The University of Minnesota Board of Regents has approved a proposal to rename the Education building on the UMN Morris campus as William B. and Ida B. Stewart Hall, in honor of William (Bill) and Ida Stewart.
The Regents unanimously supported the proposal during their meeting on Friday, Dec. 16.
Bill Stewart was hired by UMN Morris Provost Jack Imholte in 1973 to address the inequities in education for students of color. He served as the director of the Minority (now Multi-Ethnic) Student Program (MSP) until 1998. The program, the precursor to the current Office of Equity, Diversity, and Intercultural Programs (EDI), grew exponentially during Bill’s tenure, from 23 students to 291. Bill touched the lives of thousands of Morris students and championed the concerns, needs, and accomplishments of students of color. Under his leadership, MSP provided academic assistance, financial aid, and student support services to improve minority student opportunities and success on campus.
Ida Stewart joined the UMN Morris staff in 1972. Ida served the campus as a faculty member, education coordinator, and academic advisor. She is known for establishing World Touch Cultural Heritage Week and the Women of Color Association as well as connecting the campus to large university communities.
Following Bill’s death in 2020, MSP alumni began the process to honor the Stewarts’ campus legacy by naming the Education building for the couple.
Kimberly Jones ’92 and Judge David L. Kelly ’95 are among the alumni who worked to advance the effort to name the Education building for the Stewarts. “While we can certainly measure the quantitative impact of Bill and Ida’s service to UMN Morris, we may never fully grasp the qualitative impact of learning, living, and working at a university with a student body diverse in race, ethnicity, national origin, gender and thought. This experience undoubtedly transformed the lives of countless UMN Morris students, faculty,and staff members, as it certainly transformed our lives. Bill and Ida had a significant role in creating and nurturing this multicultural, interdependent campus community, and we believe it is fitting that their lives’ work be honored in this way.”
Dr. Josie Johnson, a retired professor, vice president and former member of the University’s Board of Regents, added that Bill’s “mission remained consistent throughout his career at the University of Minnesota Morris. His impact and efforts leveled the playing field for minority students at UMM and all campuses. He strategically built relationships and alliances with University administrators to make systemic changes to university policies that would last beyond his tenure. University of Minnesota students in the 21st century are benefitting from Bill's commitment to make the University of Minnesota a more equitable place to learn and grow.”
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Sandy Olson-Loy worked closely with the Stewarts. “The Stewarts’ work exemplifies the highest aspirations of the University of Minnesota’s mission and our guiding principles – particularly those of providing an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance, creating and supporting partnerships within educational systems and communities to achieve common goals, and inspiring, setting high expectations for, and empowering the individuals within our community.”
UMN Morris Acting Chancellor Janet Schrunk Ericksen agrees that it is particularly appropriate that the Education building carry the Stewart name. “Bill and Ida believed in and lived by the values of equity and access in education. Both Bill and Ida lived lives full of support, in their formal roles and well beyond them, including long after retirement. Bill and Ida’s leadership was foundational, transformative, and inspirational in creating and sustaining the commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion that are now cornerstones of the UMN Morris experience.”
A dedication ceremony will be held as part of the Homecoming celebrations on the Morris campus, scheduled for Sept. 8-10, 2023.