Com­mu­nity Trust CEO, fo­cused on fundrais­ing

DON­ALD M. STE­WART 1938-2019

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - OBITUARIES - By Bob Golds­bor­ough Bob Golds­bor­ough is a free­lance re­porter.

Don­ald M. Ste­wart re­turned to his home­town to serve as CEO of the Chicago Com­mu­nity Trust in the early 2000s af­ter a ca­reer that in­cluded time as pres­i­dent of Spel­man College, a his­tor­i­cally black women’s school in Atlanta.

Dur­ing his time as head of the then-$1.2 bil­lion trust, Ste­wart dis­tin­guished him­self by re­new­ing the group’s em­pha­sis on fundrais­ing, fo­cus­ing on di­ver­sity and set­ting up the next gen­er­a­tion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s lead­er­ship.

“He had a real capacity to un­der­stand the im­pact of a foun­da­tion’s grant­mak­ing, and part of his legacy is that he launched the trust on the path of di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion,” said Terry Mazany, who suc­ceeded Ste­wart as the foun­da­tion’s CEO in 2004. “One of my points of pride is that thanks to Don’s start, the trust re­ally does re­flect and rep­re­sent the com­mu­ni­ties it serves, and it is, I think, a stan­dard for other com­mu­nity foundation­s.”

Ste­wart, 80, died April 7 of a heart at­tack he suf­fered while in an am­bu­lance en route from his home to the Univer­sity of Chicago Med­i­cal Cen­ter, said his son, Carter, who is a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney for the South­ern Dis­trict of Ohio. Ste­wart was a Hyde Park res­i­dent.

Don­ald Mitchell Ste­wart was born in Chicago and grew up in Hyde Park, the son of a postal em­ployee fa­ther and a mother who sold World Book en­cy­clo­pe­dias to put their chil­dren through college. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Hyde Park High School, Ste­wart earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence from Grin­nell College in Iowa in 1959. He later earned a mas­ter’s de­gree in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence from Yale Univer­sity.

Ste­wart was in­spired to pur­sue a ca­reer over­seas by one of his heroes, the African-Amer­i­can diplo­mat and No­bel Peace Prize win­ner Ralph Bunche, his son said. He stud­ied for two years at the Grad­u­ate In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional and De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies in Geneva, and, from 1962 un­til 1969, worked as a pro­gram of­fi­cer in the Over­seas De­vel­op­ment Di­vi­sion of the Ford Foun­da­tion. That job took him to coun­tries in­clud­ing Nige­ria, Egypt and Tu­nisia.

Ste­wart earned a mas­ter’s de­gree in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion from Har­vard Univer­sity’s John F. Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment in 1969 and a doc­tor­ate in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion from Har­vard’s Kennedy School in 1975. Dur­ing and af­ter his grad­u­ate stud­ies, Ste­wart worked at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, where he was as­so­ciate dean of the Fac­ulty of Arts and Sciences, di­rec­tor of the College of Gen­eral Stud­ies, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of City and Re­gional Plan­ning and coun­selor to the provost.

In 1976, Ste­wart was named Spel­man College’s pres­i­dent. The an­nounce­ment of his ap­point­ment sparked a sit-in from fe­male stu­dents, irate that an African-Amer­i­can woman had not been cho­sen for the post.

The women locked 14 college trustees in a room for 26 hours. Ul­ti­mately, ten­sions eased, and Ste­wart served for the next decade as pres­i­dent at Spel­man, where he es­tab­lished a fullfledge­d depart­ment of chem­istry and a com­pre­hen­sive writ­ing pro­gram and also ini­ti­ated com­puter sci­ence as a ma­jor and a mi­nor. Ste­wart also boosted the college’s en­dow­ment from $9 mil­lion to $41 mil­lion dur­ing his pres­i­dency.

In 1986, Ste­wart left Spel­man to be­come pres­i­dent of the College En­trance Ex­am­i­na­tion Board, also known as the College Board. Dur­ing more than 12 years at the College Board, Ste­wart de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for build­ing and broad­en­ing ini­tia­tives aimed at boost­ing the aca­demic prepa­ra­tion of high school stu­dents of color and those fac­ing fi­nan­cial chal­lenges.

Ste­wart left the College Board in 1999 to take a one year sab­bat­i­cal at the Carnegie Cor­po­ra­tion of New York, where he worked as a se­nior pro­gram of­fi­cer and spe­cial ad­viser to the pres­i­dent, re­spon­si­ble for grant­mak­ing in higher ed­u­ca­tion and teacher ed­u­ca­tion.

In June 2000, Ste­wart be­came pres­i­dent and CEO of the Chicago Com­mu­nity Trust, one of the old­est and largest char­i­ta­ble com­mu­nity trusts in the na­tion. Un­der Ste­wart’s lead­er­ship, the or­ga­ni­za­tion launched a new foun­da­tion to serve Lake County called the Lake County Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion.

“He loved Chicago,” his son said. “He loved try­ing to help peo­ple through phil­an­thropic work, and I think he wanted to be closer to his par­ents, too, who at that point were el­derly.”

Ste­wart fol­lowed the long tenure of for­mer CEO Bruce Newman. “Given how long Bruce was here, I thought my con­tri­bu­tion would be that of a change agent” and a “bridge to a new era,” he told the Tribune in 2004.

Un­der his lead­er­ship, the Chicago Com­mu­nity Trust suc­cess­fully re­tained the Searle fam­ily funds, which were a key source of the trust’s $50 mil­lion or so in an­nual grant-mak­ing at the time. He also fo­cused on fundrais­ing and di­ver­sity, and he men­tored Mazany, in or­der to set him up to be the group’s next CEO.

Ste­wart asked Mazany to over­see a $50 mil­lion, fiveyear pro­gram to sup­port lit­er­acy, teacher and prin­ci­pal de­vel­op­ment and school im­prove­ment in Chicago.

“He was the most gra­cious, kind and car­ing per­son I ever met,” Mazany said. “He gave me the chance to move into the world of phi­lan­thropy, and to have a shot at lead­ing the trust would not have hap­pened with­out him, where he had a sense that with my ed­u­ca­tion background, that I would be a good fit for lead­ing the brand-new ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive that the board had iden­ti­fied.”

Ste­wart also was a believer in col­lab­o­ra­tive phi­lan­thropy, and dur­ing his tenure, he cre­ated part­ner­ships with other or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foun­da­tion and the Erik­son In­sti­tute.

Af­ter re­tir­ing from the Chicago Com­mu­nity Trust, Ste­wart was a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Chicago’s Harris School of Pub­lic Policy from 2005 un­til 2011. Ste­wart also served as a vis­it­ing scholar at the Erik­son In­sti­tute in 2012.

Ste­wart served on the boards of The New York Times Co. and the Camp­bell Soup Co., as well as on the board of Grin­nell College.

In 2010, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama named Ste­wart to the Com­mis­sion on Pres­i­den­tial Schol­ars.

Ste­wart also is sur­vived by his wife of 53 years, Is­abel Carter Ste­wart, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Chicago Foun­da­tion for Women; an­other son, Jay; and eight grand­chil­dren.

A fu­neral ser­vice will take place at 11 a.m. Satur­day at the Univer­sity Church of Chicago, 5655 S. Univer­sity Ave., Chicago.


Don­ald M. Ste­wart fo­cused on fundrais­ing and di­ver­sity dur­ing his time as pres­i­dent and CEO of the Chicago Com­mu­nity Trust.

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