University of Montevallo names Stewart as president

After almost three hours of deliberations, the University of Montevallo Board of Trustees introduced John W. Stewart III as the school’s 15th president March 3.

Stewart, currently the vice president for institutional advancement at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., accepted an offer of $300,000 per year for five years.

At the beginning of the special meeting, the Board of Trustees voted to offer Stewart the position of university president at $200,000 per year for seven years. When the board made the offer, Stewart turned it down and the two sides spent nearly two hours in closed-door discussions.

The board then voted to change the offer to $300,000 per year for five years, and after about 30 minutes of private discussion, Stewart accepted.

When Stewart officially accepted the position in front of the entire board and a gathered crowd of Montevallo community members, he said spending time in Montevallo made him all the more determined to be the president.

“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful three days,” he said. “Every day I was here, I wanted this job more.”

He said job No. 1 for him is making sure to take care of the students.

“On this great journey we’re going to take together, it’ll always be about the students,” he said. “I accept wholeheartedly.”

Stewart then led a round of applause for outgoing President Philip Williams, who was present for the entire meeting.

After the meeting, trustee Todd Strange, who chaired the presidential search committee, said Stewart was the board’s first choice because of his leadership, business experience and fundraising ability.

At Flagler, Stewart increased total fundraising from $1.3 million to $22 million in his first two years.

Strange said Stewart at first had concerns about uprooting his family, which is why the board first offered a seven-year contract and then a five-year contract.

“Traditionally, we’ve offered a three-year contract. To protect him, we’ve offered a five-year contract,” Strange said. “We wanted to give him time to do what’s needed.”

Stewart said his first priorities as president are to talk with students, faculty and staff about the university’s five-year strategic plan and to “tell the world” about UM.

“I’m very pleased that the trustees, faculty and staff and I together are going to grow the Montevallo family in ways that serve our students,” he said.

Stewart’s expected start date is Aug. 1, 2010.