93-year-old Costa Mesan retires from Pasadena’s ArtCenter after 51 years

Bob Schureman outside ArtCenter College of Design's Hillside Campus Monday, where he taught his last class after 51 years.
(Sara Cardine)

Costa Mesa resident Bob Schureman has spent nearly six decades of his life sharing with students of all levels a lifelong fascination for the wonders of plastic fabrication and manufacturing and, more broadly, an enthusiasm for life.

An industrial arts teacher at Estancia High School from 1965 to 1985 — where he taught the first fully fledged high-school plastics curriculum in California — Schureman accepted a position at Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design in 1971 and never looked back.

Working as an instructor of Materials & Methods, he 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.

On Monday, the Costa Mesa educator taught his last class at ArtCenter after announcing his retirement months earlier. It came just days after his 93rd birthday on April 7.

Bob Schureman Monday with students enrolled in his Material & Methods class at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena.
Bob Schureman speaks Monday to students enrolled in his Material & Methods class at ArtCenter College of Design, where he taught for 51 years.
(Juan Posada / Art Center College of Design)

“I’ve enjoyed working here so much,” Schureman said Monday, taking a break from final exams on his very last day in the classroom. “We just had a crying moment today at lunchtime. That’s the beauty of this — it’s a family.”

In a room with plain walls, dedicated to serious study and with hardly a decoration to speak of, Schureman brought the curriculum to colorful life, applying his natural curiosity to the principles he taught.

“I’m one of those people who is into a lot of interesting things,” he said, his arms waving animatedly. “That’s the secret to life — keep your mind sharp. I’ve lost my high-pitch and low-pitch hearing, and my knees are bad, but my mind isn’t.”

In addition to his regular instruction, Schureman helped establish an overseas program in Switzerland for ArtCenter and taught there every summer for a decade. He also galvanized interest in environmental sustainability by creating and maintaining robust recycling programs wherever he taught.

ArtCenter College of Design teacher Bob Schureman talks to students Monday during his last day on the Pasadena campus.
(Juan Posada / ArtCenter College of Design)

Karen Hofmann, recently elected to serve as the sixth president in ArtCenter College’s 92-year history, remembered taking Materials & Methods from Schureman back when she herself was a production design student in the mid-’90s.

She recalled how the instructor helped the campus secure a CNC fabrication machine that read digital files and cut materials from the design. It was a big win for the campus.

“He was always on the cutting edge,” she said. “Every year, there was always something. I’d see him in the hallway, and he’d say, ‘Karen, you’ve got to check this out.’ He’s just this really amazing sort of superhero of innovation, in a way.”

Now that Schureman has hung up his teaching hat for the moment, he plans to spend more time with wife Mary, whom he met while attending Pasadena City College and to whom he’s been married for 71 years. He also has a knee replacement surgery planned for the end of the month that will require some recuperation.

ArtCenter College of Design instructor and Costa Mesan Bob Schureman with Materials & Methods students Monday.
ArtCenter College of Design instructor and Costa Mesa resident Bob Schureman with Materials & Methods students Monday on his last day.
(Juan Posada / ArtCenter College of Design)

“I just need to kick back a little bit — I’m not quitting,” he said of his immediate future.

Ray Schureman, the oldest among the couple’s three sons and two daughters, returned to Orange County from Utah to help his father through the impending rehabilitation.

He recalled attending Estancia High as a freshman during his dad’s first year on the campus, where he and his brothers took industrial arts classes and made use of the new plastics equipment.

“I built my first car there — we built a 16-foot Tahiti boat and a belly boat,” said Ray Schureman, who ultimately went on to work in the fiber glass industry. “I kind of followed in my dad’s footsteps in the plastics arena.”

The Schureman household was always a busy scene, in part, because the family hosted foreign exchange students who ended up becoming de facto siblings, despite their German or Lebanese upbringings.

Because his parents believed so strongly in connecting with people all over the world, he still keeps in touch with the family’s former wards and some of his dad’s students from his teaching days in Watts in the early 1960s.

“I think our acceptance of all types of people is because of them. They were great role models,” he said, recalling trips abroad to Vietnam, China and Costa Rica. “It’s been a hell of a ride, and we’re very grateful for them.”

Although not quite sure exactly what the future, at the age of 93, holds for him — there’s been talk about returning to ArtCenter as a guest lecturer — Bob Schureman remains optimistic.

“I’ve got a wonderful family,” he said, reflecting on his many connections. “Whatever happens, I’ve planted the seeds.”

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