A longtime ink industry icon, Bob is one of three people to have received the three highest awards from the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) – the Printing Ink Pioneer Award in 1980, the Technical Achievement Award in 1982 (the first time it was presented); and the Ault Award, the industry’s most prestigious honor, in 1993.
Bob was born in Brooklyn, NY on May 19, 1924 to Catherine and George Bassemir. Upon graduating from Newtown High School, Elmhurst, NY, Bob joined Sun Chemical while working toward a degree in chemical engineering at Cooper Union.
In 1942, Bob was drafted by the US Army, serving in the 104th Infantry Division, 415th Infantry Regiment of the Timberwolves. He was awarded two Purple Hearts for his service throughout Europe.
Returning home, Bob graduated from Cooper Union in 1949, and rejoined Sun Chemical, where he spent the next 56 years as an ink chemist. He was active in trade organizations, including NAPIM and its scientific arm, the National Printing Ink Research Institute (NPIRI), and had many major patents.
Bob’s colleagues and friends all talked about his kindness, his enthusiasm for the ink industry and his knowledge of the graphic arts. Dr. Juanita M. Parris, global director, Polymer, Analytical and Application Science at Sun Chemical, knew Bob for 24 years. She recalled his insight and enthusiasm for the ink industry.
“He pioneered the development of UV curable inks and coatings and was widely recognized in the industry for his knowledge of the printing process,” Dr. Parris said. “Bob readily took the time to provide valuable insight into the complexities of designing ink formulations that could meet the demands of virtually every printing process. Having spent more than 50 years in the industry, he approached every technical challenge with an enthusiasm that was infectious.”
George Fuchs, director, regulatory affairs and technology for NAPIM, recalled Bob as a gentle and wonderful man whose technical achievements helped drive the ink industry forward.
“Bob Bassemir’s quiet, unpretentious demeanor belied his enormous influence on printing ink technology,” Fuchs said. “I first met Bob when I joined NAPIM in 1993. At that time Bob was president of NPIRI. Bob, along with Jackie Fetsko and Jeanne Lavelle – both of Lehigh University – were the driving force behind the numerous research projects and task forces conducted at the Lehigh University Sinclair Laboratory. These research efforts focused on the ink manufacturing and print problems of the day and greatly benefitted the graphic arts industry technology and significantly enhanced its image.
“His selfless contributions to the development of printing ink technology cannot be underestimated,” Fuchs added. “Bob’s knowledge and expertise spanned all ink systems. He was a well-known and highly regarded expert in almost any ink-related subject. In my view, a stature unparalleled to this day.”
Bob was a fixture at the NPIRI Summer Course at Lehigh University, and many people in the industry (myself included) first met him there. Lisa Fine, technical director at Joules Angstrom UV Printing Inks and is one of the two other ink leaders who have received the industry’s three highest awards, also first met Bob at the Summer Course.
“I met Bob in 1990, in connection with – what else? – the summer printing ink course at Lehigh University,” Fine said. “Bob’s passion for the science behind ink chemistry and ink transfer was infectious – you couldn’t help but get caught up in the discussion. Bob could hold everyone’s attention in such matters like no one else.
“I remember those days each year at the summer course – cookouts in Jackie Fetsko’s backyard, and the debates going on between Bob and Natto Micale and Jean Lavelle. It was entertaining, engaging and educational – always. I miss those times dearly,” Fine added.
Tony Bean, former field marketing manager for Sun Chemical, was friends with Bob for more than 40 years.
“Bob was my mentor and friend for over 40 years,” Bean said. “We wrote several articles together and co-wrote several sections in encyclopedias. Bob was a patient teacher – always willing to help anyone and pass on knowledge. Even though he was one of the smartest people I have ever known, Bob had a way of explaining complex issues in an understanding way without making you feel less intelligent. Bob was an icon in the industry and will be missed.”
