Stewart informed members of the Hamilton Board of Trustees during their quarterly meeting Friday in New York City. When she concludes her presidency in 18 months, Stewart will be the eighth longest serving president in the College’s 200-year history.
“Serving one of the finest colleges in America is an enormous privilege. The last dozen years have been, for Philip and me, among the happiest and most fulfilling of our lives.”
“We knew this day would come, but we hoped it would not happen for many more years,” said Stephen I. Sadove, chairman of the college’s Board of Trustees. “Joan Stewart has been the absolutely perfect president for Hamilton. We are grateful for her strong leadership during an especially turbulent time in American higher education.”
Stewart has presided over a period of tremendous growth at Hamilton. The college has added new academic programs and hired exceptional new faculty members; invested nearly $250 million in new and renovated facilities for the sciences, social sciences, studio and performing arts, student activities, and fitness and recreation; set records for student quality, selectivity and diversity; and completed two successful capital campaigns that focused on new facilities and student scholarship aid. Under Stewart’s direction, Hamilton implemented a strategic plan that advanced four values rooted in the college’s historic strengths: education for self-direction, a self-governing community, thoughtful dialogue and debate, and engagement with the world.
Sadove said Stewart’s greatest legacy will be her efforts to ensure that deserving students from families of modest means have the financial resources to attend Hamilton. During Stewart’s tenure, Hamilton reallocated $1 million in merit aid to need-based aid, doubled its financial aid budget and became need-blind in admission. Hamilton is one of only about 50 U.S. colleges and universities that are need-blind in admission and that meet 100 percent of their students’ demonstrated financial need.
“Joan Stewart was able to attend college because of the scholarships she received,” Sadove said. “She has never forgotten that others made her education possible. As Hamilton’s president, she has worked to ensure that today’s students have the same opportunities she had.”
Stewart assumed the Hamilton presidency on July 1, 2003. She was formerly dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of French at the University of South Carolina (USC). The first in her family to earn a college degree, Stewart also joined the Hamilton faculty as professor of French. She is the first female president in Hamilton’s 200-year history.
Prior to her arrival at USC in 1999, Stewart was a member of the faculty at North Carolina State University from 1973 to 1999 and chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures from 1985 to 1997. She also served as assistant dean for research and graduate programs for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In 1988-89, Stewart chaired the North Carolina Humanities Council, and in 1977 she received NC State University’s Outstanding Teaching Award.
Before joining the NC State faculty, Stewart taught at Wellesley College. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1970, having graduated summa cum laude in 1965 from St. Joseph’s College, a small, private, liberal arts institution in Brooklyn, New York.
Stewart’s scholarship focuses on 18th-century French literature, especially women writers. She has written several books and numerous articles, essays and book reviews, and has been a frequent speaker at professional conferences both in the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Enlightenment of Age, a study of women and aging in early modern France, was published by the Voltaire Foundation, Oxford, England, in fall 2010. She currently serves on the Committee on Coherence at Scale for Higher Education, an effort by the Council on Library and Information Resources to examine emerging national-scale digital projects and their potential to help transform higher education.
Stewart is the recipient of fellowships from Yale University, the National Humanities Center and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and has been a fellow at the Université Paul Valéry in Montpellier, France, a visiting scholar at Oxford University in England, and a fellow at the Liguria Study Center for the Arts and Letters in Bogliasco, Italy. With Hamilton Professor of English Emeritus John H. O’Neill, Stewart has taught a seminar on the early modern novel in England and France. Her current scholarship focuses on Joan of Arc.
Hamilton’s 19th president is married to Philip Stewart, who retired as the Benjamin E. Powell Emeritus Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University. The couple has two grown children.