AMES, Iowa — Lee Cagley, professor emeritus and former chair of the Iowa State University Department of Interior Design, is the recipient of the 2023 Christian Petersen Design Award, the highest honor presented by the Iowa State College of Design.

Established in 1980, the award is given annually to alumni, staff and friends of the university for distinguished work that advances of design the art and design professions. It is named for the noted artist Christian Petersen, who was Iowa State’s sculptor-in-residence from 1934–1955.

Cagley, originally from Des Moines and now of Las Vegas, received a BA in interior design with distinction from Iowa State in 1975. He will be honored at the ISU Alumni Association’s 92nd Honors and Awards Ceremony at 1:30 p.m. CT Friday, Nov. 3, at Stephens Auditorium in Ames and streamed live online. A dessert reception will follow. Both the ceremony and reception are free and open to the public.

A giant in the hospitality and gaming design industries, Cagley practiced interior design for 37 years (1976–2013), including as head of his own design firm in Las Vegas. He completed projects for resort hotels, casinos, and nightclubs throughout the U.S., with some of the most famous properties in Las Vegas — Bellagio, Mirage, Luxor, Flamingo — among them, as well in Perth, Australia, and Shanghai. His award-winning work has been featured in such magazines as Hospitality Design, Travel & Leisure, Interior Design and Conde Nast Traveler.

From 2009 until his retirement in 2022, Cagley served first as interior design program director and then chair of the Iowa State interior design department. He taught interior design history, the junior interior design studio, the professional practice class and an experimental interior design graduate course. He served as the College of Design’s interim associate dean for academic programs from 2012–2013.

Cagley received the College of Design Academic Advising Award in 2013 and was named one of the 30 most admired design educators nationwide by DesignIntelligence in 2014. Students in his interdisciplinary “Hotel” option studio regularly were named winners and finalists in the annual national Hospitality Design Awards.

A member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Cagley served on the ISU Interior Design Advisory Council from 2002–2008 and the Northcrest Community (Ames) board of directors from 2016–2022. He and his husband, Larry Davis, are life members of the ISU Alumni Association and belong to the ISU Order of the Knoll Campanile Society.

Cagley, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, grew up in Des Moines and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1968. He studied architecture at Rice University in Houston before enrolling in Iowa State’s interior design program. He won the Janice Peterson Anderson Medallion Award, given annually to an outstanding Iowa State senior in graphic design, interior design or integrated studio arts who “shows the greatest potential for distinguished work in design.”


Saylor Upah, College of Design Events and Alumni Relations,
Heather Sauer, College of Design Strategic Communications, 515-294-9289,