‘Doc Stewart’ dies at 69

By Estelle Tran

Glenn Alexander Stewart, Dean of the University Honors College, passed away yesterday at UPMC… Glenn Alexander Stewart, Dean of the University Honors College, passed away yesterday at UPMC Montefiore Hospital. He was 69.

Known as “Doc Stewart,” students knew him as a physics professor as well as a mentor.

Stewart was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Honors College, an institution that now has a $12 million endowment funding undergraduate research. He is known for giving students freedom to research outside traditional academic constraints. Through programs such as the Brackenridge Fellowship, he advocated a multidisciplinary approach to research.

Stewart began his time at Pitt as an assistant physics professor in 1972. In five years, he became the first head of the University Honors Program, which is now the University Honors College.

Chancellor Mark Nordenberg reflected on Stewart’s impact at Pitt.

“As the founding dean of our University Honors College, Alec Stewart built one of the country’s finest honors programs and elevated the quality of the entire University,” Nordenberg said in the release. “Alec was a warm and caring person, a committed colleague and gifted teacher, and a gracious and gentle friend. He will be sorely missed.”

Stewart was born on Jan. 14, 1941, in Ellensburg, Wash. He earned his bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in physics from Amherst College in 1962, the release said. He earned a master’s degree in physics from the University of Washington the next year and a Master of Science in Engineering degree in 1965. In 1969, he attained a PhD in solid state physics.

Andrew Ramey, a former Brackenridge fellow, met Stewart in the Honors College while he was touring the University as a prospective incoming freshman.

“He seemed really interested in knowing who I was,” Ramey said. “I didn’t know how important he was.”

Ramey played baseball at the time, which intrigued the physics professor. Stewart chatted with Ramey at the top of the Cathedral about what makes a curve ball curve and how hard and how high a person has to hit a baseball to get a homerun.

“He was really down to earth and really personal with students,” Ramey said. “Doc was appropriately irreverent. He’d know how to laugh and when to kick back.”

At Pitt, Stewart worked beyond his job description.

“When I first got here as a freshman he helped me pick courses. That’s not really his job,” Ramey said. “But Doc sat with me and he talked to me about what some good classes are.”

Ramey continued to confide and joke around with Stewart, even after he graduated from Pitt last year and enrolled in a PhD program at Carnegie Mellon University.

“The role he had in the Honors College is really special. The whole institution really took shape under his guidance.”

Ramey spent yesterday talking to friends and reflecting on fun times he had with Stewart.

“My first thought was I’d have a stiff drink in his honor, because that’s what he’d want,” Ramey said. “I don’t think he’d want us to be sad and mourning and crying. He’d want us to celebrate his life.”

Stewart is survived by his wife, Carolyn, their two children, Kirsten Marie Stewart and Colin Rutledge Stewart, and three grandchildren.