Glenn Alexander Stewart '62

Submitted by Craig H. Morgan on Wednesday, 4/20/2016, at 12:57 PM

From The Olio

701 North Anderson Street, Ellensburg, Washington
Prepared at Ellensburg High School
Phi Delta Sigma, Secretary
Radio Club, President

Glenn Alexander (Alec) Stewart '62, died April 7, 2010.
(view alumni profile - Log-in required)

In Memory

Here is the remembrance Steve Hauschka has written for Amherst magazine ---

My friendship with Alec stemmed from many midnight hours slogging through Physics I/II problems, and from weekend afternoons in the Amherst Short Wave Radio facility.  Alec single-handedly kept the WWII transmitters running, and he particularly enjoyed exchanging blazingly fast messages with his Dad.  The goal was to dah-dit-dah-dit the other guy so rapidly they'd fall hopelessly behind. I always lost track of the conversation, but Alec would constantly crack up, then explain how his Dad thought he'd said: "dah-dah-dit-dah-dit- .... when he'd actually said: dah-dah-dah-dit-dah-dit- it was a pun, didn’t you get it????"   

Alec loved Physics, and after completing his Senior thesis project with Prof. Skip Dempsey he became a Physics grad student at the University of Washington where I’d joined the Biochemistry department. We’d often visit our scowling old nemesis Arnold Boris Aarons who’d relocated to the UW, and Arnold could never resist checking whether we remembered anything from his class; Alec always passed.

Alec honed his teaching skills at CalTech, where he won a coveted prize for Physics instruction. He then joined the University of Pittsburgh, where he ran a cutting edge lab investigating two-dimensional physics, became a Professor of Physics, and then founded the undergraduate Honors Program.

Alec was a dearly beloved educator at Pitt. He was the only Dean to carry, at his own insistence, a full teaching load; and the outpouring of admiring comments from his students and colleagues is a marvelous testament: "Alec just loved being in the classroom;” and, “Alec worked a kind of magic on students.”  Alec certainly became an educator in the very best traditions of Amherst College.

Alec died April 7, 2010 after a long illness. He is survived by his wife Carolyn, daughter Kirsten, son Colin, three grandchildren, and many hundreds of inspired students whose intellects Alec helped to awaken.

Steve Hauschka '62

We also have a note from Lew Jacobson, Class of 1963----

Alec and I were colleagues for nearly 40 years here at Pitt. As founding Dean of our Honors College, he was a giant in the life of this University. I am tempted to say he's irreplaceable, but Alec built a strong institution that will persist and embody his Amherst-formed vision for a very long time.

Lew supplied links to two very laudatory obituaries, the first in the University of Pittsburgh Pitt Chronicle . (which might be termed the short version), and a second (more detailed one) in The University Times

And Lew also supplied a link to a wonderful sketch that appeared in the Pitt Magazine (The U of of Pittsburgh alumni publication)--

Pitt Magazine Article

From Our Reunion Book

Finally, we have a longer remembrance of Alec that Steve Hauschka wrote drawing on contributions from Alec's family ---

Alec grew up in the gorgeous farming valley of Ellensburg Washington, with the mist enshrouded Cascade mountains to the north and west, rolling grassland hills and open rangeland extending eastward to the Columbia River, and spectacular basalt canyons and glacier-covered volcanoes to the South. Ellensburg boys roamed their idyllic world searching for arrowheads and leaping over rattlesnakes, developed their fortitude erecting huge castles of Timothy hay bales from dawn ‘til dusk, and some, like Alec, dreamed of expanding their horizons in colleges like Amherst. It was not an easy transition from seminars led by old timers arguing the finer aspects of tractor engines in the farm implements store to coat-and-tie professors cajoling students to question the logic of Greek philosophers. Yet Alec’s innate curiosity about the world, fascination with all things electro-mechanical, desire to understand their physical basis, and capacity for hard work made him an ideal Amherst student.

While many classmates may still cringe at the memory, Alec loved Arnold Arons’ scowling challenges in Freshman Physics; and inspired by these questions, he took every Physics course and immersed himself in an honors project involving the magnetic thermometry of cerium magnesium nitrate. The enjoyment of this experience led Alec to a Physics PhD from the University of Washington, to postdoctoral studies at Cal Tech where he was awarded a coveted prize for undergraduate Physics instruction, and to an exhilarating lifetime of teaching.

