Skip to main content

Robert C. Koepnick papers

Identifier: UASC-021

Scope and Contents

The Robert C. Koepnick papers comprise eighteen boxes of files and photographs related to Koepnick's career as a sculptor and art instructor. Materials include correspondence, freelance ledgers, commission files, personal and professional photographs, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and interviews on VHS tapes. The collection spans 1879-1995, with the bulk of the materials falling between the 1930s and 1980s.


  • Creation: 1879-1995
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930 - 1989


Access to Materials

This collection is open and available to the public for research in the University Archives and Special Collections reading room. The materials are non-circulating.

Copyright Notice

The materials in this collection may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Literary rights and copyrights possessed by the donors were transferred to the University of Dayton. The materials are available for personal, educational, and scholarly use. For permission to reproduce or publish any materials, please contact the University Archives and Special Collections.

Biography of Robert C. Koepnick (1907-1995)

Robert C. Koepnick was born in Dayton, Ohio on July 8, 1907. As a young man he worked for several years as an architectural modeler for firms such as the George E. Heidenreich Company and A. K. Musselman and Sons; he was also a designer and modeler at the Springfield Metallic Casket Company.

Koepnick studied sculpture at the School of the Dayton Art Institute (DAI) and under renowned Swedish sculptor Carl Milles at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. He then taught sculpture at DAI from 1934-1974, except during World War II, when he used his sculpting abilities to design personal equipment for the Army Air Corps at Wright Field in Dayton. He was the well-respected head of the Sculpture and Ceramic Department at DAI from 1936-1941 and 1946-1974.

From 1933-1938, Koepnick worked under DAI director Siegfried R. Weng to produce terra cotta pioneer figures for Dayton schools as part of the Works Progress Administration's (WPA) Federal Art Project (FAP). In 1938, Weng, Koepnick, and the DAI staff organized the Dayton Society of Painters and Sculptors. That year Koepnick also traveled to Europe in order to visit the studio of Yugoslavian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic and study significant art and architecture. He traveled with the Robert Metcalf family as they photographed stained glass windows throughout Europe.

Koepnick is well known for his ecclesiastical pieces, including architectural reliefs and free-standing statues. His work can be seen throughout southwest Ohio at sites such as Woodland Cemetery, Bethany Lutheran Village, Dayton's St. Anthony, St. Rita, and St. Stephen churches, and Cincinnati's St. Peter in Chains Cathedral and St. Gregory Seminary.

Koepnick frequently worked with prominent architects from firms such as Edward J. Schulte, Associated Architects, and Welty and Kielawa to provide sculptural elements for buildings they designed, including Blessed Sacrament Church in Sioux City, Iowa; Corpus Christi Church in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Concord Methodist Church in Englewood, Ohio. Koepnick's work is also displayed at several Dayton-area schools and at the entrances to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and the Dayton Metro Library's downtown branch.

For both his sculptures and architectural pieces, Koepnick worked with a variety of media, including terra cotta, ceramics, bronze, aluminum, and marble. He frequently participated in art shows and sculptural competitions, winning awards for his works "Christ, Light of the World," "Woman," and "My Mother."

Koepnick married Betty Borland in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1941, and they later had two sons, Richard and John. An accomplished artist herself, Betty provided professional and personal support throughout their 54 years of marriage. She also worked as a finished artist at Elder-Beerman. Richard worked as a petroleum geologist for many years and is now retired and lives in Athens, Georgia. John lives with his wife Patricia in Ridgeville, Ohio and works in his father's barn studio creating his own abstract sculptures. He also owns and operates a painting contracting company.

In 1974 Koepnick was awarded the title "Emeritus" at Dayton Art Institute, and in 1995 he received the honorary degree Doctor of Humanities at the University of Dayton. When he passed away on July 20, 1995, family, friends, colleagues, and students all praised him for his "gentle" spirit, exceptional teaching abilities, and extraordinary artistic talents.


5 Linear Feet (20 boxes)

Language of Materials



Papers of Robert C. Koepnick (1907-1995), Dayton sculptor and long-time art instructor at the Dayton Art Institute. Koepnick is well known for his modern perspective on ecclesiastical art, and many of his works appear as architectural elements on churches and professional buildings throughout southwestern Ohio as well as around the United States. This collection includes photographs and sketches of many of his pieces, as well as correspondence related to commissioned work, scrapbooks of related articles, and memorabilia from European travel.

Arrangement note

The Robert C. Koepnick Papers is arranged into three series: Series I: Professional and personal papers

Subseries 1. Professional papers, 1879-1960 Subseries 2. Professional papers, 1960-1970 Subseries 3. Professional papers, 1970-1979 Subseries 4. Professional papers, 1980-1989 Subseries 5. Professional papers, 1990-1992 Subseries 6. Personal papers, 1907-1995

Series II: Photographs and scrapbooks Series III: Videos and realia

The Robert C. Koepnick Papers is arranged into three series:


  1. Professional and personal papers
  2. Photographs and scrapbooks
  3. Videos and realia

Other Finding Aid

A detailed index of names, institutions, and works appearing in this collection is located in the University Archives and Special Collections.

Acquisition Information

The Robert C. Koepnick papers were donated to the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections in June 2011 by John and Patricia Koepnick (accession 2011-040). The Koepnicks donated additional materials in September 2011 (accession 2011-052), February 23, 2012 (accession 2012-013), and October 2012 (accession 2012-049).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Margaret Zakri in November 2011. An addition to the collection was donated in 2012 which was processed by Jennifer Brancato in April 2013. Another addition was added in 2020 which was processed by Kristina Schultz Haylee Hunt.

Guide to the Robert C. Koepnick papers, 1879-1995, bulk 1930s-1980s
Margaret Zakri, Jennifer Brancato, Kristina Schultz, and Haylee Hunt
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University Libraries Repository

300 College Park Dr.
Dayton Ohio 45469-1360