Donald M. Stewart ’59 Study Alcove, N2190

This space is officially named in gratitude of the generosity of the family of Donald M. Stewart.


Donald Mitchell Stewart was born in 1938 and grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park. His father was a postal supervisor and his mother sold World Book encyclopedias to put Don and his sister Ruth Ann through college. 

He graduated with high honors from Grinnell College in 1959, with a bachelor’s degree in political science. His senior thesis focused on the independence of India in 1947. 

Don married Isabel Carter Johnston in 1965. They raised two sons, Jay and Carter. A third son, Gojeb Frehywot ’92, from Ethiopia, joined the family in 1986. 

First in his family to complete college, Don enjoyed a distinguished career in academia at Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and University of Chicago as well as in philanthropy at the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, and Chicago Community Trust. He headed the College Entrance Examination Board from 1987 - 2000, where he launched the program Equity 2000. 

A proponent of affirmative action to help black students gain admission to and succeed in college, he advocated high academic standards and strove to help all students meet them. Don became the sixth president of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1976. During his presidency, the average SAT scores of entering freshman increased by over 100 points and the college’s endowment increased fourfold. 

For 23 years, Don Stewart served as a devoted member of the Grinnell Board of Trustees. He was elected a Life Member of the Board in 1995. He died on April 7, 2019.