About Us: Past Presidents

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Historical Spelman

Donald M. Stewart, Ph.D.

In 1976, Dr. Donald M. Stewart became Spelman College's sixth president and would continue the tradition of academic excellence and the cultivation of leaders during his decade in office.

A Chicago native, Dr. Stewart graduated from Hyde Park High School before attending Grinnell College in Iowa. He graduated in 1959 with a degree in political science. After traveling abroad and studying at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland for two years, he continued his education by earning a master's degree in political science from Yale University in 1972; then a master of public administration in 1969; and a doctor of public administration in 1975 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.  He also completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in 1983.

Before coming to Spelman, Dr. Stewart held several positions at the University of Pennsylvania, including associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, director of the College of General Studies, and counselor to the provost. He also worked in the Overseas Development Division of the Ford Foundation.

In 1986, Dr. Stewart retired from Spelman to become president of The College Board in New York where he would serve for more than 12 years. He spent a year at the Carnegie Corporation of New York where he served as senior program officer of the Education Division and special adviser to the president before taking the helm at the Chicago Community Trust as chief executive officer and president from 2000 to 2005. He returned to the classroom as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy Studies from 2005-2011.

In 2010, he was appointed to the Commission on Presidential Scholars by President Barack Obama. Dr. Stewart is the recipient of numerous awards and is an adviser and board member for several organizations.  He is married to Isabel Carter Stewart and has two sons, Jay and Carter.

Historical Highlights Under Dr. Stewart's Leadership

  • Dr. Stewart ushered in many additions to the College's curriculum and expanded the academic offerings with new majors, minors, and the creation of new programs. A full-fledged Department of Chemistry and a Comprehensive Writing Program were established. Spelman offered majors in 26 fields including prelaw and premed tracks; and computer science was initiated as a major and minor. 
  • In 1978, the Office of Freshman Studies was established, followed by the Spelman College Honors Program, and the Continuing Education Program in 1980.
  • Marian Wright Edelman, C '60, became the first alumna to be elected the chair of the Board of Trustees in 1979.
  • Spelman became the first HBCU to establish a Women's Research and Resources Center in 1981.
  • In 1985, the Academic Computer Center opened.
  • A President's Council was established to enhance Spelman's corporate relationships, which helped grow the endowment from $9 million to $41 million during his presidency.
  • In 1986, during his last year as president, the Donald and Isabel Stewart Living-Learning Center was dedicated in his honor.