The notification arrived in the mail. Kathleen Rose Parrott gave very little thought to the envelope from the National Kitchen and Bath Association — at first. She assumed it was just a mass mailing, but as the Virginia Tech Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management professor read, the missive was anything but an ordinary form letter.

On second glance, the letter informed her she was the 2020 inductee into the Kitchen and Bath Industry Hall of Fame. This status honors individuals who have contributed to the growth and professionalism of the kitchen and bath industry. 

“I was so surprised,” she said. “I had no knowledge that my peers were honoring me in this way.”

As the 2020 inductee, Parrott is no stranger to the association. For many years, she has collaborated with the organization to produce research, publish books, and induct students into its membership. 

Through the Center for Real Life Design, based in her department, Parrott and her fellow faculty members helped develop standards for the kitchen and bath design industry. They surveyed professional designers and researched consumer expectation for storage in those areas. They took measurements and photographs and made recommendations for guidelines, which the industry adopted.

To help designers apply these findings, the association started a certification program.

“The association published a series of consolidated books that included the total body of knowledge people need to become certified professionals in the industry,” Parrott said. 

She coauthored two of these with, among others, Julia Beamish, also a celebrated kitchen and bath designer and the head of the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management, which is in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. One volume was for bath planning and the other for kitchens; both included guidelines, codes, and standards.

For Parrott, these practical applications, such as making homes safe and efficient, are why she went into teaching. She prefers design that can stand the test of time rather than passing trends. Early in her career she decided these assets — paired with her enjoyment of interacting with people — suited her as a professor rather than as a traditional designer.

For 32 years, Parrott has been a member of the Virginia Tech community. After earning her Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Cornell University, she started as an associate professor of housing in the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension. At first, she taught classes to the public, but soon also began teaching students within the department. 

Parrott then became a professor of housing, eventually working solely in the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management, where she continues to teach residential environments and design. Within this program, her roles include being an undergraduate advisor and a coordinator for the residential environments and design major and the accredited kitchen and bath design specialization. She is also faculty affiliate for the Center for Real Life Design and the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Parrott has received several accolades, including the Housing Education and Research Association’s Housing Impact Award, as well as the Distinguished Service Award and designation as the keynote speaker for the 2001 National Kitchen and Bath Association annual conference. She was the recipient of an Excellence in Research and Creative Scholarship Award from the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. From the college’s earlier iteration as the College of Human Sciences and Education, she received the Excellence in Outreach Education Award.

Parrott thinks fondly back to the induction ceremony held during the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center last month. She recalls the remarks given by Allison Lowrie, chairman of the board, about how unusual this year’s award was because the selection committee gave it to an educator. Parrott noted that the honor usually goes to an industry leader or a top designer. Lowrie highlighted Parrott’s involvement in creating and implementing the certified design process, her publications, and the number of outstanding designers in the field who have graduated from the Virginia Tech program. 

“It was really a humbling experience,” Parrott said. “Getting that kind of recognition was an affirmation that it has all been worthwhile. As I look to retirement, I’m lucky to have this honor. It helps me say to myself, ‘Yeah, you’ve made an impact over your years of working.’”

Parrott plans to retire after the Spring 2020 semester. 

Written by Leslie King