interior design. The gift will fund a comprehensive professional engagement program. It will be possible to get design internships, visits from acclaimed interior design professionals, access to master workshops and trips to working studios in the region.

Current program chair Michael Culpepper said, “Doris early on recognized how important it was for students to engage with people already in the field. This donation will make it possible to provide our students with a well-rounded and more hands-on educational experience, so they’ll be much better prepared when it’s time to look for jobs.”

According to Sandler, “These opportunities will help connect students with firms and practitioners in the region so they can gain valuable professional experiences and contacts to launch their careers.” So far the funds have not yet been put to use, but the BC foundation will work closely with the Interior Design department on funding the activities that they have planned for the future.

The Interior Design department is planning a formal thank you ceremony in the fall along with the BC Foundation to show their gratitude.