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Natalie Altieri’s sweet personality and dedication to fashion created relationships far beyond her hometown of Canton, Ohio, and the University of Cincinnati. Those friendships and connections have brought her family comfort since Natalie’s tragic death in 2015.
A 21-year-old, third-year student in UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning fashion program, Natalie died in a skiing accident in California. She was completing a fashion co-op at BCBG in Los Angeles at the time.
One way that Natalie’s parents, Bruce and Beth Altieri, have dealt with their loss is to give back to the college and program Natalie loved so much. Not only have they set up a scholarship, they have supported a new Fashion Technology Center at the Myron E. Ullman Jr. School of Design.
The Natalie Altieri Scholarship Fund supports fashion students that have accepted a co-op outside the Cincinnati metropolitan area. Besides her BCBG co-op in L.A., Natalie’s first co-op had been with Carrie K. in Singapore. Bruce and Beth say that Natalie greatly appreciated these co-op opportunities and wanted such for other students.
“We established a scholarship that any DAAP student can apply for to help with co-op travel expenses,” Beth says. “It is something I think Natalie would have really liked. Natalie loved the co-op aspect of the DAAP fashion program, and viewed it as an opportunity for fashion houses worldwide to realize the quality of skillsets and training the faculty of the DAAP fashion program provides its students.”
The first scholarship recipient, Brenda Wedinger, found a connection to Natalie…in Italy.
Receiving the scholarship less than one year after Natalie’s death, “Brenda decided to ‘hop the pond’ and go to Milan for her co-op,” shares Beth. “She took a weekend excursion to the Amalfi coast. She arrived very late at night and her roommates in her hostel were asleep. In the morning, she told her roommates that she was from the United States and from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. Upon hearing University of Cincinnati, one of the young women asked, ‘Did you know Natalie Altieri?’ It was one of Natalie’s very good friends from high school.”
This story provides some solace for the Altieris. They lost a thoughtful daughter who called home every day and made friends wherever she went. One of Bruce’s favorite memories is accompanying Natalie to buy a sewing machine on their departure from UC at the end of her first year. She and the saleswomen looked at machines, discussed their mutual craft and bonded. They had such a good time that they kept the store open past closing so Natalie could make the right decision.
“As we left the store, a Bernina sewing machine in hand, Natalie apologized for spending so much time and delaying our departure. I thought, ‘Natalie, you just showed me for the past two hours what you have been learning from the university and DAAP. It’s been a priceless day,’” Bruce says.
She thought the world of UC. Allowing us to be part of this Center and experiencing the talent, creativity, excitement and energy of the DAAP fashion program that Natalie held so dear has been most therapeutic. We are grateful to the students and faculty for allowing us to be a part of this ongoing endeavor.
Bruce Altieri Natalie Altieri's father
The Altieris took another step in honoring Natalie’s memory with their support of DAAP’s new Fashion Technology Center. The Center includes an apparel production lab, a textile innovation lab and software for creating wearable technology and 3D pieces. These labs and their machines allow DAAP’s fashion programs to remain competitive and provide students the opportunity to learn the skills they need for a constantly evolving industry.
Bruce and Beth recently toured the Fashion Technology Center. They met one of Natalie’s instructors, Injoo Kim, professor, Fashion Design Program, who told them she remembers Natalie’s daily lunch of quinoa and vegetables.
Kim clearly recalls Natalie’s effort to design and create a dress in her pattern-making class and said she did “the perfect job.”
“Natalie was very gentle, very kind,” says Kim. “She was always caring for people. Very quiet but had charisma. Very thoughtful and very gentle young lady. She did excellent work. Her classmates respected her.”
Kim says she thinks of Natalie often as she teaches in the sewing lab that the Altieris and other donors made possible.
Zach Hoh, assistant professor of practice, Fashion Design Program coordinator, agrees that the new technology will make a huge impact.
“We have to make sure we are staying on the pulse of what is happening in the fashion industry,” he says. “A lot of that is driven by technology, and the Altieris have given us the opportunity to revive our technology and engage our students. We couldn’t have done any of this without their help and support of the program.”
Bruce and Beth say Natalie would be thrilled by the Fashion Technology Center and the opportunities it provides others.
“She thought the world of UC,” Bruce says. “Allowing us to be part of this Center and experiencing the talent, creativity, excitement and energy of the DAAP fashion program that Natalie held so dear has been most therapeutic. We are grateful to the students and faculty for allowing us to be a part of this ongoing endeavor.”
The networks Natalie created at UC continue to be a common thread in her family’s lives. During her recent honeymoon, Natalie’s sister, Audrey, and her husband Tom, spent a day with designer Carrie K. in Singapore. The designer still sells a ring that Natalie helped design as part of her Burglar Ants collection. Also, the family feels blessed to maintain contact with Natalie’s college friends and follow their careers.
“Natalie met so many people here that we still have in our lives,” says Beth. “She’s just circled so many people into our lives and it’s just been very comforting, but also very beautiful. They still love her, too.”
“One of Natalie’s greatest gifts was the ability to identify and surround herself with very good people, and in her 21 years, she blessed us with such ongoing relationships which definitely include those of the students and faculty members of the DAAP fashion program,” conclude the Altieris.
Featured image at top: Zach Hoh, assistant professor of practice, Fashion Design Program coordinator, and Ashley N. Kubley, head of the Fashion Technology Center and assistant professor of Fashion Design. Photo/Jacyln Poeschl/UC Foundation