Bill Stumpf, designer of the Equa (with Don Chadwick), Aeron (with Don Chadwick) and Embody (with Jeff Weber) chairs, Ethospace (with Jack Kelley), and corporate friend to Herman Miller for over 30 years, would be happy with the sculpture recently installed in his honor at Herman Miller’s Design Yard facility.
Caprice Glaser, a friend of Bill and Sharon Stumpf, created the stainless steel piece, entitled “Bill’s People.” Stumpf died in the fall of 2006.
Don Goeman, Senior VP of Design and Development, (shown in the photograph at left) says, “Bill had a huge impact on the company, its people, and our future.” Connie Garman, Corporate Workplace Strategist, (middle), oversaw the installation project. “We wanted to place this so that everyone could walk up and read Bill’s wonderful language—it’s really a way of having a conversation with customers about Bill’s design ideas.” Clark Malcolm (right), Writer and Editor, worked with Stumpf on many projects and was part of a team of employees who helped create the sculpture to honor one of Herman Miller’s most famous designers.
“Bill Stumpf was a genuine gift to the spirit,” recalls Clark. “His humor, his optimism, his deep concern for the human condition, his language, his childlike inquisitiveness, his impish delight in jokes and jazz, and the genius of his insights are all qualities that made him a first-rate designer and a fine human being.”
Here’s what this unassuming legend says about design:
Stumpf had become connected to Herman Miller when Bob Propst, inventor of Herman Miller’s innovative Action Office system and president of Herman Miller Research Corporation, visited a class he was teaching at the University of Wisconsin. Propst was impressed by the research Stumpf required of his students and by his sketches for a new kind of chair. Stumpf worked briefly for Propst and Herman Miller before setting up his own office. The connection to Herman Miller remained a central part of Stumpf’s life for the next 30 years. After Propst, Stumpf’s impact on the company was larger, in financial terms, than any other in the long list of famous designers to work with the company.
Born in St. Louis, Stumpf moved up river to Winona, Minnesota, as a teenager. He was Midwestern through and through, skeptical of the bi-coastal world of design that he moved in professionally. He loved the Minnesota Twins, Garrison Keillor, his family, his golden retrievers, and the fact that the titanium in his hip and his driver improved his performance walking and hitting a golf ball. In spite of his fame, he never lost his humility.
By Marcia Davis and Clark Malcolm