SASD to honor new product innovator Gary van Deursen ’69 on April 29

SASD to honor new product innovator Gary van Deursen ’69 on April 29

University of Bridgeport alumnus Gary van Deursen ’69, creator of the world’s lightest wheelchair, a wealth of GE appliances, and hundreds of other products used daily, will be honored on Saturday, April 29, 2017, when Shintaro Akatsu School of Design (SASD) hosts its annual alumni gathering at the Arnold Bernhard Center on campus.

The event, which is free to alumni and their guests over 21, includes the 2017 Senior Design Exhibition, featuring new work by SASD students.

Mr. van Duersen earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial design at SASD in 1969. He previously won UB’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990.

After leading innovation initiatives for Coleman, Black & Decker, and other firms, he founded Van Deursen LLC, an independent design and new product innovation consultancy, in 2006. The firm’s national and international clients include Briggs & Stratton, American Sanders, and Sunrise Medical, among others.

Mr. van Deursen is credited for conceiving of and designing hundreds of the world’s most well-known and successful products, including the GE’s Spacemaker® series and the Helium Wheelchair, the world’s lightest wheelchair.

He is the winner of a RedDot Award for innovation and design, countless Design Excellence Awards from Industrial Designers Society of America, and holds 84 U.S. patents.

Nonetheless, Mr. van Deursen admits to two notable holes in his career. “I always wanted to design a sports car and a wine bottle. I never have.”

After creating the world's lightest wheelchair, Gary van Duersen '64 won the RedDot Award for innovation.
Folding utility knife with retracting blades, conceived of and designed by SASD alumnus Gary van Duersen
Van Duersen's creations include the Troy Bilt generator line.

A native of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, Mr. van Deursen was the kid who loved to draw. His talent made him a stand-out in art class at Fair Lawn High School. His specialty? Fast cars.

“I thought I wanted to be an architect or a cartoonist,” he said.

That changed the day he read a newspaper article about Walter Dorwin Teague, the preeminent American illustrator known as the “Dean of industrial design.”

“I never heard of industrial design. I never thought about it—that everything around you gets designed by someone. I thought that was pretty cool,” said van Deursen.

The 2017 SASD alumni event is hosted by UB Trustee and industrial design alumnus Art Landi ’74.

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625,