Professor emerita inspires with passion for learning and giving

Mary Lynn Stewart, Professor Emerita, SFU Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS), has been described as the ‘heart and soul of her department,’ inspiring students and colleagues alike for more than 30 years with her passion for learning and her encyclopedic knowledge of women’s history and politics.

“A 2007 Excellence in Teaching award-winner, Stewart has a reputation as an animated, humorous, impeccably prepared instructor and a fair but demanding taskmaster who expects—and brings out—the very best in her students. She has taught virtually every course in the department and, although now retired, continues to engage with students and is teaching a class this fall of 2018 on French Fashion.

After earning a PhD in history from Columbia University in 1973, Stewart taught briefly at Smith College before joining SFU in 1977 with a joint appointment in History and Women’s Studies. That position transformed into a full-time Women’s Studies professorship in 2004.

Stewart was also an early member, and served as both the president and vice-president, of Academic Women, an organization of faculty, lab instructors and librarians formed in 1988 with the goal of creating a network of women in the SFU academic community. She recalls campaigning for the first review of pay equity for women faculty in the 1980s and was instrumental in tackling several other gender issues they faced. Stewart explains that Academic Women also offered the opportunity for women to socialize with each other for the first time on campus.

There wasn’t a great deal of us working and researching at the university at that time, so getting together like this was a way to connect and share lived experiences,” she says.

Since her retirement in 2012, Stewart spends most of her time diving into the research she loves, with her latest work published in May 2018 entitled Gender, Generation, and Journalism in France: 1910-1914.

When asked why she donates so broadly and generously to various SFU endowments, Stewart states simply: “It was needed, and I could do it, so I did.” When she first considered giving to the university, the Women’s Studies Department (as it was named at the time) was quite small, and remains so to this day in terms of faculty members. With smaller departments come fewer alumni, meaning there aren’t as many friends that are able to give. Stewart’s donations to various funds benefitting students across SFU increased over time, as did her awareness of the funding needs of her department.

“You learn a lot about who gets priority for funding when you sit on international panels with the power to bestow grants,” Stewart explains.

At the time, she noticed a significant gender and racial bias in the selection of grant recipients and wanted to donate specifically to scholars whose applications were often overlooked when applying to national panels for funding.

In total, Stewart has given to 13 endowments at the university, including the Grace Woodsworth MacInnis Graduate Endowment, Anne Peters Pinto Endowment and Meredith Kimball Graduate Entrance Scholarship Endowment, all of which support GSWS students. With these donations, she leaves a generous legacy for all those at SFU undertaking gender, sexuality, and other equity and diversity research at our university, in our communities and beyond.

"It was needed, and I could do it, so I did.."

Mary Lynn Stewart

Vist SFU Advancement and Alumni Engagement to learn about ways to give.