By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

As Stephen Stewart (ELME ’03) sorted through his late father’s belongings, he stumbled upon 1957 and 1958 editions of SUNY Broome’s yearbook. As he pored over the black-and-white photos and handwritten well-wishes from his dad’s classmates, he couldn’t help but compare his father, Dr. William D. Stewart’s (BT ’58) traditional college experience at Broome Tech to his very nontraditional college experience at BCC and finally, to each of his eight children’s academic stints at SUNY Broome.

The Stewart family’s history at SUNY Broome is impressive but not unique. Countless families in the region now boast three generations of alumni, proving that the Community’s College is accomplishing precisely what it was designed to do.

Generation 1: Dr. William D. Stewart

Dr. William D. Stewart in the 1958 edition of the Citadel yearbook.

The Stewart family’s SUNY Broome history begins with William Stewart. After graduating from Vestal High School in 1954, Bill accepted a custodial job at IBM. While friends and family encouraged him to hold on to this solid position, Bill felt drawn to be college-educated and enrolled in the relatively new Broome Technical Community College. As one of only three men in the business technology program, he studied typewriting, shorthand, and transcription. Bill fell in love with the classroom environment, particularly from the vantage point of the professor.

After graduation, Bill married Joyce Savage, an incredibly bright and kind registered nurse. Together, they started a family as Bill pursued a bachelor’s degree in business science education at Hartwick College, followed by an MBA from Alfred University.

While teaching at Alfred State College (SUNY), Stewart noticed an advertisement in the New York Times urging educators to “Teach Business Subjects in East Africa” as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) “Uganda Project.”

With an approved leave of absence from Alfred State, the young family moved to Uganda in the late 1960s, where Bill taught the business principles that he had learned as a Broome Tech student to the women of the Tororo Girls School. On their six-week teaching sabbatical, the Stewarts toured throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

After the Stewarts’ two years in Uganda and a one-year teaching assignment in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, they returned to the U.S. for Bill to complete his doctorate in education (Ed.D.) from Arizona State University

He spent the next 27 years as an Alfred State professor of business and court reporting. His book, “Elephants Have the Right of Way,” details his time teaching in Africa. Dr. Stewart passed away in 2016.

Generation 2: Stephen Stewart

Steve, Carol, and their eight children in Bermuda.

Unlike his father’s more conventional college experience, there was nothing traditional about Steve Stewart’s Broome Community College degree. Over six years, he took classes in a Universal Instruments Corporation conference room. While working full-time for Universal and tackling electrical circuits and applied physics classes part-time seems daunting enough, he also came home every evening to a house full of eager little kids. Eight kids, to be exact, all under the age of nine, thanks to back-to-back sets of twins.

Steve moved 23 times as a child, following his father’s teaching assignments. A few years after graduating from Andover High School, tired of being a self-admittedly “undriven, single guy,” Stewart moved closer to family in Vestal, NY. Thanks to a friend’s encouragement and a much-needed haircut, he accepted a machinist position at Universal Instruments Corp. He married his wife, Carol, and children quickly followed.

As the realities of providing for a family of ten on a machinist’s salary sank in, Universal announced a joint program with BCC. Mechanical and electrical engineering technology faculty would deliver the full curriculum on-site at Universal, with the company covering all costs — except textbooks.

“I knew that I didn’t want machining to be my life’s career,” Stewart explained. “Classes were offered before and after the first shift, and my supportive manager often let me work on my classwork during breaks and lulls in our workday.”

Stewart averaged two to three classes per semester, which made balancing his many responsibilities more manageable. Another key to his academic success was Carol Stewart.

“Often, it was Carol who had to remind me to sit at the kitchen table and study, and she always prayed that I would do well on my exams. Something she continued to do for all of our children throughout their time in college,” Stewart said.

His completed mechanical and electrical engineering technology degree played a critical role in securing a position at Lockheed Martin, where he’s worked for the past 17 years.

Life has only gotten busier for Steve. Now, at the end of a l ong workday, he is not met with eight kids wanting to play. Instead, there is a rotating collection of his children’s children — currently ringing in at 18 — waiting for tractor rides and reading time with Grandpa.

Generation 3: The Stewart Kids

Steve, Carol, and the “original eight.” Photo Credit: Matt Ebbers

When it came time for the Stewart children to go to college, their parents advised: “Earn your degrees before you have a family and start at SUNY Broome.”

Following a verse in Proverbs that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Steve and Carol noted each child’s individual aptitudes and directed them to develop those skills in college. For “our very mechanically and technically minded boys,” Stewart noted, this meant engineering science or civil engineering associate degrees. For their daughters, they encouraged interesting and challenging careers that would also be flexible enough to empower them to raise families. Steve explained, “They settled on Dental Hygiene: A.A.S. and Business Administration: A.S., as a foundation for accounting.”

By starting at SUNY Broome, their children could live at home, keep part-time jobs, and affordably earn their degrees through the help of grants and Foundation scholarships.

“I can still picture our kids all sitting at the kitchen table working on their FAFSA’s together,” Stewart said. “Because our children were not hit with extreme student loans, they have been able to purchase homes and start their families, benchmarks that are difficult for many of their generation.”

While many Stewarts transferred on to Binghamton University, some — due to the practical nature of their degrees — jumped directly into the workforce. Several remained in Broome County, working in engineering and management roles at BAE Systems, NYSEG & RG&E, and Piaker & Lyons. Those who left the region rapidly found employment. Lydia (Stewart) Judd (DH ’15) passed all of her Canadian dental hygiene boards with ease, thanks to the rigor of SUNY Broome’s dental hygiene program.

Though the fourth generation of Stewarts won’t become Hornets until the mid-2030s, they will be happily welcomed just as their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were before them.

The new BROOME is hot off the press! Read more inspiring stories about SUNY Broome’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni via the digital edition of the magazine!

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