images of three women standing together, one holding a plaque
From left: Susan Taber Avila, design professor; Jo Ann Stabb, professor emerita; and Adele Zhang, curator of the design collection.

In Memoriam: Jo Ann Stabb, Professor Emerita and Namesake of Design Collection

Jo Ann Stabb, a founding member of the UC Davis Department of Design and a widely recognized scholar of textiles, died Feb. 13 in Walnut Creek, California. She was 80.

“Jo Ann Stabb essentially started the textile and fashion curriculum in the department,”  design professor Susan Taber Avila said in a 2017 interview. “She captured the zeitgeist of the wearable art movement and brought that creativity into her teaching. She understood and championed the value of studying actual textiles and artifacts.”

Stabb was a designer, author and lecturer focusing on the field of fashion and wearable art. She taught at UC Davis from 1968 to 2002 and continued collaborating with the Department of Design long after her retirement. The department’s textile collection was named in her honor in 2017. Stabb donated many items to the collection.

“Jo Ann was my teacher, mentor, friend and colleague,” said Avila (M.F.A., textile arts and costume design, ’96). “She was larger than life in her accomplishments yet humble and a bit of a goofball. She was devoted to UC Davis and a great connector — always forwarding items she felt were important for me or our students.”

Another of Stabb’s students, Adele Zhang (M.F.A., textile arts and costume design, ’99), is now the design collection curator and manager.

"I was so fortunate to meet Jo Ann as a student before her retirement,” Zhang said.  “Without Jo Ann’s belief in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career path. She taught me to be a thoughtful teacher and a caring individual."

Her former student Mary Schoeser (B.S., design, ’72) also reflected on Stabb as mentor and friend.

“From September 1969, when I got to UC Davis, until just two days before we lost her, Jo Ann was the greatest coach one could ask for, always expecting the best but equally supportive, welcoming and generous with her knowledge and connections,” said Schoeser, author of The Art of Mankind and World Textiles: A Concise History.

Stabb’s writings on contemporary wearables were published in Surface Design Journal, American Craft magazine and the Australian Wearable Art Association Journal. She lectured internationally, including for the World Crafts Council, Costume Society of America, International Textile and Apparel Association, Surface Design Association and numerous other museums and arts organizations. She was executive producer of the video series “Wearable Art from California,” which was distributed through the University of California and internationally through the United States Information Agency. Her own textile work was shown around the globe. She was a member of the National Board of Directors of the Costume Society of America, the Surface Design Association, the Textile Society of America, and the Textile Arts Council of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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