Alan Donaldson

R. Alan Donaldson
Years of Service in the College of Textiles 1976-2006

  • 1976 – 1980 Assistant Professor, School of Textiles joint with School of Design
  • 1980- Associate Professor, School of Textiles joint with School of Design
  • 1980-1989– Full time Associate Professor Textile Technology Department, School of Textiles
  • 1989-2006 Professor of Textile Design, Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management Department, College of Textiles
  • 2006- Professor Emeritus

R. (Robert) Alan Donaldson was born in Moffat, Scotland, the son of Joseph Donaldson, a mathematician and high school teacher, and Agnes (Nan) M. Brown, Dux, Dumfries Academy and Librarian at Herriot-Watt College, Edinburgh. He is a 1st Class Honors graduate of the Scottish College of Textiles (now the Faculty of Textiles of the Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh), where his thesis research, sponsored by Courtaulds, Ltd., dealt with the integration of special hi-bulk acrylic fibers in the production of novelty yarns. He subsequently did post-graduate study at La Escuela de Diseño Textil in Barcelona, Spain, while working there as a coûture-fabric designer.

He has enjoyed widespread industrial experience, both in the USA and in Europe, having started his career as head designer for the Hayward/Schuster Woolen Mills in Massachusetts, then serving later as a stylist in New York City.  He even “did time” with the double-knit industry in England and Northern Ireland while working with Courtaulds, Ltd. in London, in the early ’70s.

In 1973, he was appointed Lecturer in charge of post-graduate Design studies and Textile Design at University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), and was responsible for initiating and developing that institution’s highly regarded B.Sc. degree in “Textile Design & Design Management”.

In 1976, he was invited to take a joint position as Assistant Professor within the School of Textiles and the School of Design, at NC State University.  He taught basic yarn and weaving course to all students and separate design courses to design students.

1977 – 2006, Alan Donaldson was responsible for supervising the selection and production of an annual class competition to design the following year’s college Bookmark Calendar.

In 1980, he became an Associate Professor in both Schools, with Tenure.  That same year he assumed a full-time appointment within the College of Textiles.

In 1989, he became Professor of Textile Design in the department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management, until his retirement, in 2006.  He maintains an office there as Professor Emeritus, and continues with Textile Design research.

Since 1983, he has been heavily involved in the worldwide evolution and direction of Computer Integrated Design systems for the textile industry and consults to the industry in a variety of capacities – from fiber through finished product.

Since retiring from his full-time post at NCSU College of Textiles, he took classes for a year and qualified as a Docent at the NC Museum of Art, in Raleigh.

He is currently Immediate Past President of the NCSU Association of Retired Faculty – his best job yet!

Honors and Awards

In 1964, Donaldson won 1st and 2nd prizes in the Textile Institute International Design Competition and that same year was the recipient of a scholarship to Paris, where he was under the care of the IWS (International Wool Secretariat) Fashion Office.

In 1965, he received a scholarship for study at the Royal College of Art, in London.

In 1966, he was the awarded the prestigious Dr. Oliver Medal for Design “For Excellence in Textile Design”.

Alan Donaldson is an Associate of the Textile Institute (Chartered Technologist), a Member of the Chartered Society of Designers and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

In 1978, he was instrumental in having NCSU, School of Textiles, designated as one of the centers for the award of the Royal Society of Art’s Silver Medal in Design, in the USA, in recognition of “Design Excellence” among his students.

In 1980, he was elected as a “link” in the Golden Chain society of NCSU.

In 1982, following intensive language and cultural studies, he became a Fellow of the North Carolina Japan Center, and spent a 6-months sabbatical in that country.

In the mid 1980s, Alan was commissioned to design a ‘tapestry’ for a new church, in Raleigh, which had no built-in color décor.  He determined to create an interchanging double-cloth fabric (8’x11’) that would fit the environment, and give the impression of a stained-glass window, utilizing 16 spectral colors in both warp and weft.  This fabric was named “Fenestra” (Latin for window).

The 100% wool yarns were produced and the colors all dyed to specification by Karastan Rug Mills, in Greenville, NC.  Karastan Mills, in Eden, NC subsequently wove the fabric.

David Vess, one of his wonderful graduate students, very ably assisted him in all of this.

In 2016, Alan Donaldson, was invited to give a talk at the Smithsonian Institution which has since been published on-line, in DC, entitled “The Natural Idea” – being an over-view of his life’s work in Textile Design and new product development, based on themes from nature and associated sources around us.

Alan Donaldson on “The Natural Idea”

Figure:  A tapestry, Fenestra.