The word design is derived from the Latin designare, meaning to choose or to appoint. It suggests not only creation, but also a particular way of engaging the world. An artwork, a building, a process, a relationship—all can be the result of careful, considered design.
Over the last 10 years, Carmon Colangelo has shepherded the formation and growth of Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. On Nov. 18, Colangelo was installed as the inaugural Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School.
The newly endowed position was established thanks to a $5 million commitment from Washington University Trustee Ralph Nagel, BS ’67, MArch, ’69, and his wife, Trish Nagel, JD ’74, both of whom are dedicated volunteers and longtime supporters of the university. A formal installation ceremony was held in Steinberg Hall.
“As both an artist and academic leader, Carmon has demonstrated vision and foresight while cultivating a powerful sense of shared mission and community,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Like Carmon, Ralph and Trish are creative thinkers, driven by curiosity but possessing the talent and tenacity to implement their ideas and act upon their beliefs.
“I am deeply grateful that Ralph and Trish have chosen to establish this prestigious position at Washington University and delighted by the opportunity to recognize Carmon’s leadership,” Wrighton added. “Their generosity will help ensure the continued excellence and growth of the Sam Fox School.”
A nationally known artist, Colangelo earned a BFA in printmaking and painting from the University of Windsor in Ontario in 1981 and an MFA in printmaking from Louisiana State University in 1983.
From 1984 to 1996, he headed the printmaking department at West Virginia University and was named chair of the Division of Art there in 1993. In 1997, he was named director of the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia, Athens. He came to Washington University in 2006.
Today Colangelo oversees the Sam Fox School’s four academic units—the College of Art, College of Architecture, Graduate School of Art, and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design—and its Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, home to one of the nation’s finest university collections.
He also serves as the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts and is overseeing the development of two projects—Anabeth and John Weil Hall, which will house the Sam Fox School’s nationally ranked graduate program, and a major expansion of the Kemper Art Museum.
“Carmon leads by doing,” said Provost Holden Thorp. “He enjoys tremendous respect both because of his experience and skill as an academic leader but also because he maintains a vigorous career as a practicing artist.
“Carmon and Ralph are visionary thinkers and hands-on problem-solvers who are passionate in their work and committed to bettering the world around them. We are proud to honor them in this way.”
Ralph Nagel earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Washington University in 1967 and his master’s in 1969. He then studied urban design and city planning at the University of Pennsylvania, winning the state’s prestigious Stewardson Competition, and he later coordinated the winning team in an international competition centering on Louis Sullivan’s historic Wainwright Building complex in St. Louis.
In 1984, Nagel’s interest in both built and social environments led him to found the Meridian Retirement Communities, which he directed for 25 years.
“Ralph Nagel is creative, inspiring, and a passionate entrepreneur, and he has given generously to education at all levels and to the collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit of the Sam Fox School,” Colangelo said. “Ralph has been a special mentor to me, always provoking and encouraging us to be even more ambitious, more innovative, and more courageous—to always think big. This is an amazing honor and a great gift to the school!”
More recently, Ralph co-founded a network of Western-style birthing centers (with Johns Hopkins University serving as clinical partner) in nine of China’s largest cities. He also launched and serves as president of Top Rock LLC in Denver.
Other ventures include ACE, the Alliance for Choice in Education, a K-12 scholarship program that supports thousands of low-income students, and Resolve.today, which provides stable living environments for those recovering from the traumas of addictions, abuse, and mental illness.
An accomplished artist, Ralph is an active member of the Rats des Champs, a Paris-based plein-air painting group, and has exhibited at galleries and museums in Colorado and abroad.
A Washington University trustee, he also serves on the Sam Fox School National Council and chairs the Denver Regional Cabinet. Last spring, he received the Dean’s Medal for service to the Sam Fox School.
With Trish, Ralph recently co-chaired the Colorado Regional Campaign for Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University. In addition to establishing the Ralph J. Nagel Deanship, the Nagels have provided generously for scholarships and facilities at the university and are life members of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society’s Danforth Circle at the Chancellor’s Level.