Robert Engman, Fine Arts

caption: Bob EngmanRobert (Bob) M. Engman, sculptor and professor emeritus of fine arts, died on July 4 of respiratory failure. He was 91.

A native of Arlington, Massachusetts, Mr. Engman’s father died when he was two years old. He learned metal-working skills from his stepfather, who was a blacksmith and toolmaker. He joined the Navy at the age of 15, serving in WWII in the Pacific. Though he did not complete high school, he went on to graduate from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA, and then received his MFA in painting and sculpture from Yale.

After serving as the director of Yale’s sculpture program for several years, and acting as a visiting critic at Penn, 1961-1962, Mr. Engman left Yale for Penn in 1963 at the invitation from then-Dean Holmes Perkins. From 1965 to 1983, Mr. Engman served as co-chair of the department of fine arts, and he was also the chair of the graduate studies program in sculpture, a position he held until his retirement to his workshop in Haverford in 1992.

Mr. Engman’s perhaps best-known sculpture is Triune, which was installed across from City Hall in Center City Philadelphia in 1975. Standing 20 feet high at the southwest corner on 15th Street, it took him 18 months to create.

Also well known are his trio of sculptures created in honor of Indian yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar, After Iyengar, and two copies of After B.K.S. Iyenger, which feature interlocking disks whose solid surfaces have been cut, stretched and molded into arcs, angles and twisting planes of metal. After Iyenger,  a cast aluminum mobile is in Penn’s Chemistry Building; a bronze After B.K.S. Iyenger can be seen at Morris Arboretum (Almanac September 13, 1988) and a copy is in the Hirschhorn Collection in Washington, D.C.

In 1967, he collaborated with Penn students on the creation of The Peace Symbol, which stands 13 feet tall in front of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. Other sculptures of Mr. Engman’s can be found inside the main lobby of Vagelos Labs, in Miller Plaza at HUP and in the backyard of Penn’s President’s House (Almanac January 18, 2000).

Mr. Engman designed the President’s Medal, inaugurated by Penn President Martin Meyerson, by crafting a three-dimensional expression of the mathematical symbol infinity at the center (Almanac September 9, 1980). It has been awarded to nobelist Lawrence Klein and Walter and Leonore Annenberg.

He became a member of Penn’s  25 Year Club in 1989; in 1992 he earned emeritus status.

Mr. Engman is survived by his wife, Nancy Porter; children, Anders, Kerstin, Allyn, Bevin and Kelsey; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild; and ex-wife Margaret Engman.