Dr. Richard Durand, director, material and characterization science at Sun Chemical, first met Bassemir in January 1988. Bassemir’s enthusiasm for the industry made a quick impression.
“I arrived at Sun Chemical in January 1988 after a stint in academia as part of a special program that expanded the presence of Ph.D level scientists to tackle critical changes that were emerging in the graphic arts industry relating to materials and processes,” Dr. Durand recalled. “I knew nothing about this industry, but I recognized something unique about Bob’s enthusiasm on the science/engineering challenges within the industry during my interviews in Carlstadt.
“In coming to Sun Chemical, I saw the potential for a lot of interesting and challenging problems, but I think that Bob’s connectivity to the practical parts of the print industry and his drive to always find a way to do something beyond expected with keen observations skill, applying new experimental techniques and better scientific inquiry were quite inspirational to my own efforts over the years,” Dr. Durand noted.
“I met Bob in 1984 at the Sun Chemical R&D Center in Carlstadt, NJ,” said Jim Bishop, field product manager, UV, EB & conventional packaging inks, Sun Chemical. “Bob was a true physical chemist, and his profound work with litho ink emulsion optimization continues to impact the performance of litho ink globally. Bob was an amazing listener, a great teacher and helped many of us merge cutting edge chemical concepts into printing reality.”
“Bob drove the focus to the key technical aspects that may have been underappreciated, drew attention to them and found ways to leverage and exploit them whether about specific materials and concepts (area of energy curable), understanding dynamics of printing processes (lithography), or developing performance relationships,” Dr. Durand added. “This breadth and diversity of contributions were very unique and included the love of finding ways to measure and analyze all kinds of samples. He was truly a renaissance man within the graphic arts area and was always there to share his knowledge.”
“I worked for Bob for three years and he was always eager to teach and was a true gentleman,” added Maria DaSilva, executive assistant to presidents of NAI & Performance Pigments, Sun Chemical. “He was always dedicated to his work.”
Bob’s friends all agree that he was a special person who will be missed by all. Dr. Parris talked about an experience at a conference that shows the kind of person Bob was.
“I recall my first international conference, where Bob and I were jointly presenting our paper on the use of an atomic force microscope to describe the surface morphology of various print defects,” said Dr. Parris. “Unfortunately, on the morning of our presentation, jet-lag got the best of me and I slept in.
“When I entered the room I found Bob at the podium – he was already giving the presentation,” Dr. Parris added. “He saw me at the back of the room and waved me up, explaining to the audience that his co-author had just arrived and that I would be giving the second half. While he could have easily continued without me, it was important to him that I got the recognition and exposure. I knew that I could always count on him to give honest feedback, guidance, technical direction and most importantly his time. I was very fortunate to call him my mentor and friend.”
“The one common sentiment I have heard expressed from inkies more times than I can count when Bob’s name comes up is that ‘…there’ll never be another like him.’ A true gentleman and a technical giant within our industry has passed and will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him,” Fuchs said.
“I had the precious gift of a phone call from Bob last May after I had received the Ault Award,” recalled Fine. “It had been years since Bob and I had worked together on NPIRI projects, but he looked me up and left me a wonderful message of congratulations. I called him back and we talked for quite awhile about the way things used to be. I saved that voice message and had the unique and tremendous gift of listening to him one more time as I headed out to UV EB West early this morning. Godspeed, friend, pioneer, dear soul!”
Bob is survived by two nieces, Priscilla C. McNamara of New Rochelle, NY, and Dorothy J. Meyer, Fleetwood, PA; four grand nieces and nephews; and 10 great grand nieces and nephews. He is also survived by three foster sons: Alan O’Shea, Ft. Lee, NJ; Robert O’Shea, husband of Nancy, Paramus, NJ; and Michael O’Shea, Loveland, CO. He was predeceased by a brother, George Bassemir, and sister, Dorothy Bassenir Mullins.
Memorial contributions may be made to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave., NY 10065 or email@example.com.