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Pioneering ArtCenter Professor Retires After 51 Years

Published on Sunday, May 1, 2022 | 8:17 am

Professor Robert “Bob” Schureman [Courtesy photo]
At 93, Professor Robert “Bob” Schureman still exudes infectious enthusiasm as he shares his fascination for design and plastic fabrication. Schureman, who pioneered the plastics program at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, retired after a 51-year career as Professor of Materials and Methods.

He spoke to Pasadena Now on his retirement and his lifelong passion for plastic fabrication which sustained his teaching career for over five decades. 

In 1965, Schureman was teaching at Estancia High School in Costa Mesa where he set up the first full curriculum plastics program in California and a new technology of building molds out of foam, opposed to the old technique of plaster. 

The program was highly successful, and he soon had students making canoes and race cars. One of his students, a 17-year-old, made a Formula One race car using that technology, won a state award, got invited to an automotive conference, and was featured in magazines for his efforts. 

“The best part was fiber glassing,” Schureman said of his days at Estancia. “We had a 20-foot spray booth and a chopper gun. And you can imagine a 17- or 18-year-old boy or girl building an 18-foot Tahiti speedboat or dune buggy, or actually making a mold of a canoe or kayak!”

Gordon Buehrig, who designed the Cord 810 and later Cord 812 for the Auburn Automobile Company in 1936 and 1937, heard about what was happening at Estancia, and he contacted Schureman about possibly designing a scale car out of foam. Schureman did, and soon Buehrig was offering him the post he was retiring from at ArtCenter. That was in 1971. 

“So it worked out so good for me and a wonderful experience,” Schureman said. “So that’s how I got started there (ArtCenter).”

Schureman continued teaching at Estancia up to 1985 after accepting the position at ArtCenter, where he has introduced generations of students to the many fabrication processes used in design and product development, staying on top of trends and technologies in an ever-innovating field.

He also managed the plastics program at CalState University in Long Beach for eight years until CalState closed the whole industrial arts department. He retired from CalState as Associate Professor and Chair of the Plastics Department. 

“When I was at the university, I heard the word CNC mill, and I got a CNC mill,” Schureman said. “My students picked it up really quickly — I … transferred that program to ArtCenter College. And then the same thing with 3D modeling. There weren’t many companies at that time that could afford it. But I had the companies that did have that come up to ArtCenter lecture to my students and say, ‘this is the future of the way design and model-making will be heading.'”

When ArtCenter College of Design opened ArtCenter Europe in Switzerland in 1986, Schureman was with the faculty and taught there for 10 years, which he considers “an extraordinary experience.” 

“I wish we did more of that because Switzerland’s a neutral country, so we had students from all over Europe — Italy, Norway, France, and Germany,” he recalls. “It was a great experience for everybody, and I made some wonderful contacts. That’s what part of teaching is: making wonderful contacts and exposing young people’s minds to the opportunities for internships and future career opportunities. Wonderful, wonderful experience.” 

Describing his students’ creativity as “mind-boggling” he hopes his enthusiasm inspires them to explore and create. 

“Well, the first advice I’d give to all my young students and any young person: Enthusiasm, enthusiasm about your career and then mixing is creativity and thinking.” 

When he retired from ArtCenter at 93 (he celebrated his birthday on April 7), Schureman said it was a “crying” moment — heartwarming yet sad in a way, as he had considered the ArtCenter family.  

“Compared to universities, you’re a number. But at ArtCenter, you’re part of the family. It’s such a neat thing. And it’s difficult, yes. It was a tearjerker for me and a tearjerker for some of the students,” he said of his last day at ArtCenter. “At lunchtime, some of the faculty and the new President (and CEO) of ArtCenter, Karen Hofmann, we all got together and had another crying time. Now some of them were my students, but the new president was my student many years ago and… what a wonderful thing!” 

Before retiring, Schureman developed a program for Model Making and Design at Irvine Valley College. 

He continues to be a consultant for the Advanced Technology and Research program at Advanced Technical Education Park in Tustin.

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