Amid the successes of the past year, Nottingham Spirk also suffered a terrible loss with the death of vice president Craig Saunders in April of 2013.

Craig was already “an incredibly talented designer” when he joined Nottingham Spirk, out of Cleveland Institute of Art, in 1982, says John Spirk. But it was his gift for listening that would come to define Saunders’ 30-year career.

Spirk first noticed it in meetings in which clients struggled to articulate what they wanted. The process could be frustrating for all involved, but Craig relished the challenge. “The client would be talking, on and on, and Craig would be sketching the whole time,” Spirk recalls. “And the guy would stop to take a breath, and Craig would hold up the sketch and say, ‘Is this what you mean?’ And the client would say, ‘Yeah, that’s it exactly!’ It was magic.”

Over time, client relations became Craig’s focus. “He could win their confidence,” Spirk says. “He spoke to them on a business level, as well as a design level, and they respected that.”

He was also unflappable, a valuable asset in an industry in which setbacks are inevitable. “In 30 years, I never heard him raise his voice,” says Spirk. “Whatever the problem was, no matter how insurmountable it seemed, he would just listen to everyone and take notes — he was a voracious note-taker — and then respond with a plan. He didn’t believe in crises, to him they were only issues to be resolved.”

This ability to focus on minute details without losing sight of larger issues kept teams and projects on track. Craig’s name appears on more than 300 patents, a testament to the breadth and depth of his involvement in the business.

He was also a trusted mentor to younger associates at Nottingham Spirk. He challenged them, and his extensive feedback — always in a distinctive blue ink — was the inspiration for the commemorative Blue Pen Award. The honor is granted annually to an associate who has displayed the same positive attitude, high standards, focus and leadership by example that made Craig such a valuable and respected colleague.

To honor Craig’s generous nature, Nottingham Spirk has established the Craig Saunders Excellence in Industrial Design Scholarship Fund at CIA. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a third-year Industrial Design major who exhibits the same commitment to creating products that improve people’s lives.

To make a tax-deductible donation to the fund, visit https://www.cia.edu/support-cia/donate-now, or send a check to: Cleveland Institute of Art, 11141 East Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44106. Please note Craig Saunders Memorial Scholarship Fund on the memo line.

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