August 30, 2023
By Carlo Wolff
In case you were wondering what Cleveland Institute of Art legend Bob Dorsey has been doing since he retired from CIA in May, he has been enjoying time free of obligations, keeping his house shipshape, and spending time with family.
A fixture in CIA’s Fabrication Studio since he returned to his alma mater in 2012, Dorsey is a two-time CIA alumnus with BFA degrees in Drawing (’80) and Industrial Design (’89).
That second BFA led him to work in the private sector, experience that only made him more versatile. As a technical specialist in the Fabrication Studios, he instructed students in the safe and creative use of machinery.
After his first graduation, Dorsey began working at product design consultancies with friends. After his second graduation, he started working professionally as an industrial designer. He is particularly proud of designing Procter & Gamble’s Spinbrush, a battery-powered toothbrush.
At one time, between design jobs, Dorsey helped his brother, a shrimper who essentially lost his means of livelihood, grapple with the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a disastrous oil blowout in spring 2010.
“I believe all life experiences build a better understanding to help problem-solve,” Dorsey says. “The real advantage to an art education is the creative advantage we possess over those who are less fortunate.”
Dorsey is known for helping students realize their visions. His humility—a signature trait—shines through in these examples.
He helped one student build a pressed, laminated-wood ergonomic chair.
“One day, he arrived with a massive press that he borrowed from Printmaking,” Dorsey recalls. “He made top and bottom solid negative forms. We proceeded to apply glue to each side of all the wood veneers and use the press to form the pieces. Gallons of glue squeezed out everywhere. The chair was beautiful.”
Another student he assisted has a visual deficit “which would deter most people from entering a shop,” Dorsey says. “I explained how it would be helpful to approach the wood with a tool due to reduced lack of depth perception,” he says. “She was so excited to carve wood and turn wood on the lathe! I’m very proud of her.”
“Bob always rolled up his sleeves and got to work—problem-solving, making, fixing or lending a hand,” says Dan Cuffaro, Industrial Design Chair. Cuffaro, a 1991 CIA grad, was Dorsey’s student years ago. He later became Dorsey’s supervisor.
The school owns a metal lathe, probably built in the 1950s. For a long time, it didn’t work, and securing parts was more than a challenge. One day, Cuffaro saw Dorsey using it and asked him how he’d revived it. Dorsey told Cuffaro he’d fabricated the parts himself.
Now, Dorsey is working on a degree in leisure.
“For the first time in 40-some years, I no longer have to drive in rush hour or spend time mowing my two acres on a weekend, when weather permits,” says Dorsey, who lives in Columbia Station with his wife, Kris ’81.
“I am enjoying retirement,” he says. “I have time to catch up on the seemingly endless house repairs and maintenance. I also get to spend fun time with my two grandchildren—the most important time. I find some time to wrench on my motorcycles.”
Look for Dorsey on his vintage Harley-Davidson, taking long rides in the country.
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