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Robert O. Preusser

Robert O. Preusser, a prominent visual artist who headed the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, died in the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Monday after battling with cancer for several years. He was 73.

Preusser came to MIT in 1954 at the invitation of his former teacher, Institute Professor Emeritus Gyorgy Kepes. That one-year invitation evolved into a 31-year tenure as a professor of architecture in the field of visual design.

At MIT, Preusser brought non-artists into the studio for the first time, and he urged his students to take advantage of their scientific and technical skills to create two- and three-dimensional forms. The first computer-generated design to grace the cover of Fortune magazine was created by a team of his students.

Preusser was born in Houston, Texas, and it was there that he began his art career in 1930. His artwork was first exhibited while he was in his teens.

Before coming to MIT, Preusser taught at the Institute of Design in Chicago and the University of Houston. He co-directed the first museum of contemporary art in Houston and was associate curator of education at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. During World War II, he served in the Army's 84th Engineer Camouflage Battalion as a camouflage technician.

A retrospective of Preusser's work was showcased in the MIT Museum last year, and his work hangs in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.

Preusser will be buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery following a private graveside service. A memorial service will be held in February.

Preusser is survived by his wife, Mary Ellen, a son, Eric O. Preusser of Boston, a daughter, Alison G. Perroni of Billerica, and a granddaughter.