The Cal State Long Beach design department will keep the spirit of Nohemi Gonzalez alive with major plans to refurbish a workshop after receiving a generous donation of $10,000 for the Nohemi Gonzalez Shop Initiative.
The international tragedy hit home when news of Gonzalez’s death in the Nov. 13, 2015 Paris attack was the first name to be announced in the States.
Gonzalez was a senior industrial design student who was spending the fall semester in Paris. She worked in the design department workshop as an assistant and was known for being “the first one in and last one out,” according to Martin Herman, chair of the design department.
The Nohemi Gonzalez Shop Initiative will raise money to refurbish the design department’s lower division shop, purchase new equipment and rename the shop after Gonzalez with an honorary plaque.
“This check just now came from GK Design,” said David Teubner, program coordinator for the industrial design program. “They have been a big help to our program and this is their latest involvement. Norman Kerechuk [the president of GK Design International] is the one who got in touch with me. Initially he pledged $5,000 but when he gave me the check right now it was actually $10,000 and I was a little surprised.”
The Design Department originally collaborated with California Pizza Kitchen back in January for the Pizza with a Purpose fundraiser and raised almost $5,000 in honor of Gonzalez.
“We created a fund for her study abroad program through the university but we thought this shop meant so much to her, and she spent so much time here,” Teubner said.
According to professors and friends, Gonzalez was known for being in the shop late to work on her own projects, or to help others.
“That’s what it’s all about, making a shop she would be proud of because she was the primary mover and shaker of the shop when she was a student here,” said Herman. “Not only did she spend all of her time working in here as a maker and designer, but she also was a student assistant.”
Melissa Saiko, an industrial design major who met Gonzalez during the summer, is now one of the new assistants in the workshop and said [working there] is “bittersweet.” She remembers Gonzalez spending about three extra hours every day plus opening the shop on weekends for students who needed to use it.
“We are doing so much to make this shop [hers] because she owned this place,” Saiko said. “She walked in and was in charge and [helped] out and would do everything and it was for everyone else … everyone is putting work into it, which will definitely pass her hopes on.”
Saiko made a painting in honor of Gonzalez that hangs by the front door to keep her strong spirit alive and inspire those students familiar with her feisty, yet positive, attitude. Saiko said Gonzalez pushed students hard, and that it would be common to hear, “Why are you doing it that way?” and “I wouldn’t have done it that way” come from her, but she helped students regardless.
“It feels like her spirit is over us, helping through the generosity of these people, and it will definitely help to contribute to organize the shops better and teach them better skills so we’ll benefit out of this,” said Matias Ocaña, Nohemi’s former professor and an industrial design lecturer. Ocaña described Gonzalez as full of life and always willing to help others.
”Nohemi is an angel for us in the studio over here,” Ocaña said.
Teubner said that eventually a website will be set up for the initiative, and they will continue to get the word out.
“Thanks to Norman and CPK and other people who have donated,” he said. “Hopefully we will get the momentum going, we’ll get more people to donate and we’ll have a world-class shop.”