Friday, April 9, 2010

G. Alec Stewart, Dean of the University of Pittsburgh Honors College Dies

The news has reached the far corners of the earth. On one e-mail that a friend wrote from Pittsburgh, recipients were in Montreal, Doha, Berlin and Seoul among other locations. My small group of friends from the UHC is scattered across the Earth and are just a small representation of the lives he touched.

The UHC is located near the top of the Cathedral of Learning. It is an amazing place. It was amazing even then, when my friends and I were there a few years before the renovation that added a second floor and designer touches. I remember late nights looking out across the city of Pittsburgh. I did a lot at the UHC, as did every person on that e-mail and those that came before and after. We are his legacy.

"Doc" was always accessible. He spent a lot of time talking to students about anything and everything. He was open to different ideas and different types of students. The Honors College was open to every student. There was no "admission". Some students had UHC scholarships, but any student could participate in UHC classes. There was no standard curriculum. You could take 1 UHC class or many. Doc said that many times he had seen kids who barely made it into Pitt catch fire for quantum physics or Shakespeare and that passion had to be nurtured. A teenager's high school boredom or immaturity shouldn't limit his opportunities for college growth. If you get into Pitt, you are already "in" the UHC because of Doc's philosophy. He wanted the UHC to be an intellectual community, not a cut-throat competitive environment. He succeeded. It was one of my homes away from home during my time at Pitt.

He had a great sense of humor. I remember that he said that Hugh Henry Brakenridge (Pitt's founder) was rumored to ride horses naked in the rain and he wanted some students to pull a prank for April Fool's Day or Founder's Day. That kind of thing was right up my alley with my theatre involvement but I never got around to it. I wonder if someone ever did. I hope if any of his current students remember that someone will make a ride through Pitt campus, in memoriam.

I wish I had the time to write a worthy tribute, but I am afraid if I wait for that, I'll never write anything. So, I will just say that G. Alec Stewart was a great man and educator. He will be missed. And, if anyone reading is in Pittsburgh with access to a horse...

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