The Studio 50: Don’t Get Your Knickers In A Knot

by Tim Alatorre

Joyce Vagasy (Mickey Dolman), Class of ’62, the first woman to graduate from the Cal Poly Architecture program and Haley’s new hero, tells us about her challenges in school, career, and how design was her life.

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Show Notes

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Rapid Fire Questions:

  • Cal Poly or Berkeley? Cal Poly
  • Parallel bar or T-Square? Parallel
  • Drafting dots or tape? Paper
  • Yellow trace or white? White
  • Mylar or Linen? Mylar
  • Compass or Circle Template? Circle
  • Freehand lettering or Kroy Machine? Freehand
  • Pen or Pencil? Pencil
  • What’s the Meaning of Life? Happiness

SCORE: 128,201.3


  • What have you been up to since graduation?
    • Got a job in New York right after Cal Poly
      • she sent out a letter to every architect in the yellow pages for New York and got 42 replies
      • she was hired by an Italian architect three days after her arrival in New York
    • Moved back to San Francisco
      • experience of being the only woman a firm and other’s feeling towards women architects
    • Ended up starting her own business doing interior architecture with another woman
      • Called it “Environmental Research”
      • Did not want to work for anymore prejudice male architects
    • Went back to NY for a visit and some research for a current project and was given the opportunity to interview with a major textile company
      • Stood up for fair pay as a woman
    • Did Interior Architecture/Design for hotels across the country for 18 years
      • Designed rooms, restaurants, ballrooms, furniture, exhibit design
    • Then moved into designing textiles
      • From her work and travels during her hotel career she made contacts all over the world from the textile industry
    • It’s all about passion, working hard, having fun and doing what it takes to get the job done
  • Why Architecture? Why Cal Poly?
    • Looked at the world of design and saw architecture as the foundation for everything
    • In High School she took a mechanical drawing class and her teacher introduced her to architecture and inspired her to pursue the career
    • She researched where she could go to school as a woman
    • She took the exam and was accepted to Cal Poly (1957), there was a total of 126 women in the entire college, 13 girls in her Freshman Architecture, by Sophomore year she was the only girl to return
  • What was Cal Poly like as a woman in the 1950s?
    • All the girls had to live on campus, curfew was at 10:00, but that didn’t work as an Architecture student, so she got creative to get out of the dorm and into the architecture studio
    • 24 in her graduating class of Architecture
  • Thoughts about George Hasselen
    • He was like a second father
    • He was an amazing mentor
  • Why did you decide not to get your license?
    • Didn’t want to pay the fees every year
    • Her husband had his license so she didn’t need hers
    • She took 2/3rds of the test but got busy with her career and didn’t finish
    • The world of design is larger than just architecture

About the Author

Tim Alatorre