A Tribute to Bruce Stewart
by Abigail Browning

The Retired/ Former Employees of Sidwell Friends School wish to express their gratitude to Bruce Stewart upon his retirement for his unwavering support of our organization. From our first proposal, Bruce understood the importance of such a group. Through his support and with the help of Liane Faermann, head of Human Resources; Laurel McIntyre, former school archivist; and Lori Hardenbergh, present school archivist, the organization has thrived. Bruce has attended every annual luncheon and has made a point to get to know those members who preceded him at Sidwell Friends. We extend a warm welcome to our newest member and wish him the best!

Letting His Life Speak:
Bruce B. Stewart, Head of School 1998-2009

By Abigail Browning, Executive Assistant to the Head of School’s Office

There are few people who compel you to hone your direction, your focus and your priorities. Bruce B. Stewart, a dear friend, mentor, colleague, and retiring Head of Sidwell Friends School is one such person.

Stewart’s eleven years at SFS as educator and administrator have been representative of his entire forty-nine-year tenure and legacy. Bruce, “in a word,” to borrow a Bruce-ism, is one who “walks his talk.” From picking up trash as he strides across campus to filling his schedule with phone calls, letters and emails until eleven at night, his passion for education, deep concern for peace and social justice, and unfettered empathy and hope for the planet is visible and tangible. “It is hard for me to imagine what Sidwell Friends will be without Mr. Stewart,” Kirk Benson ’09 wrote. “His experience, sincerity, and commitment drive thoughtful leadership and inspire students and faculty alike.”

Bruce’s love for education and more succinctly—for helping others achieve what they want to achieve—started at a very early age. He grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts as the son of a Scottish immigrant who only went to the third grade. Bruce excelled in academics, graduating from Lynn English High School in 1957 from which he would attend Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. Stewart’s zeal for the “life of the mind” led him past his BA in economics to pursue an M. Ed. in Counseling from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In a shift from student to educator, Bruce Stewart became a member of the faculty of Walter Hines Page High School in Greensboro, NC in 1962. As a social studies teacher and a school counselor during the ‘60s, he had the responsibility of coordinating the school’s first efforts at integration following the sit-ins at Woolworth’s in Greensboro. In his recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, he expanded on his time at Page saying, “That experience inspired in me a strong determination to do all that I could to see that every young American, regardless of background, received a fair chance at the best education possible.”

In his dossier, his love of the world of education and pursuit of diversity cover every page—becoming one of the founders of the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, NC, serving as the school’s first Dean of Student Affairs and as a Special Assistant to the President, returning to Guilford College as Director of Admissions, then as Director of the Richardson Fellows Program, Assistant to the President, Acting Academic Dean, Interim Provost and, finally, from 1979 to 1984 serving as Provost of the College and Associate to the President for Development. He also consulted on the establishment of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and on public school desegregation efforts.

In a decision to seek another role in Quaker education, in 1984, Bruce became Head of Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA. Fourteen years later, in 1998, he began his current position as Head of School at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. As our Head of School, Bruce has been instrumental in developing a School environment that has a clear moral compass, prizes diversity, excels in academics, and has a lasting respect for the earth.

Every week that he can, Bruce Stewart attends the Upper School Meeting for Worship. He makes time in his schedule for meeting with individual students, families and employees to help them with all matters from personal to professional development. He meets challenges with an innovative spirit and a “can-do” attitude, one that is always positive and with a goal to have every voice heard. Lauren Brownlee, SFS alum and teacher, explained, “Bruce is always willing to give everything he can to every person or cause that he encounters. He is always more than willing to offer whatever time it takes to provide the advice, advocacy, or support that I’m seeking.”

Indeed, his care and concern for students is present in Bruce Stewart’s dedication to making Sidwell Friends School open to as many children as possible. As a result of Stewart’s efforts, as he noted in a recent Senate hearing regarding the DC Opportunity Scholarship, “38.4 percent of SFS students are young people of color and nearly one-quarter of all students receive financial aid averaging two-thirds of the cost of the school’s tuition.” He feels deeply that having diversity strengthens our classrooms by providing a myriad of viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences to enrich discussions and relationships.

Bruce Stewart’s concern for his students spills into the way he takes care of his faculty and staff. He has helped further both the Faculty/Staff Education and Venture Grant programs, allowing for SFS employees to continue with graduate and external programs; he put an employer-assisted housing loan program in place, which has enabled twenty-four employees thus far to purchase a home.

Possibly the most notable of all of Bruce’s contributions to Sidwell Friends School has been his unequivocal support for the research, funding, and building of the LEED Platinum Middle School facility. As the first secondary school building to receive this certification, it has drawn thousands of visitors from across the country and world. Loren Hardenbergh, Coordinator of Middle School tours, said of Bruce, “I was pleased to hear that the Middle School building will be named for Bruce and Andra [Stewart’s wife]. Not only did he work so hard to get it built, but his support of our tour program has been unwavering.”

Bruce’s “unwavering support” for Sidwell Friends School was defined also in part by his ability to commence and sustain the most successful and far-reaching capital campaign in SFS’s history, reaching its goal of $56 million dollars one year prior to the end date. When he traveled to speak with friends and alumni for the campaign, Madeline Stewart from the Office of Institutional Advancement, noted, “I’ve always been impressed by Bruce’s ability to captivate an audience. When we traveled to San Francisco and Chicago for alumni events, the alumni were simply enthralled by his stories, his expertise, and his warm presence. Bruce is an eloquent speaker whose deep affection for the school is apparent in every speech he gives.” By helping to significantly increase SFS’s endowment, Stewart paved the way for more construction projects, maintenance and updating of our buildings, and curricular endeavors to provide a more competitive setting for recruiting future teachers and students.

Indeed, Bruce Stewart has been a remarkable leader and advocate in pursuing the growth of Sidwell Friends School. Former Head of School and author, Robert Smith expounds:

Bruce's remarkable eleven years at Sidwell is, by any measure, a period in which the defining word must be transformational. It's a term which describes all that meets the eye and strikes the mind on both campuses, both on the outside and in the classroom.