Kindness, Creativity of KCAD Alumna Nancy Oakes-Hall Live On Through New Scholarship

Posted November 30, 2020 in Alumni, Master of Fine Arts, Giving

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) is pleased to introduce a new scholarship endowment established to honor the life and memory of Nancy Oakes-Hall, a 2003 graduate of the KCAD MFA program and a longtime supporter of student scholarship opportunities at the college.

The Nancy Oakes-Hall Memorial Fine Arts Scholarship Endowment will award an annual scholarship to a degree-seeking student who demonstrates financial need and is enrolled in one of KCAD’s BFA Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Photography or Sculpture and Functional Art programs, or the MFA Painting program. Students can apply by submitting a written essay that expresses how they hope to realize their educational and/or career goals in the face of personal, economic, cultural or social challenges.

Two women pose together during a college graduation ceremony

Nancy Oakes hall (left) and fellow KCAD alum Catherine Creamer during Oakes-Hall's graduation from KCAD in 2003 (image courtesy of Catherine Creamer)

The new KCAD scholarship is just one of the ways Oakes-Hall’s legacy pays it forward, along with annual scholarships to the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) and Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado.

Born and raised in Aspen, Colorado, Oakes-Hall demonstrated a creative spirit, generosity, and love of life that extended from the mountains where she grew up to the studios where she immersed herself in her art. An avid ski racer who competed at the national level, she also taught at The Aspen Valley Ski Club and the Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen.

Oakes-Hall begin her creative career in weaving and textile arts. Working as a knit designer for a company in Sand Point, Idaho, she created hats and other accessories with a colorful and cheery aesthetic that matched her personality and infectious optimism. Over the years, she would shift her artistic practice to focus on painting.

Marriage took Oakes-Hall to Grand Rapids, Michigan, but she continued to return to Colorado whenever possible, enjoying her time on the slopes and taking art workshops at Anderson Ranch. In 2000, she enrolled at KCAD, where she discovered encaustic painting and later served as an adjunct professor.

Catherine Creamer, a textile artist and longtime friend of Oakes-Hall, recalls, “Nancy was always a really creative person and a creative thinker. She had taken workshops at Anderson Ranch before, but the creative process at KCAD really expanded her experimenting and variety of techniques. She became much more cerebral as a painter. Her work took on the interconnectedness of everything, embedding gold and other things in the encaustic. She was active in her studio, and she was serious about her painting. Graduating from KCAD was a validation of her work. It took her from being an avid student to ultimately running workshops at the Ranch.”

After her passing, several of those near and dear to Oakes-Hall recognized that art education should play a prominent part in her estate. Creamer said, “I know Nancy wanted to give back to KCAD. She would have wanted this scholarship to help those who don’t have means, those from underprivileged backgrounds who want to pursue their dreams of studying art.”

Lorna Petersen, a lifelong friend and executor of Oakes-Hall’s foundation, agrees, “Nancy was always an artist, from her funky mountain clothes to her penmanship. She loved KCAD, and she just loved art.”

Asked to manage Oakes-Hall’s charitable foundation, Petersen said, “I looked at her hobbies and passions, and KCAD was a big part of it. She always wanted to be the difference that made the difference for someone, and since a lot of people can’t afford college, I thought she would have wanted to change that.”

Petersen adds, “Nancy just had a way of being the sunshine. She would help anybody, and she continued that throughout the day she died. If you asked about skiing, she would ski with you. If you asked about art, she would love to talk about it with you. She did that with everybody. Her motto was, ‘Be the best version of yourself that you can be,’ and that was the way she really lived, paying it forward.”

For KCAD President Tara McCrackin, the Nancy Oakes-Hall Fine Arts Memorial Scholarship and other endowed scholarships reflect the college’s commitment to fostering a supportive creative community, both on campus and in the world at-large.

“Our roots run deep at KCAD, and nowhere is that more apparent than in stories of alumni and friends like Nancy whose creative journey inspires them to help make it possible for current and future students to find their own path forward,” said President McCrackin. “We’re honored by Nancy’s gift and we can’t wait to see where this vital support leads our students in the years to come.”

The Nancy Oakes-Hall Memorial Fine Arts Scholarship will be awarded annually beginning with the 2021-2022 academic year. Applications will open in Spring 2021.

To learn more about how you can establish a new scholarship endowment or support scholarship opportunities by contributing to a current scholarship endowment at KCAD please visit

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