Alec was an educator in the very best traditions of Amherst, and many of his educational philosophies were influenced by interactions with his Amherst professors. Alec became a dearly beloved Physics Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and he was especially proud of founding the University’s highly acclaimed Honors College. Participation in this program during the many years of Alec’s guidance led to more Pitt undergraduates winning Fulbright, Marshall, and Rhodes scholarships than students from any other Pennsylvania campus; and amazingly, even while Dean of the Honors College, Alec insisted on teaching the high-powered Freshman Honors Physics course -- a commitment that Alec’s children recall led to the scribbling of countless physics problem ideas on napkins.

Alec possessed an endless fascination with the challenges of education. He had a passion for opening students’ minds to new ideas in all fields of knowledge, and students marveled at and attempted to emulate the breadth of his interests. At Alec’s Memorial Service in 2010 and again this winter in a celebration of the Honors College’s 25th anniversary, the outpouring of heartfelt comments from his students and colleagues continues as a marvelous testament to a life dedicated to education: this anniversary day is “a tribute to Alec’s inspirational vision of quality education, the enormous positive impact he had on the lives of students and faculty here, and his continuing influence on our work within the Honors College;” "Alec just loved being in the classroom;” and, “Alec worked a kind of magic on students.”

If Alec and his wife Carolyn had been able to join us at our 50th Reunion we’d have reconnected with a couple whose romance, love for their children and grandchildren, and mutual devotion to teaching had thrived for more than 55 years. We’d have learned that as high school sweethearts Alec had bought an old buggy, painted it to glossy perfection, and that Carolyn then hitched it to her horse so they could ride together to school. In that late 50s era where high school boys honed their images through the decibels of dual carburetors and lengths of their hotrod’s tailfins, what a unique and poetic way to cement a loving relationship before Alec departed for Amherst and Carolyn to Stanford. Carolyn would have told us that she subsequently transferred to Washington State where she majored in Mathematics, then moved to Boston to complete a Master’s in Education at Harvard — while simultaneously transfusing Alec with sufficient warmth to make it through those many senior months of low temperature physics. Alec would have regaled us with stories of their children: Kirsten (M.D. Penn State, ‘96) and Colin (Amherst ’95), and three AMAZING grandchildren, one of whose favorite word is: WHY? We’d have heard hilarious adventures of family backpacking trips, and of a Semester at Sea experience for which Alec served as Dean; and we’d no doubt have heard of Alec’s oft repeated propensity for becoming the master of disaster with homemade fireworks, and of his lifelong enjoyment of ham radio that was happily juxtaposed with a love of grand opera and classical organ music. But we’d also have realized that Alec’s spellbinding stories were interspersed with even more penetrating questions about our own lives: what roads had we traveled, and did we ever stop on an evening to watch woods fill up with snow? Alec would have delighted to hear what we’d discovered.

----Written for Alec by Steve Hauschka
        with memories and contributions from
            Carolyn, Kirsten and Colin Stewart.

And in establishing a book fund in Alex's honor, the University of Pittsburgh noted --

Doc Stewart – Educator, Friend, Mentor

Doc's vision, legacy, and insatiable appetite for learning live on through the University Honors College. As Dean of the Honors College, he delighted in using books to unlock students' potential, provide them with new avenues of thought, and engage their critical minds. When a student came to chat, Doc inevitably pulled a book off his shelf related to the conversation and would check-in weeks later to discuss it.

"One of the most impactful moments of my life involved Doc and books. During my Chancellor Scholarship interview, it came up that I loved physics and I wanted to read the Feynman Lectures on Physics but the multivolume set of books was too expensive for me. At the end of my interview, I was stunned when Doc handed me a brand-new set of the Feynman Lectures. I started crying and gave Doc a hug. I later learned that when Doc excused himself from my interview he ran to the Pitt bookstore and bought the set for me. Though he barely knew me, Doc supported my desire to learn. That's the kind of person he was."

Anna Quider '07 | Director of Federal Relations, Northern Illinois University

Alec as Dean
Alec as Dean

Alec and Carolyn Stewart
Alec and Carolyn