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Benchmarking success

By Cory Phare

June 5, 2017

Industrial design student Benjamin Booker’s (sitting on bench, left) winning custom bench, was dedicated to Dr. Stephen M. Jordan (center), MSU Denver’s president, who will retire June 30. Seated on the bench, right, is Lunden MacDonald, director of the University’s First Year Success program, which sponsored the bench design contest, joined by faculty Amy Kern and FYS staff.
Industrial design student Benjamin Booker’s (sitting on bench, left) winning custom bench, was dedicated to Dr. Stephen M. Jordan (center), MSU Denver’s president, who will retire June 30. Seated on the bench, right, is Lunden MacDonald, director of the University’s First Year Success program, which sponsored the bench design contest, joined by faculty Amy Kern and FYS staff.

For Benjamin Booker, the contest to design a bench was more about using his industrial design skills than winning – it was the opportunity to give back to a campus community he’s long been a part of.

His mother attended what was then Metropolitan State College of Denver, and he recalled being on campus in his youth, even giving a presentation in his mother’s child psychology class on what it was like to be a fourth grader.

“This is such an honor to pay tribute to [MSU Denver President Stephen] Jordan and tap into the hopefulness of students,” said the senior industrial design student. “It’s great to see the concept come to life; it means so much.”

The bench, a bisected hexagonal form made from hardwood, was dedicated to Jordan outside of the First Year Success Program office. FYS had teamed with the Industrial Design Department to ask for proposals offering a bench design. Once these custom designs became furniture, all of the pieces were exhibited for one day in the library.

“Conceptually, we wanted to capture the impact that Dr. Jordan has had at MSU Denver, and within FYS specifically,” said Lunden MacDonald, director of the FYS Program. “It’s due to the generosity of Amy Kern [assistant professor of industrial design] that this great faculty-student collaboration came to fruition, and helps us create a special space for students that makes college fun.”

As Kern noted, “…furniture design really is a team sport; it’s been a fantastic experience to be able to showcase student work.” Booker also reinforced the collaborative contribution of the other participants.

In addition to a material stipend for participants, the winning design received a $1,000 prize from FYS. The runner-up design, created by Mariana Lutterbach, has been commissioned.

Dubbed “the Unity Bench,” Booker drew from the work of Sam Maloof, looking at both ergonomics and aesthetics to capture Jordan’s legacy. The Unity Bench is made of hard maple and

walnut, with a natural-shade Danish finish. The elements combine in a sturdy, inviting manner that melds tradition with contemporary styling.

For this piece, Booker was inspired by the large carpeted seating structure found in West Classroom that he noticed students congregating around.

“The rounded corners speak to Dr. Jordan’s well-rounded career,” he said. “And the different shades of wood were selected to reflect students coming together from unique backgrounds into a comfortable environment.”

At the dedication, the intended effect wasn’t lost on the bench’s inspiration, who mused on another well-deserved Roadrunner accomplishment.

“Boy, I’m really honored by this,” said Jordan. “The design part is the connection to art itself, and this truly is a nice piece of work.”

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