Students organize memorial concert for G. Alec ‘Doc’ Stewart

By Gwenn Barney

Every Saturday afternoon during his childhood, G. Alec Stewart scampered into his living room… Every Saturday afternoon during his childhood, G. Alec Stewart scampered into his living room and twisted the dials of the family radio until he found the station he was looking for — the one that played the Metropolitan Opera.

These afternoons listening to the Metropolitan Opera were the beginning of what eventually became a lifelong love of music for Glenn Alexander ‘Doc’ Stewart, the man who would become the founding dean of Pitt’s Honors College.

Even though Stewart, who died one year ago this week, spent a large portion of his time dedicated to the Honors College, he always made time for music, even sponsoring the Puppies! a cappella group in 2007. The group broke up in 2008, but reunited for Sunday’s concert.

That consideration inspired Puppies! member Michael McKibben to begin in December to plan a memorial concert for the late Honors College dean.

McKibben worked closely with senior Utsav Bansal and the Student Honors Activity Council over the course of four months to bring the concert, which took place yesterday afternoon in Frick Fine Arts, to fruition.

“This is pretty much an entirely student-run initiative,” McKibben said.

Puppies! member Sean Malloy said that the first time he met Stewart, he informed the dean that he would not be around the Honors College often because he planned to major in music. Rather than attempting to convince Malloy to spend more time in the Honors College, Stewart carried on an in-depth conversation with Malloy about music.

“One thing that really struck me was how much he loved music,” Malloy, now a senior, said, speaking to the event’s audience of about 60 people.

Contributions provided by those in attendance benefited the G. Alec Stewart Memorial Book and Resource Fund, which will provide books and other resources and materials for students of the University Honors College.

Carolyn Stewart, the late dean’s wife, attended the concert.

“They did a beautiful job,” Carolyn Stewart said. “He would have loved it that they honored him with music.”

The show began with an introduction from Malloy, who took the auditorium stage dressed in an all-black suit. All the performers sang beneath a projected picture of Doc Stewart, which had the years of his life, January 14, 1941 ­­— April 7, 2010, listed below.

C Flat Run, a student a cappella group, took the stage first and performed a mix of upbeat and ballad music. Group member and sophomore Eric Weaver especially felt that the group’s rendition of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” was appropriate for the occasion.

“The lyrics just really make you feel the mood of the event,” Weaver said. “It has spiritual meaning.”

The solo performers’ repertoire consisted of reflective song choices, such as Sara Bareilles’s “Gravity” sung by sophomore Rachel Lobosky, a runner-up in last year’s Campus Superstar competition, and freshman Rocky Patera’s cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You.”

The show concluded with Puppies!, who sang a four-song set that included two of Doc’s favorites, anti-war songs “The Gulf War Song” by Moxy Früvous and “General Taylor” by Great Big Sea.

“Mainly I think he liked that the lyrics [to these songs] were supportive of intellectual debate,” Puppies! member senior Dillon Haas said.

Students who attended the show ranged in their knowledge of Doc Stewart’s legacy at Pitt. Seniors Morgan Broacha and Laura Hatz attended the concert because they had worked with Stewart.

In seats near Broacha and Hatz sat a quartet of freshmen, who came to the concert despite having limited personal connections to Stewart. The freshmen heard Stewart speak when they visited Pitt last year, but had never met the man individually.

“We never actually met him,” freshman Colleen Gunsaulus said, “but we’ve heard that he had a large influence on the Honors College.”