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“Mexican Bird of Paradise” by Donna Branson

Remembering Design and Merchandising department head Donna Branson

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Media Contact: Kirsi McDowell | Senior Communications Specialist | 405-744-9347 |

Dr. Donna BransonFormer Design and Merchandising department head and regents professor Donna Hahn Branson passed away on Feb. 8, 2023, in her home of Chandler, Arizona. Dr. Branson was hired as an associate professor in Oklahoma State University’s then Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising in 1983. In just four short years, she became a tenured professor and was later chosen as department head in 1993.

During this time, she taught most of the apparel design courses and served as a major professor for 36 graduate students. Under her leadership, student enrollment grew significantly, making DHM the fourth largest department at OSU. Thanks to Branson’s efforts, almost all faculty obtained external funding for their research projects over nearly seven years.

Her contributions in apparel systems design and production of protective clothing are unmatched.

Much of Branson’s research was focused on designing body armor that protects against improvised explosive device bomb attacks while allowing for mobility and passive cooling. This collaborative research was instrumental in protecting the United States Marines Corps during wartime in the Middle East.

Current Design and Merchandising department head Lynn Boorady spoke of the highly regarded professor.

“She really put OSU on the radar of other Research 1 (R1, doctoral) universities doing personal protective equipment research. I visited OSU in 2006 through a research group and was thoroughly impressed with what was being accomplished here,” Dr. Boorady said.

“Her work and legacy was one of the reasons I applied for my position.”

Branson co-authored 50 research articles in various clothing and textiles journals and brought 28 grants, three manufacturing licenses and two patents to the university because of her research on military protective clothing through the Institute of Protective Apparel Research and Technology (iPART), her research institute. She also refereed more than 100 presentations and eight juried design exhibits.

Branson’s awards include: the Mortar Board Outstanding OSU Teacher Award, the Marguerite Scruggs Award for Meritorious Research, the Manmade Fiber Award for Research, the National Textile Center Scientific Excellence Adviser, Oklahoma State University Regents Professor, and in 2006, the Homeland Security Award for innovative, cutting-edge protective apparel design research.

Branson was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2011.

Branson retired from OSU in 2006 but continued to serve as director of iPART in Stillwater until September 2010.

Beyond her scholarly works, Branson was an awarded soft pastel and oil painter in Arizona as a member of the American Impressionist Society, the Gilbert Visual Arts League and a signature member of the Arizona Pastel Artists Association. She enjoyed painting landscapes and florals, and sometimes figurative works.

Donations can be made in Branson’s memory through the OSU Foundation at

Photos By: Phil Shockley and Provided

Story By: Kirsi McDowell ASPIRE Magazine

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