Students in Elaine Meisch’s interior design courses at Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) learned quickly that there was much more to the trade than creating pleasing color schemes. They had to learn everything from what made good carpeting to the features of solidly built furniture to the use of lighting and even drafting.
“The program was very rigorous,” said her daughter Lois, of Edina. “It was very technical. It was not just picking out wall covering.”
Starting with only 12 students and teaching her first courses in a dusty automobile showroom, Meisch founded the interior design program in 1970 when the two-year school in Rosemount was just getting started.
Under her leadership, the program was one of the college’s original three majors and grew to become one of its largest, with more than 125 students and five instructors.
Meisch died April 6 at Fairview Southdale Hospital in her hometown of Edina after undergoing surgery for a broken hip. She was 96.
Meisch graduated from Minneapolis North High School during the Great Depression. She paid her own way to attend the University of Minnesota, where she graduated with a major in architecture and a minor in fine arts. Those were subjects she developed an interest in as a child, her daughter said.
While at the U, Meisch met her husband, Francis, an architect who helped design the current Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Hennepin County Medical Center and the Minnesota Zoo.
In 1947, the couple took second place and won $500 for the living room arrangement they designed for the national Better Homes For Living competition sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. Elaine Meisch went on to become a freelance consultant for large corporations, including Univac and Sperry Rand. She traveled throughout North America and Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, turning building interiors into pleasing spaces, her daughter said.
Meisch taught at DCTC for 12 years during the 1970s and early 1980s. She was honored with the school’s Teacher of Excellence Award during the 1982-83 school year. Meisch also taught adult education classes in Edina and Minneapolis schools, her daughter said.
“Her classes were excellent, and she was an excellent teacher,” said Gloria Williamson, who studied interior design at DCTC. “She made every one of her students feel as if they were her favorite.”
Though demanding, Meisch made sure her students were well prepared to enter the job market, said Bernadette Scharpen, who taught with Meisch at DCTC.
“She put a high priority on making sure they got good jobs,” Scharpen said. “She was very visual. She worked with them so they could see it, not just hear it. She was ahead of her time with experiential learning.”
Meisch was a member of the Association of Women on Architecture, a founding member of the National Home Fashions League and was included in the 1947 edition of “Who’s Who in American Women,” family members said.
Meisch helped with estate sales put on by her church, St. Stephen’s in Edina. She liked to travel and was active in a book club until a month before her death.
“She had a lifelong love of learning and teaching,” her daughter said. “She did that until the day she died.”
Besides her daughter Lois, Meisch is survived by daughter Lynn Meisch, of Walnut Creek, Calif.; a son, Richard, of Houston; a sister, Geraldine “Jerry” Hanson, of Fresno, Calif., and a brother, Alden Hanson, of Colorado Springs, Colo. A service and reception will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. June 14 at the Cremation Society of Minnesota, 7110 France Av. S., Edina.