MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Guy Stewart was all about the narrative and the idea.
That was whether he was cranking out investigative journalism as a newspaper reporter, or coming up with a clever sales promotion for his wife’s real estate company.
The dean emeritus of WVU’s P.I. Reed School of Journalism (now the Reed College of Media) died Tuesday in Morgantown at the age of 95.
Arrangements are being handled by Hastings Funeral Home, for Stewart, who is survived by his wife, Patricia, and their grown children.
He also leaves a community of people who owe their careers in part to him.
That’s because for nearly 40 years, Stewart did something that was just as easy — as it was complex.
He helped budding media professionals become the real thing.
Reporters and editors. Photographers and videographers. Advertising copywriters and television floor directors.
All put on their respective paths because the professor, then dean, would listen, then simply ask, “Well, what do you think you might be interested in?”
And when he stopped doing that — not that he ever really stopped — he turned into a prolific fundraiser for outreach causes of every stripe across the Mountain State.
Telling the story
The Keyser native was an ink-stained wretch before he even got out of high school.
As a teenager, he clacked out pieces at the typewriter for the Mineral Daily News-Tribune in his hometown and at the Cumberland Evening Times, in neighboring Maryland. Stories carrying his byline also appeared in the Wheeling Intelligencer.
World War II interrupted everything, but he made his own deadline at WVU.
By 1949, he was in possession of two degrees from the state’s flagship university, which he followed with a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1957.
He also worked briefly for the Chicago Tribune while pursuing his doctorate.
Stewart came back to WVU’s journalism school as a professor and director of graduate studies in 1960.
Advancing the mission
His fellow faculty included beloved professor Paul Atkins, who influenced generations of journalists; and Gene Budig, the sports writer-turned professor who would later become president of Major League Baseball’s American League.
In the 20 years he spent as journalism dean from 1969 to 1989, Stewart expanded course offerings and raised more than $2 million in endowments for the school.
He was the self-described “advance man” for the operation, as he was fond of saying then.
Nothing wrong with that, Hoppy Kercheval said Wednesday, after learning of the death of his dean and friend.
Kercheval, a radio broadcaster who anchors the statewide “Talkline” public affairs show for West Virginia MetroNews, graduated from the journalism school in 1977.
By then, Stewart was an “institution,” he said.
“Dean Stewart was the steady hand that accumulated a talented faculty and let them do their jobs,” he said.
“Individual schools are often fighting for survival,” Kercheval continued, “and Dean Stewart was a staunch defender and effective advocate.”
‘Mr. Stewart, you may do that’
As an undergraduate at WVU, Stewart was also an effective advocate for himself, according to J-school lore.
Stewart was a young man in a hurry after World War II when he was back on campus in 1948.
That’s when he requested an audience with Dean P.I. Reed, himself. He wanted to carry an 18-hour course load that first semester, and he had to ask permission.
Reed initially said no, Stewart recalled — but then relented, with a stipulation.
The student would report to the dean, with grades in hand, at the end of the semester.
Stewart presented with an A in every class.
Then he asked if he could sign up for another 18-hour term.
“Mr. Stewart,” the ever-formal Reed said, “you may do that.”
Story by Dominion Post reporter Jim Bissett