Amherst Magazine

David E. Stewart '68

David E. Stewart '68 died March 2, 2007.
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Dave Stewart died of a heart attack on March 2 in his native South Carolina, where he had lived and worked as an Episcopalian minister for over thirty years.

I was Dave’s best friend, and he mine, for all four years at Amherst.  Looking back, I can’t recall an adventure—or misadventure—which I did not share with him.  We were roommates, brothers at Chi Phi and fellow Masquers.  A quick count tells me we appeared together in fourteen stage productions at both Amherst and Mt. Holyoke.  We even worked together at C&C Package Store our senior year.  At the end of our junior year, I traveled to South Carolina to stand up with Dave when he married his first wife, Sharon.  Every laugh and every tear I had at Amherst, I shared with him.

After Amherst, Dave went to New York where he pursued acting for a brief while before turning to the call which he had felt all his life, the church.  After finishing seminary in New York, he returned to South Carolina, where he stayed until his death.  He is survived by his wife, Jemme; his children, Matt and Christi, and his granddaughter, Eva.

Dave was a rector at several churches, chaplain at the University of South Carolina and director of a number of mental health facilities.  In a eulogy, a fellow rector recalled that Dave’s warm humor was constantly in evidence, that “David was a splendid preacher even when his son Matt would crawl into the pulpit to pull David’s leg hair” and that “someone said that he had too much fun to be a priest.”  

Unfortunately, the closeness we enjoyed at Amherst was not to endure.  Dave was by his own admission a terrible correspondent and, as time went on, we lost touch.  There were a few brief phone calls, a couple of letters, but not enough to sustain what we had once had.  The last contact I had with him was ironically an indirect one.  A dozen years ago, his son Matt stopped by my house on passing through Chicago.  As he came up my sidewalk, he smiled, and in a flash, I saw his father before me.  He was a chip off the old block as a person, too; we talked for hours, and I urged him to help rekindle the connection I had once had with his father but that never happened.

So when I got the news that Dave was gone, I realized that all my recollections were from those very compact years we had spent together at Amherst.  As a result, he, like John F. Kennedy, will remain frozen in time for me, forever youthful.  Others of you I have seen with gray hair—or no hair at all—and with spouses, kids and college tuition bills, but not Dave.  No, he will always be the same engaging chum who danced and sang and laughed both on stage and off, who was warm, sharing, sharp-witted but never cynical, fun but always serious.  He will be wrapped up in the mystery of our years at the Fairest College, and perhaps that is his best and most-lasting gift to me, and I hope to you as well—a remembrance of the time when we, as strangers, came to live together.  

Dave was religious and I am not, but we did share the religion of the theater and Shakespeare, so I’ll turn that way for my final thoughts. Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

—Bruce H. Boyer ’68

 

From the 25th Reunion book:

 
    
Freshman photo and submitted photo
 
Submission:
 

I don’t know if Dean Wilson asked everyone in our class the same question or not. During my admissions interview I remember he asked mc, "Do you want to be a big frog in a little pond or a little frog in a big pond?“ He was warning me that if I came to Amherst 1 was likely to find myself less central to the overall life of the college than I had been in high school. He may have been alluding to the larger world beyond Amherst, too. I remember it took me less than an already-accelerated heart beat to answer, "I really see no reason I won’t end up a big frog in a big pond!“ Oh, to have half the confidence (read: ego, arrogance, or at the very least adolescent delusion.)

So, here I am, in the back waters of South Carolina wondering how I really did Pond—wise. Honestly, I am a medium frog in a pond at the very smallest end of the cycle of size and importance. (I did live in Peter Pond_Dorm Sophomore year; does that count?)       

For instance, how many of you have ever been to South Carolina? If you drop Hilton Head Island from the list, how many? Can you name our senators? (hint: 1. Our senior senator was the old gezer who slept (on camera) through the Thomas hearings last year. 2. Our junior senator is the guy who helped sponsor the Graham/Rudman Bill. His is the third name—— like Mo, Larry and ...).

Here I am in South Carolina. I am working at a local mental health center and have a private practice doing psychotherapy most evenings. I am married to a nurse/psychotherapist, Jemme, who specializes in working with victims of rape and sexual abuse. We have two kids, each from our respective first marriages. (at least divorce is as popular in this part of the country as it is elsewhere). My daughter (I adopted my wife’s daughter, Christi) is finishing Goucher College this spring. My son, Matt, is out of high school waiting to decide about college. He and I are a lot alike. At this point that means that he is not talking to me.

When I was a sophomore living in "E—dorm", soon to be ‘Peter Pond", Boyer, Willis, Lobdel, B.J., (McCormick and Occendon passed through, too), and I used to say none of us would ever get one of those big Ford station wagons with the fake wood paneling on the sides. I don't know about the rest, but I never have. I think that that fear was not so automotive as it was a fear of ending up normal and dull. I left Amherst to act in New York, which I did. I went to seminary and am an ordained Episcopal priest—- though I don’t do much church work these days. I’ve done some interesting things and I don’t feel like I’m half done with my life, if, in fact I am. Lately I’ve started writing again, poetry and fiction. I've even won a few contests and done some local readings.

But, I have to tell you, a lot of this has been a surprise to me. I didn't expect to come back to South Carolina to live. I sure didn’t expect to be doing what I’m doing. Sometimes the size of my “pond” and my relative size in this body of water both seem smaller than I expected. I am pretty sure I’ll never drive a big wagon with wood paneling. The rest is probably up for grabs. I feel certain I got a lot from my years at Amherst. I am less clear what. Except, it may be a capacity to go on doing what I do: working, running, writing and living, even when I don’t know what to expect or what is going on.

 

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