Over a 42-year career at the University, Mary Stewart, the former event services coordinator for the Michigan Union, mentored hundreds of students before her retirement in April. Now, a scholarship named in her honor will help University students for years to come.
On Friday, students and alumni gathered in the Michigan Union to officially launch the scholarship, which aims to help Black students attend the University. During more than four decades at the University, Stewart became an unofficial mentor to students across campus, particularly students from minority backgrounds.
The scholarship fund is part of the Alumni Association’s LEAD Scholars Program, which was designed to increase the diversity of the student body. LEAD offers four-year merit scholarships to admitted students who embody four values: leadership, excellence, achievement and diversity. Over the past eight years, LEAD has successfully recruited more than 130 Black students to the University.
“There were times when students would come to my office and say that they could no longer attend Michigan because they didn’t have funding,” Stewart said at the event. “We need to talk about why we don’t have enough black students in campus. It’s very important that we help these students.”
Steve Grafton, president and CEO of the University’s Alumni Association, said the association wants to impact campus climate by making the University more accessible to underrepresented students.
“We’ve been trying to open doors for all kinds of students,” Grafton said at the event Friday. “We really need to increase the diversity so that it can help the entire University.”
Grafton also thanked Stewart for dedicating her long career to helping minority students.
“Mary is such a caring and compassionate person,” Grafton said. “It’s all about building relationships, which is why so many students and alums have made such a commitment tonight.”
University alum Mike Muse, who co-created the scholarship along with fellow alum Glenn Eden, said Stewart helped many minority students become leaders all around campus, particularly when the University did not do so.
“The student leaders didn’t always get support from such a big university who wasn’t committed to increasing diversity,” he said. “But we had her.”
University alum Dhani Jones, who graduated in 2000 and played for the Michigan football team, thanked Stewart for the help and guidance she offered him throughout his time at the University.
“I’ve learned the importance of giving to others,” Jones said. “Mary Stewart embodies the true elements of selflessness, and I would like to thank her on behalf of everyone who has been part of the University and stepped into your office.”
LSA and Engineering senior Will Royster said Stewart helped him believe in himself, particularly during difficult times.
“You have changed people’s lives for 42 years, and we couldn’t be more thankful for that,” Royster said.