Robert O’Neal Passes Away

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Robert Todd O’Neal,  Professor Emeritus died on Wednesday, 7th December 2016.

Robert “Bob” O’Neal was born on August 8, 1939 in Wilmington, Delaware. He attended the Philadelphia College of Arts, gaining a Diploma in Industrial Design in 1962. He served in the United States Army as a photographer and returned to his studies for a Master of Arts degree that he completed in 1968 from the same institution. He subsequently attended Cornell University, graduating in 1973, with a second Master of Arts.

O’Neal joined the RISD faculty in the Fall of 1974 as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1983 and to Professor in 1992. He served as Head of the Department of Industrial Design from 1983 to 1988 and as Graduate Program Director of Industrial Design from 1994 to 1999. Bob continued to teach at RISD until his retirement in 2008.

O’Neal was instrumental in the development of the Department of Industrial Design, both in terms of its day-to-day operations and the theoretical development of the discipline as it is taught at RISD today. He was a valued and hardworking colleague, serving on many standing and search committees. He served on the Committee of Faculty Ethics which developed the sensitive and prescient Faculty Code of Ethics still extant today. He was known as an engaged teacher who made time for his students and was committed to their growth as designers.

O’Neal was part of many projects on campus from the IBM project to Project Ujima in which he and ID students developed relief shelters for Afghan refugees in Quetta, Pakistan in 2001. The Ujima shelters were noteworthy for their elegance, easily deployable construction, and design features to capture water and cultivate plants and allow for resident customization. He was a passionate advocate for humane housing solutions that acknowledged the persistence and longevity of refugee crises.

There will be a memorial service, for friends and family, celebrating O’Neal’s life at the First Unitarian Church of Providence (1 Benevolent Street, Providence) at 3:00pm on December 17th. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to The Southside Community Land Trust, 109 Somerset Street, Providence, RI 02907 or to Partners in Health, 800 Boylston Street, Suite 1400 Boston, MA 02199.

Robert O’Neal is survived by his wife Elizabeth, daughter Anna, son Jason and daughter-in-law Katie. He was a loving grandfather to Eloise Todd O’Neal.

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