University of California, San Diego


September 13, 2007


SUBJECT:    John L. Stewart, Muir College Founding Provost

John Lincoln Stewart, founding Provost of Muir College at UCSD, passed away on August 31, 2007, at the age of 90 in Oakland, California.

Born January 24, 1917, in Alton, IL, Stewart grew up in Granville, OH and Dwight, Ontario. He graduated from Dennison College in 1938 with a double major in English and Music. After service during WWII, he completed his doctorate in English Literature at Ohio State University. He taught English at UC, Los Angeles from 1947 to 1949 and at Dartmouth from 1949 to 1965. Stewart also served as the Associate Director of the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth.

In 1964, Stewart moved to UCSD where he recruited faculty for UCSD's humanities programs and for the college that would soon welcome students as John Muir College. He was named Muir College's first provost, a position he held until his retirement in 1987. Stewart's vision profoundly shaped Muir's core values: the belief that students are best served when they exercise individual choice and responsibility in crafting their own educational programs; the importance of the college as a close-knit supportive community; and the preservation of the environment as a guiding theme. True to these values and his love of the wilderness, he developed and taught a signature course of the college, "Wilderness and Human Values," which culminated in a week-long hike led by Stewart in John Muir's-and John Stewart's-beloved Sierra Nevada mountains.

As a scholar, Stewart's publications include The Burden of Time, a study of a group of Southern American writers known as The Fugitives, and Ernst Krenek: A Critical Biography. As a passionate and talented amateur musician, he played the piano, trumpet, string bass, oboe, English horn, and valve trombone. He played in various community orchestras and chamber groups over the years, but he was happiest playing jazz, which he did with fellow amateurs as well as professional jazz artists. He was the proud founder of Muir College's own faculty jazz ensemble, The Moldy Figs, which performed at campus events during the 1970s and the 1980s. Many will remember the Commencements led by John Stewart in kilt and full Scottish regalia.

Architect Bob Mosher, who designed many of the original college buildings, reports that Stewart's vision was crucial in giving the physical fabric of the college, as well as its programmatic themes, its characteristic identity. On the occasion of the college's 30th anniversary in 1998, Muir Commons, the center of student life on the campus, was re-dedicated as Stewart Commons in his honor.

Stewart traveled widely and loved outdoor activities like backpacking, canoeing, skiing, and tennis. Moreover, he was a supporter of many environmental, education, and arts programs and was most proud of his long membership in the National Organization for Women. He is survived by his children Leslie Chalmers, Ann Nutt, Geoff Quinn, Andrew Quinn, and his grandchildren Lisa Hardie, Casey Nutt, Liz Nutt, and Peter Quinn. If you wish to honor John Stewart's memory you may make a donation to the John and Ruth Stewart Memorial Scholarship for Muir College undergraduates. Please contact Student Affairs Development (858)534-0263 for further information.

Marjorie C. Caserio
Interim Senior Vice Chancellor