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Pixar's Bob Peterson (video)

Academy Award-winner and distinguished alumnus Bob Peterson, BSME ’83, returned to Ohio Northern University on March 15 to share his unique success story as the 2010 T.J. Smull College of Engineering Spotts Lecturer.

A mechanical engineer by training, Peterson joined Pixar Animation Studios in 1994 as animator and layout artist on the groundbreaking film Toy Story. He most recently served as screenwriter and co-director of the film Up, for which he received Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay.

So how does an engineer win an Oscars for writing and directing movies?

“Computer graphics is really the confluence of art and science,” said Peterson, adding that while at ONU, his days were spent learning engineering principles and his nights were spent drawing cartoons for the school paper. “The two of those things came together and helped my career.”

Peterson credits ONU’s flexibility in its curriculum for where he is today. Not only did he receive the engineering training he required, he was also free to take other classes that held his interest.

“This is a place that cultivates the whole person,” he said.

While on campus, Peterson was also honored by the College of Engineering with the inaugural T.J. Smull College of Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award.

“I was very honored to receive this award because engineering propelled me to where I am at today,” he said. “I was overcome with emotion receiving such an award, and a lot of it for me was seeing my professors and very good friends from ONU. It was very emotional and an honor.”