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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

New design scholarship offered in honor of former City College student

Photo courtesy of John Blake

Whimsical, playful and sweet. That is how John Blake describes his deceased wife, Sarah Hansel. 

Hansel, a former City College student, died at 31 years old on Oct. 16, 2020, “surrounded by the comfort and love of her husband, sister and parents,” according to an obituary in The Sacramento Bee.

A new $500 to $1,000 scholarship for design students in the Los Rios Community College District is now being offered in Hansel’s honor. The deadline is Friday, March 3.

Hansel was a graphic designer and art director at the Sacramento News & Review. In her free time, she volunteered with the Sacramento SPCA and often incorporated her love for animals in her work, according to the obituary. 

Photo courtesy of John Blake. Hansel is photographed above with a Sacramento News & Review stand that she painted.

Although Hansel was talented at graphic design and illustration, that wasn’t what she had intended to pursue career-wise. Blake says that Hansel originally received a degree in English from UC Davis, but after college felt lost and unsure of what to do. She loved design and illustration but had imposter syndrome combined with some self-esteem issues, Blake says. Going to City College and taking classes there gave her the confidence to go after what she was really passionate about.

Deborah Redmond, director of Nuts & Bolts at the Sacramento News & Review, says that after Hansel went back to school for graphic design, she ended up applying to work at the media company in 2015. 

“[We] saw that she was full of potential and would be an amazing designer,” Redmond says. “And she was a very creative graphic designer, always trying new approaches to her work. She worked in our publications division for three years, designing 8-page publications for nonprofits and other organizations, and then spent the last two years with us designing editorial covers, spreads and special issues.”

While she designed as a career, Hansel also designed for fun, even doing collaboration projects with her husband who works as an animator. Using their pug, Vontae, as a muse, Hansel and her husband worked together to animate him as a jazz performer, outfitted in a porkpie hat, performing a jazz solo with a saxophone.

“It was really fun collaborating, and … making it our own while still sharing it with the world,” Blake says.

Although Hansel was shy at first, her former co-workers say that she was really outgoing and fun to be around. Kate Gonzales, one of those co-workers at SN&R, described her as a calm presence in the newsroom, which juxtaposed with the hectic, deadline-filled environment.

“She was calm and patient and didn’t complain and was creative and kind of everything you want in a designer,” says Gonzales.

Redmond adds that “… several times when someone would suggest a particular illustration style that Sarah hadn’t done before, and she’d accept the challenge and blow us all away with what she came up with … her happy personality came through her work and made me smile.”

In her honor, Blake and other loved ones of Hansel created the Sarah Elizabeth Williams Hansel Memorial Scholarship. Blake hopes that the recurring scholarship “can kind of help break down those financial barriers so that [students] can pursue their dreams and go down a similar path that Sarah went down and kind of give them that confidence. And it’s cool that we can do that every year for a new generation of people.”

The scholarship is open to all Los Rios students “pursuing a degree in graphic communications or taking courses to advance their career in graphic design at any Los Rios college. Applicants must submit up to three examples of graphic art or design work (class or work related), have unmet financial need and a 2.8 or better GPA,” according to the Los Rios Colleges Foundation. 

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