AMES, Iowa — An Iowa State University alumna’s legacy will be honored through a new undergraduate scholarship in the Department of Interior Design.

The Kim Nelson Commercial Interior Design Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to an incoming freshman student from Iowa who intends to major in interior design, with preference given to students interested in a career in commercial interior design. The award will provide support for tuition and fees, room and board for the student’s first year and may be renewed annually through completion of their interior design degree at Iowa State.

The scholarship was established by Tom Nelson, a 1987 Iowa State finance graduate, in memory of his late wife, Kim Nelson, who died June 2 of complications from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Originally from Cedar Falls, Kim Nelson received a bachelor of fine arts in interior design from Iowa State in 1987. She had been a professional interior designer for more than 25 years with Saxton Inc. and Workspace Inc. in Des Moines and worked on projects with an array of high-profile clients, including the Principal Financial Group, EMC Insurance, MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Musco Lighting and William Penn University.

She held National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certification and was a member of the International Interior Design Association.

“Kim tackled Alzheimer’s just like she did a design project, with determination, grace and a smile on her face. She was always about giving back and making a difference in people’s lives with her work, with her Christian faith leading the way,” Tom Nelson said.

“I am proud to honor her with the Kim Nelson Commercial Interior Design Memorial Scholarship at Iowa State University.”

Transformational opportunity

This new scholarship will be “a truly transformational scholastic opportunity” for an incoming student that honors Kim Nelson’s life and work, said Lee Cagley, professor and chair of the interior design department.

“As a graduate of our interior design program, Kim Nelson went on to success and acclaim in the field of commercial interior design in Des Moines, and left a legacy of beautiful spaces in which people thrive and feel valued,” Cagley said. “We are grateful to Tom Nelson for this generous gift, which immeasurably extends Kim’s legacy for future generations.”

The scholarship fund was established via a gift made through the Iowa State University Foundation, a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to securing and managing gifts and grants that benefit Iowa State University.


Lee Cagley, Interior Design Department Chair, lcagley@iastate.edu
Kim McDonough, College of Design Senior Director of Development, (515) 294-7272, kmcdonough@foundation.iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, College of Design Communications Director, (515) 294-9289, hsauer@iastate.edu