IDSA Mourns Loss of ID Student Nohemi Gonzalez in Terrorist Attacks
The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) Student Chapter faculty advisor at California State University-Long Beach (CSULB), and industrial design assistant professor—David Teubner, IDSA—tells Voice of America the 23-year-old ID student, Nohemi Gonzalez, who was one of the 129 people killed Nov. 13, 2015 in the terrorist attack in Paris, was a hard working person who also mentored other students. “Energetic, bubbly, warm, wonderful and crazy…. She sent me an email last week telling me how much she was enjoying it over there; how much she was learning.”
Teubner adds, "Nohemi was very involved with her classmates, program and student chapter. She attended the WDDC (IDSA’s West District Design Conference) in San Jose last spring (in April 2015) and I remember how excited she was when she returned and how much the conference inspired her."
“This is a tragedy brought even closer to home with the horrific loss of one of our own,” says Chair John Barratt, IDSA Board of Directors, from the West Coast headquarters of TEAGUE where he serves as president and CEO. “Nohemi Gonzalez represented the hope of the next generation of industrial designers, trying to make a difference in the world through the power of industrial design. By all accounts, she had already impacted many."
"It turns out I had met her," says Jason Belaire, IDSA Board of Directors' Western District VP who chaired the 2015 WDDC, "As a design student, she took the time to attend and connect with other students and professionals. She could have easily spent her time, energy and money on other things. She, in many ways, exemplified what is so important to mankind—connectivity." (See more in Belaire's comments posted below this article.)
At a campus candlelight vigil attended by hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni on Nov. 15, CSULB College of the Arts Department of Design Chair, Professor Martin Herman, remembers Gonzalez as “a beautiful soul who was absolutely passionate about design” and “possessed a character that was truly rare.”
She "practiced goodness and compassion in her friendships and relationships with others,” Herman adds. “She exuded such energy and enthusiasm and infused the entire department with these same qualities by virtue of her presence…. It’s just unimaginable that she won’t be there. It’s a terrible void.”
Gonzalez was one of about 20 industrial design students set to graduate from CSULB in spring of 2016. She was a teaching assistant in a basic design class. Herman says Gonzalez touched practically all the design students’ lives. “She viewed the world with trust, openness, imagination and playfulness,” he recalls.
Herman says Gonzalez focused on making things that would help people, which is what led her into industrial design. Herman tells Southern California Public Radio, Gonzalez wanted to be a designer from the moment she started school, and that kind of drive led her and her team to a prize in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. Polli Snak was a 100 percent biodegradable pack of nuts, dried fruits and dehydrated expandable soil and seeds to cultivate a plant.
Gonzalez took a furniture design course with CSULB instructor Joe Ricchio. "She wasn't afraid to say what she thought about her work and her classmates' work, which is how you learn. What's nice about her is she participated consistently.... She liked to share with everyone."
Design Professor Michael LaForte calls Gonzalez “a shining star and she brought joy, happiness, laughter to everybody she worked with and her students, her classmates.”
“She was a great person,” classmate Alex Schumacher says. “She was always the last one to leave the shop. She would yell at you if you didn’t clean up your area. She’d always be the first person to help you as well. She was one of the hardest workers in our group.”
Another classmate, Deborah Green, calls Nohemi “a spirited little firecracker—just such a little spark plug—really terrific—great little designer…. An amazing, amazing woman. She was going to set the world on fire.”
Gonzalez left home Sept. 1 to attend the Strate School of Design in Paris for a semester. She reportedly was eating at an outdoor café Le Petit Cambodge when she was killed in a spray of gunfire. Gonzalez was one of a group of four CSULB students scheduled to return in December to the United States. The university says the others are deciding whether to leave sooner.
Strate held a vigil for Gonzalez on Nov. 16. "I had hoped with all my heart that nobody from our community had been affected by this barbaric violence afflicted upon Paris Friday evening. Unfortunately, my worst fears came true. Strate lost a young, promising, talented student on exchange from the United States. Her name was Nohemi Gonzalez,” the school posts on its Facebook page.
Also on Facebook, a post from a photography student who had very briefly met Gonzalez by chance over the summer. “We come into contact with thousands and thousands of people as we go about our lives. We remember very few of them. The rest either dissolve into a blur or rise to the front of our consciousness. But I remember Nohemi. She made an impression on me…. While I have difficulty seeing the positive in a grave situation like this, may this be a reminder to us that life is unpredictable, fleeting, and sacred. May we act accordingly. May we live in a world with compassion and understanding, even in the face of violence.”
Classmates set up a fund in memory of Gonzalez to help her family pay expenses. The Department of Design hosted a reception in honor of Gonazalez on Sunday, Dec. 13, in the Anderson Design Gallery "to celebrate a life full of creativity, friendship and joy."
In December 2017, a plaque in her memory was unveiled in design building. It was created and fabricated based on a design Gonzalez herself conceived while studying near Paris. It reads, “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.”