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January 5, 2021

UM mourns passing of former president 

UM president emeritus Dr. John W. Stewart Sr., who served the University for more than 30 years from 1961 until his retirement in 1992, died at the age of 92 on Nov. 4.  

Stewart joined the University of Montevallo faculty in 1961 as a professor of music. He was promoted to department chair in 1963, serving in that position until 1978. He then served as dean of the College of Fine Arts until his appointment as interim president in 1988.  

Stewart is a past president of the Alabama Association of College Music Administrators, the Alabama Association of Music Education Specialists, the Montevallo Rotary Club and Alabama Chapter of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors.  

The University named its student retreat center in honor of Stewart, who oversaw the construction of the building, completed in 1991.  

Stewart and his late wife, Lauris, endowed a scholarship for UM music and music education majors, which has had a lasting impact on Montevallo students, much like Stewart himself.  

Members of the UM family were effusive in their praise for Stewart and his commitment to Montevallo.  

Dr. John W. Stewart exemplified excellence in his life – as a performer, as a professor, as a conductor and as an administrator. And his quiet but strong influence inspired excellence in others. He always spoke softly and precisely, but his words had a large impact on all who listened. He was intelligent, exacting, warm and generous. The Davis Music Building may be his most lasting legacy, but the impact of his example, his teaching and his leadership on the hundreds of students touched by his life’s work is an unmeasurable, but even more important legacy. -Julie McEntee ’76, Department of Music administrative assistant  

I met John as he came on board as interim president of the University in 1989. I was the newly elected SGA president and even though we only had one year together in that capacity before I graduated, he always had time for us students and the issues we thought were important at the time. Fast forward six years and I return as a resident of Montevallo and small town tax professional who was brought back into the UM fold by Mary Lou Williams and the Alumni Board and I had occasion to re-introduce myself to Dr. Stewart who was as gracious as ever in his time for me. In 1999, John needed to step down from the UM Foundation Board – he wondered if he could recommend me as his replacement…he did, I accepted and that was the beginning of a 21-year friendship. Sadly, John’s beautiful adventure in this world ended on Nov. 4. The University of Montevallo lost one of its most proud defenders, humanity lost one of the last great gentlemen of our time. I lost a dear friend, and I will miss him. –Joe Howard ’89, UM Foundation board member 

I do not think I have ever known anyone who was so unanimously admired and respected by everyone who knew him. That is due, I think, in no small part to the fact that he was so respectful of other people; he always listened carefully and responded thoughtfully, in a way that made you think you had something worthwhile to say. Among his many talents, one of his finest traits was that he made people want to live up to his good opinion of them. He brought out the good in us and made us all better than we thought we were. I am deeply grateful for his friendship. -Carolyn Duncan ’71