Honoring a Legend
Rowena Reed Kostellow declared: “If you can’t make it more beautiful, what’s the point?” For 50 years she taught her students how to control abstract visual relationships to make the world more beautiful. The pedagogy she developed became the foundation of industrial design education internationally as alumni established programs around the world.
The Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund grew from the aspirations of Pratt Industrial design graduates gathered at Miss Reed’s 1988 memorial. Judy Collins sang Amazing Grace in commemoration of a remarkable woman and friend. Bruce Hannah produced a slideshow, later converted to a video: 50 Years of Design. People wanted a meaningful way to honor a beloved teacher and mentor.
Jim Fulton, Chair of the Pratt Institute Board of Trustees, invited a group of former students, teachers and Rowena Reed followers to his office and proposed creating a fund in her honor. Its goal would be to provide a permanent source of support and energy for the advancement of three-dimensional design and visual communication that was the core of her work. Its efforts would focus on disseminating her teachings through awards, scholarships, books, and other initiatives. Tucker Viemeister proposed endowing a Chair of Industrial Design in Rowena Reed Kostellow’s name.
The Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund was informally organized in 1989 within the By-Laws of Pratt Institute, and formally established by the Pratt Institute Board of Directors on May 9, 1990. Louis Nelson was named Chair, Tucker Viemeister, Vice Chair, with Trustees-at-Large James Fulton, Debera Johnson (Chair of the ID Department), Adele Kostellow Morrill (family member), RitaSue Siegel, and Lisa Smith. In 2018 the Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund Board of Trustees includes Chair, Tucker Viemeister, and Trustees, Constantin Boym (Chair ID Dept), RitaSue Siegel, Tarik Currimbhoy, Britt Kapec and Louis Nelson (Chair Emeritus).
Since its founding, over $150,000 has been raised by the fund to support design education.
The Rowena Fund has welcomed a diverse group of colleagues who share and contribute to its mission, including Gerry Gulotta, Lucia DeRespinis, Bruce Hannah, Karen Stone, Gina Caspi, Jeff Kapec, Kate Hixon, Pamela Waters, Seth Kornfeld, Peter Barna, Harvey Bernstein, Ruth Schuman, Deb Johnson, Alvaro Uribe, Steve Diskin, and Sun Hee Kim, among others. Fund contributors have included students of Miss Reed, both at Pratt and in the Saturday classes she held at the request of former Pratt students in her SoHo loft. Among them was Jeff Kapec, who graduated from Pratt in 1972 but knew Rowena Reed Kostellow only by reputation. In 1974, after working in an industrial design office for two years and recognizing the need for more in-depth study of three-dimensional design, he asked to join the class. His recognition of the value of continuing education in her distinctive methodology was shared by the numerous students and practicing designers who met together on Saturday mornings for well over a decade.