Houston businessman and philanthropist Stuart W. Stedman has pledged $1 million to The University of Texas at Austin to provide scholarships to students in the Plan II Honors program and promote excellence in the Department of History.
Stedman said his undergraduate experience as a Plan II major with a concentration in history changed his life. His gift, made through the his family's Stedman West Foundation, will help future Texas students receive the benefits of a liberal arts education at the university.
"I transferred into UT my sophomore year. And, even though my grades weren't stellar, Plan II leaders saw something in me," said Stedman, who graduated in 1979 and went on to receive a master of business administration and law degree from the university. "Plan II made me an educated person in the most well rounded sense. I owe a big debt to Plan II. So doing something significant for the program has always been on my list of things I wanted to accomplish in life."
Founded in 1935, Plan II is one of the premier honors programs in the College of Liberal Arts and 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.
Half of Stedman's gift will be used to create the Stuart W. Stedman 40 Acres Scholarship for Plan II. Established by the Texas Exes, 40 Acres Scholarships pay full tuition, fees, textbook costs and living expenses for up to five years for top students entering the university. The Stedman scholarship will be reserved for students from Texas who have been admitted to the highly selective program.
"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," said 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 support academic and scholarly work by faculty and students. This fund will provide faculty and graduate students the opportunity to attend conferences and travel for research. The Stedman Excellence fund also 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 the 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," said 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," said 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.