Jo A. Lonam

Obituary: Jo Lonam founded Sacramento State's interior design program

Published: Thursday, May. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 28, 2013 - 8:42 am

Jo A. Lonam, a world traveler and scholar who helped establish interior design as a field of study at California State University, Sacramento, died May 12 of cancer, friends said. She was 81.

With a refined taste and love of art, Ms. Lonam was instrumental in elevating interior design from a home economics course – like cooking or sewing – to a separate bachelor's degree program at CSUS. She joined the faculty in 1966 and was a professor for 28 years.

"She was the founding mother of the interior design program," said Lee Anderson, a retired design professor and chairman. "She wrote the courses and put everything together for the department."

Ms. Lonam spent two years as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and represented CSUS as a member of the statewide California State University Academic Senate. Friends said she retired in 1994 but taught courses in Asian and American design part time as a professor emeritus.

"She was very student-oriented and a very hard worker," Anderson said. "She influenced so many students working in design today."

Ms. Lonam, who was particularly interested in Asian art and culture, traveled widely for pleasure and academic study. Besides many trips to Japan, she visited Turkey, Jordan, Thailand and Burma and countries in Europe.

With CSUS professor Lee Kavaljian, she led local teachers on research trips to India and China funded by the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program of the U.S. Department of Education.

She collected Chinese papercuts, a folk art, which she exhibited in lectures and a showing at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco.

"She was always interested in art and wanted to pursue an advanced degree in art history," Kavaljian said. "But she didn't because she had to take care of her mother."

Born Oct. 16, 1931, in Iowa, Ms. Lonam grew up in Santa Barbara and earned a home economics degree from UC Santa Barbara. She earned a master's degree from Columbia University and a master's degree in art history from the East-West Center at University of Hawaii. She taught at California State University, Chico, before moving to Sacramento.

Ms. Lonam, who was not married and had no children or other immediate survivors, pursued many cultural and community interests with close friends.

Besides visiting museums and attending Berkeley Repertory Theatre, she volunteered at the Sacramento State library and evaluated artworks donated to the American Cancer Society's Discovery Shop.

She served as president of the Sacramento Center for Textile Arts and secretary for the Sacramento State Emeritus Association."She was very likable," Kavaljian said. "She dressed well and kept her home well. She had high standards – not showy, but there was always some level of elegance."

Services are pending.

Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.

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