John T. Stewart III has been a KU fan his whole life. As a child, he attended football and basketball games with his dad, John T. Stewart II, a 1911 KU alumnus. Long trips from their home in Wellington, Kan., to Lawrence are cherished memories. Stewart was raised by his grandparents because his mother died soon after he was born, and his dad died when he was 13.
At that young age, Stewart began giving to support athletics in honor of his dad through the trust set up for him. He has given to KU every year since and is the university’s longest consecutive donor at 73 years. The dedication does not end there — Stewart and his wife, Linda, have an extensive history of volunteer service.
“It has been so easy to be a Jayhawk,” John said. “My father started an incredible legacy.”
Naturally, John attended KU. The Stewarts married in 1956, and Linda joined him on campus. KU was an extended family and remained so, especially members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. John graduated in 1958 with a business degree. “The people at KU were so friendly and got us involved with everything,” Linda said. “Jayhawks are always willing to help each other.”
The Stewarts returned to Wellington for the family business but were in Lawrence so often the hotel manager bought them their own pillows. In addition to leading Stewart Companies, John was chairman and CEO of Plessey Aero Precision Corp., now known as GEC Precision, until his retirement.
John held many positions as a KU Endowment trustee including chair of the board while he also was president of the KU Alumni Association board. He served as a member of the Kansas Athletics board and the School of Business advisory board. Additionally, he led the Wesley Foundation board in Wichita and helped establish the Kansas Health Foundation.
John said Linda was instrumental in managing these commitments and the family, while serving organizations herself. She was a member of the Fine Arts advisory board for 25 years and still serves on the Spencer Museum of Art board. Linda is a founding member of the boards for Futures Unlimited and Botanica, The Wichita Gardens as well as the Wellington Humane Society. The couple supported the society’s new facility.
John received KU’s Distinguished Service Citation in 1990, and both John and Linda are recipients of the Fred Ellsworth Medallion.
“Kansas is like a small town,” Linda said. “If you are involved on a board, you know people across the state.”
The Stewarts have given to areas across KU, with special interests in athletics, business, fine arts, KU Alumni Association and KU Medical Center. The John T. Stewart Children’s Center, Luella F. Stewart Music Scholarship, established in memory of John’s grandmother, and Danforth Chapel hold significance. John’s dad was involved with the original Danforth Chapel fund. They give to keep it updated, and you can often find Linda tending the chapel garden.
The Jayhawk spirit runs through the Stewart family; their four children and nearly 80 extended family members are alumni.
“When you are around so many friends and family who love KU, it’s natural to continue our support,” John said.