Samantha Pendleton graduated from NYSID’s BFA program in May 2016, earning high honors and winning the Chairman’s Award. Through a project she was working on for her Contract II course, she was hired by Kenneth Park Architects, where she has been a full-time, practicing interior designer since April 2015. Coincidentally, Pendleton is the great-grandniece of NYSID founder Sherrill Whiton, a fact that’s especially meaningful as we celebrate our 100th anniversary and look back at the College’s impact on generations of designers. Pendleton shares her reflections on gratitude and grit.
You were enrolled in an interior design BFA program at American Intercontinental University in London before transferring to NYSID. What brought you to New York?
In high school, I realized I was interested in the field, and my mother, an interior designer, encouraged me to take a look at “Uncle Gus’s school.” (Uncle Gus is the name my family uses for Sherrill Whiton.) I seriously considered it, but at the time I had my heart set on going to London. Once I got to American Intercontinental University, I began to suspect that that program, which emphasizes architecture, was a poor fit for me. I wanted a balance of architecture and interior design. I began to research “Uncle Gus’s school” and realized it was exactly what I wanted. I came to New York to study at NYSID.
Did the Barbara Bernie Scholarship make a difference in your educational experience?
It wasn’t clear I would be able to continue my studies until I got the scholarship. At the time I applied to NYSID, my family was having financial difficulty. I have four siblings, two whom were of college age. I was having trouble getting loans. I don’t take what I do for granted: I am grateful for the scholarship and the opportunity to study at the College.
What was the most important and interesting project you worked on at NYSID?
I took Contract III at the same time I was working on my thesis prep. It was the first time I had worked on a healthcare environment. That was a time of incredible creativity for me, when I focused all I had learned into a self-directed project. The subject of my thesis was an alternative rehabilitation center for wounded soldiers, which allowed for art therapy, sports medicine, service animals, and other alternative healing. I wanted to make something for the service men and women who have sacrificed so much for us.
You graduated in May 2016, yet you have been working for more than a year at Kenneth Park Architects. Did NYSID play a role in helping you secure this job?
Actually, yes. When I was in Contract II, we worked on a retail design project—the plans for a new Tourneau store in Manhattan’s Bryant Park. Kenneth Park Architects was the architect on the project. They reviewed my proposal and called me in for an interview. My style closely matched the style of the firm, and they offered me a position working on the Tourneau store.
Did you ever meet Sherrill Whiton?
No, he passed away before I could meet him, but my great aunt did share stories. For example, Uncle Gus was supposed to have been on the Titanic in 1912, but he stayed home to care for his sick wife. If he had gone down with that ship, the New York School of Interior Design might never have existed.
About the Barbara Bernie Scholarship
Barbara Bernie was a NYSID alumna who dedicated a part of her estate to create the endowed scholarship fund that has helped Samantha Pendleton and so many others realize their dreams. An expert in color, Bernie worked with NYSID founder Sherrill Whiton to develop and teach the College’s color courses. She also served as the school registrar for several years. Bernie passed away in 2004, but her memory lives on at NYSID.