Ken Hunnibell

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Kenneth L. Hunnibell (1929 – 2002) taught as a professor in the Industrial Design department at RISD for 40 years. A member of the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA), Ken received RISD degrees in Industrial Design (BFA) and graduate studies (MAE).

Having great pride in the RISD community, Ken served on a variety of college committees and was chairman of the ID department for several years.  He also served for several years as the first chairman of the RISD Faculty Association. Awards include: Promising Young Instructor Award; RISD Alumni Association Faculty of the Year Award; Industrial Design Department Recognition Award; RISD Faculty Association Medal; and Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching. In his memory, the “Ken Hunnibell Prize” now recognizes outstanding ID students in their senior year.

Prior to joining the RISD faculty, Ken apprenticed as a toolmaker with the Bulova Watch Company and was a manager of product design and engineering in the electrical industry. But it wasn’t until he came to teach at RISD in 1963 that he discovered his true calling.

Ken found tremendous inspiration in working with students, faculty and alumni from around the world. He especially enjoyed helping to empower students with skills and knowledge in metals and machine shop practices as well as assisting artists and designers throughout the country in fabricating their work in sculpture and design. In addition to his RISD teaching, he participated in exchange teaching programs in Glasgow, Scotland, and Köln, Germany and collaborated with colleagues and alumni on a variety of projects.

During his early years at RISD, Ken concentrated on developing both a strong curriculum and an excellent facility in the ID metal shop; he oversaw its total operation and spearheaded its expansion from the Metcalf Building to its present location at 161 South Main.  He continued to teach all aspects of metals throughout his years at RISD but he also created and taught a variety of unique studio design courses through which he brought focus to issues of design environmental responsibility and sustainability.  

Ken was one of the first ID educators in the country to teach ecological awareness in design and he strongly advocated for those values through local, regional and national venues. He was appointed to a number of panels including: the advisory panel for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment’s report, “Green Products by Design;” the RI Governor’s Task Force on Source Reduction; and an IDSA committee titled “The Designer and Environmental Concerns.” He was also a guest editor of a special environmental concerns issue of the IDSA publication, “Innovation.”

Until his death in 2002, Ken resided in Rehoboth (MA) with his wife, Sherrill. In addition to his work at RISD, he was active in community affairs, served on a number of town committees, and chaired the town Planning Board for several years.  Sherrill, an artist/educator (RISD ’64), continues to maintain her studio in Rehoboth – and three of Ken’s six children received BFA degrees in Industrial Design from RISD.