Obituary: Bob Smith, Professor Emeritus of Art, 92

Bob Smith (Photo: Washington University Archives)

Posted by Liam Otten October 10, 2018

Bob Smith, professor emeritus in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, died peacefully at home Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. He was 92.

As a child in Buffalo, N.Y., Smith was fascinated by aviation. He served as a Navy airplane machinist during World War II. He then studied art at Yale and the Albright Art School (affiliated with the University of Buffalo) and worked as a freelance painter and graphic designer before taking a position at the Cincinnati Art Academy. He joined the Washington University faculty in 1965.

“Bob taught graphic design for decades, but that was just the tip of his iceberg of talent,” said Jeff Pike, professor of art, who worked with Smith, Gene Hoeffel and Sarah Birdsall to establish the design curriculum.

“Bob was unfailingly polite, upbeat and courteous,” Pike said. “He was a good and generous friend, and I miss him.”

In 1972, Smith helped launch Create Studio, which served as a professional graphic design firm staffed entirely by senior art students; clients included the American Red Cross, the Clayton Fire Department, the St. Louis Symphony, and many others. Smith’s own clients numbered in the scores, ranging from Baldwin piano and the University of Wisconsin Press to the Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Washington University’s Edison Theatre.

Smith also drew national renown as a fountain designer, creating pieces for Cincinnati’s Taft Museum, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Muny, among others. His textbook “Basic Graphic Design” was published by Prentice Hall in 1992.

“Bob was the wizard of the art school,” said alumna Nancy Newman Rice, who still uses a drafting table that Smith gave her. “He seemed able to do anything: draw, design, build, invent and, of course, teach. His energy and passion for art and design have remained with me, along with the skills he generously imparted.”

Smith is survived by his sister, Janet; by three children, Valerie Smith, Kathy Vice and Rick Smith; and by his grandson, Nathaniel. A celebration of his life will be held on campus next year. Memorial contributions may be made to the Island Heritage Trust, P.O. Box 42, Deer Isle, Maine, 04627.