PROFILE: Carpenter Crafts 50 Years as a Teacher
"As long as you teach I'll come!" That's what long-time woodworking student Marion Curry said to Bob Seipelt as he looked back on his 50 years of teaching at the College of Applied Science.
Date: 11/10/2003 8:00:00 AMYou might say that chickens fed Bob Seipelt’s interest in carpentry.
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Peter Griga
After all, a “chicken house,” was his first project after he returned home to Ripley, Ohio, after a stint with the U.S. Marines during World War II when he saw combat at Iwo Jima and elsewhere in the Pacific.
“I grew up on a farm, and my mother had ordered 200 baby chicks and 25 baby turkeys from Sears & Roebuck. She’d tend them throughout the year, and they’d be used to feed the family, but she needed a place to keep them. So, I built her a chicken house,” recalls Bob who soon after came to Cincinnati and the OMI College of Applied Science – now part of UC – as a woodworking student.
He’d always had an interest in carpentry since the 7th grade. Bob, 77, explains, “When I was in the 7th grade, an old carpenter named Bob Shelton came to live with us for seven or eight months. He had two boxes of tools and fixed the barn, the windows of the house…He even made two beautiful horse-drawn sleds with his hand tools. He was a huge influence on me.”
That much is obvious since Bob started as a woodworking student in 1947 while also finding work at C. V. Maescher, a local construction company. Bob also found plenty of challenge and good friends in Cincinnati. He states, “One of the company’s finishing carpenters lived in Clifton and would pick me up for work and take me to school for the evening courses until I could get a car. And in school at night, our instructor, Ernest Brodt, was a real perfectionist. I started out making simple lap joints as all the apprentice carpenters did. Then, we moved on to more complex projects. Mr. Brodt would come along and say, ‘Well, that’s good but make another one.’ He always wanted us to do better. He wanted perfection in our work.”
Well, Bob must have come close to perfection in both his classes and his job. His employer sent him through a OMI-CAS building construction degree program where he graduated in 1951. And in 1953, Bob moved from being a carpentry student to serving as a teacher. And he’s been teaching woodworking at the college ever since.
It seems that some things never change. Just as in his own student days, Bob starts today’s beginning students on a very simple project, making an L-shaped lap joint. Then, they move on to other projects, even making furniture for their own homes just as he did. In fact, Bob, a resident of Mt. Washington, still has furniture in his home that he made 40 years ago.
All his memories are good ones, he says. In all of his 50 years of teaching carpentry and working as a carpenter and construction superintendent, he’s only had one accident. That was earlier this year when he was pushing a long, wood plank through a mounted table saw. But, he didn’t put a guide wheel on to help him steady the wood and the wood flipped up. It knocked his fingers into the saw, sheering off the tips of the two middle fingers on his right hand. Bob is nonchalant about the whole incident. “I’d have never let a student work with that table saw without the safety wheel guide, but I did it,” he laughs. “It was last February 4. I just wrapped up my hand and went to the hospital. Even when I was healing, I just cleaned the injury myself.”
Throughout most of his 50 years of teaching at CAS, Bob led woodworking classes two nights a week. Now, he teaches courses on Tuesdays, the first one officially beginning at 4:30 p.m. Actually though, long-time students sometimes get to the wood shop about 2 p.m. They’re eager to get started, and they know that Bob’s generally been there since about 9 a.m. making sure everything’s ready for them.
One long-time student, Marion Curry, came early to get started on holiday gifts she’s making. “I make iddy-biddy things,” she explains. “Right now, I’m making boxes for playing cards. They’re made from a magnolia tree that had to come down in my front yard.” She obviously appreciates Bob’s dedication. When he said that he’ll teach as long as his health holds up, Marion didn’t miss a beat, saying, “As long as you teach, I’ll come!”
Bob's dedication to his school as both a student and teacher is not at all unusual. That dedication is demonstated by other CAS alums, and it will be celebrated during the coming CAS 175th-anniversary year. The first celebration of that year will be a Mechanics Ball at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15, at Cincinnati's Union Terminal. For more information about the ball or CAS' 175th anniversary year, call 513-556-2328.