Chairs raise money for charity, honor professor
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Saturday, March 16, 2013
3/16/13 at 7:10 AM
What better way to pay tribute to a professor than by putting the craft he taught to work.
That's what some Tulsa Community College interior design students did over the past few months to commemorate Thomas "Tom" Williams, an adjunct professor of interior design courses, who died last summer at age 53.
This past winter, Jennifer McMahon, associate professor of interior design and a colleague of Williams, was surprised when some of her students ran with one of her ideas to design chairs that would raise money for the Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation. Williams had told students the summer before he passed away that he had a brain tumor.
Students voted on one of the eight student-designed chairs and donated a dollar in exchange for one vote.
When the fundraiser concludes at the end of the month, a winner will be drawn for each chair, and all money collected will be donated to the foundation - one Williams' wife had mentioned on Facebook - McMahon explained. She added that Williams' wife has not been contacted about this effort.
"The students said they wanted to do something," McMahon recalled, before pitching the idea in the fall.
Williams, whose full-time work was as an architect, was a professor who was never fazed by anything, approachable, kind. The type of educator who would come from downtown during finals week to help students put the finishing touches on their work, recalled McMahon along with three of the chair designers and former students of the late instructor.
"It was a shock to me when I found out," said Lisa Weltzheimer, one of Williams's former students, about his death.
By McMahon's account, Williams seemed to be getting progressively better as he ended his spring teaching, so she was surprised to hear from a student over the summer that Williams' health had taken a turn.
Upon the students' return to classes last fall, McMahon gave students the news and before long a plan to commemorate Williams was drawn up, so to speak.
Several students took old chairs either from their homes or purchased at thrift stores and refaced them. Sanded, painted and in some cases, taken completely apart, the chairs were given updated looks and are of the quality one would expect at a retail store.
Joy Remington's had a 1970s flair to it. Mayra Yanez's was a nod to the popular chevron pattern.
Peggy Burks' chair was one her husband used when he was a young boy. The chair once had a brown stain, but Burks turned the small comb-back chair Shabby Chic, painting it white, sanding it here and there to give it a vintage look and adding a seat cushion she made using a blue and white toile patterned fabric with white ribbon ties.
The "Tulsa Chair," a railback with a black seat and legs and a blue back, has photos of Tulsa universities and other landmarks on it. Nicole Elliott said her step-daughter, currently away from the area, had inspired the design. She missed Tulsa.
In some ways, the students shocked themselves with what they produced.
About half of the students who made chairs never even had Williams as an instructor, but they were inspired by the impression he left on his students.
Of the projects the students took on, "Tom would be proud," said Weltzheimer, as she stood before the display of chairs featured in the Student Union of TCC's southeast campus.
Her vintage wooden chair was inspired by a trip to T.A. Lorton, a shop on Cherry Street. She wanted hers to be red lacquer, finished with zebra-striped patterning on the seat.
Williams would definitely be proud, the students having applied some principles that are the same across art disciplines, said Burks, who's finished the program and has assumed one of Williams' courses at TCC.
"It's all connected together and all a process."
Votes for favorite chair raise money
The chair exhibit and competition runs through the month of March
See the chairs in the Student Union at TCC's Southeast Campus, 10300 E. 81st St.
Anyone can vote on their favorite chair with a donation of $1.
An open house and reception honoring graduating interior design students will also announce the results of the fundraiser March 28. All funds will be donated to the Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation.
A winner will be drawn for each chair and the designer whose chair receives the most votes will receive a prize.
For more information or for details on how to vote, call 918-595-7615
For more on the Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation, visit tulsaworld.com/okbtf
Original Print Headline: Chairs for charity
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
Chair design by Peggy Burks. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World
Chair design by JoyRemington. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World
Chair design byLisa Weltzheimer. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World