Stuart W. Stedman remembers that his grades weren’t all that great when he transferred from Claremont Men’s College in California into The University of Texas at Austin 25 years ago.
But Donette Moss, the administrator of the Plan II Honors program, saw something special in him, he says, and admitted him into the highly selective program.
“I realized I was going to have to start focusing here and really working,” says Stedman, now a businessman and philanthropist in Houston. “I might have had an active mind when I entered Plan II, but it was soft and undisciplined. Plan II taught me how to think. Plan II was also the most amazing experience, intellectually and academically. It made you an educated person in the most well-rounded sense.”
Stedman, who also concentrated in history, is now repaying what he describes as his “big debt” with a $1 million gift to Plan II and the History Department from the Stedman West Foundation. “Plan II’s core curriculum made me a liberally educated man, but it allowed me to concentrate on my true academic love — history,” Stedman says.
“Doing something significant for the program that changed my life has always been on my list of things I wanted to accomplish,” he says.
Half of Stedman’s gift will be used to create the Stuart W. Stedman Forty Acres Scholarship for Plan II. Established by the Texas Exes, the Forty Acres Scholars program is the largest and most comprehensive scholarship program at the university. It includes full four-year scholarships, including tuition, fees, books and living expenses; priority housing in honors residence halls; and funding for summer programs such as study abroad, public service and internships. The Stedman scholarship will be reserved for students from Texas.
Founded in 1935, Plan II is one of the premiere honors programs at the university. It enrolls about 200 students in each class and offers a core curriculum in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics and other disciplines.
“To see a graduate who values his Plan II education in this way and wants to provide a similar experience for another student demonstrates the validity and power of our Plan II community,” says Plan II director Michael Stoff, the Fellow of Hayden W. Head Regents Chair in the Plan II Honors Program in History. “For Stuart Stedman to pay back the program in this way is heartwarming.”
The other half of the gift will be used to establish the Stuart W. Stedman Excellence Fund in History, which will be used at the discretion of the department chair to enhance the stature of the department. This fund will provide faculty and graduate students the opportunity to attend conferences and travel for research. In addition, the Stedman Excellence fund will support faculty in the creation of new courses or hiring graduate assistants. This fund for excellence is unique in its scope and size among College of Liberal Arts departments, significantly expanding the chair’s ability to support and encourage stellar teaching and research.
“We’re extremely pleased when a graduate makes a decision like this that reflects on the value of a history education,” says Department Chair Alan Tully, the Eugene C. Barker Centennial Professor in American History and Fellow of Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History.
“The range of activities, including student support and scholarly engagement, that this gift will endow lies at the heart of the practice and study of history,” says Tully. “And the fostering of a historical perspective enhances, so much, our ability to understand and make contributions to the various worlds we experience.”
Stedman is president of the Houston-based Stedman West Interests, Inc., a family investment company that manages securities, oil and gas properties, coal properties, ranches and real estate.
He says his experiences in Plan II — most notably a two-semester philosophy course with Bob Kane, now a professor emeritus — have remained with him throughout his life.
“Once you go through it, its part of you,” Stedman says. “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”