September 7, 2021


by: admin


Tags: education, Professor, retires, UCF, Years


Categories: Special needs education

UCF Professor Retires after 52 years in schooling

History submitted by the University of Central Florida

If one word could sum up Martha Lue Stewart’s journey at UCF, it is grateful. When the professor handed in the grades for her graduation course last week and packed the books, photos, and other mementos in her office, she reminisced about countless stories. As the first black woman to be appointed professor at UCF, Stewart has been instrumental in building a diverse and inclusive campus. Early on, she was chair of the Diversity Programming Committee, which organizes events such as Diversity Week. Stewart was also actively involved in the Black Faculty and Staff Association, of which she was president from 1998 to 1999. Her first service project with the association was to create the university’s first Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. “I enjoyed having a place where I could meet other colored colleagues,” she says. “It felt like family and that’s amazing.” Stewart also helped name the student center in honor of the late John T. Washington, one of the UCF’s earliest black faculty members who was influential at the university. More recently, Stewart worked with three other faculty members on an initiative that earned UCF a spot as the only higher education institution in a campaign for the Delta Research and Education Foundation to support academic achievement for African American women. The Teachers Advocating to Lead Great Change initiative places great emphasis on culturally-oriented teaching of teachers to ensure fairer outcomes for all children. In addition, as a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Stewart held various leadership positions at local, regional and national levels. “It’s been an amazing journey,” says Stewart. “I am so grateful to my family [and my] professional and personal networks. My colleagues and students have taught me so much over the years. I hope people will see me as a role model and that I will strive every day not to disappoint. ”Pursuing the Dream of a Degree Stewart grew up in Monticello, Florida, and was the last but first child in her family Graduated from college. “Daddy was a tenant working on 50 acres owned by the heirs. He was also a self-taught hairdresser and carpenter, ”she says. “Men were expected to cultivate the land from the age of 5, so many never had formal education.” As Stewart and her siblings grew older, they took turns helping their father read and memorize information he was for held important. Stewart’s job was to teach him to write. One of her fondest memories was working on his signature with her father – and turning it from an “X” to his name. Stewart’s mother attended school through sixth grade. In addition to working as a housekeeper, her mother was very skilled at sewing and made most of her clothes. Stewart recalls that she was a gifted writer and held various leadership positions in the local church. Helping her parents from a young age sparked Stewart’s passion for teaching and was just the beginning of her educational journey. While attending the only black school in her community, former students and current teachers encouraged her to dream of going to college – and embracing the world of opportunity outside of Jefferson County. “When I was in elementary and middle school, previous students came home on college hiatus and the school held a meeting. I looked forward to hearing how college was and always sat around to hear their stories, ”she says. “In high school, teachers took students to cultural events – and introduced us to plays, concerts, bands, and competitions across the state.” After high school, Stewart attended Suwannee River Junior College – now the North Florida Community College in Madison , Florida. It was near her hometown and gave her two more years to stay at home. She then moved to Florida A&M University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology. There, a professor who was also her advisor recommended her a graduate scholarship to the University of Missouri and Purdue University. Stewart received both but chose the University of Missouri because it also included housing benefit. “I had never left the state before,” she says. “But my parents were determined to help me make my dream come true. So my mom got me a train ticket and I drove to my new home, the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. I had never been to such a big place and learned to find my way around a city and university where I didn’t know anyone. It was one of the highlights of my career. ”After graduating, Stewart wanted to do more. She then graduated from Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, with a degree in Education Specialist in Learning Disabilities and a PhD in Special Education from the University of Florida. “Both of my parents were with every degree during my Masters,” says Stewart. “It meant so much to me. I wanted them to see me – I wanted to make them proud. I was so grateful because without her I would never have been able to go to college. ”Working at the top of the UCF In the last semester of her doctoral studies, a professor informed Stewart about the possibility of a visiting professorship at the UCF. She decided to take a midweek excursion to learn more about the position at a school she never knew existed. “I took the East-West Expressway to a two-lane road. There weren’t many buildings or things around – all trees for miles around, ”she says. In 1981, at the beginning of her postdoc career, she began her work as a visiting professor at the UCF. Four years later, Stewart received a junior faculty fellowship with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in Washington, DC, investigating the underrepresentation of color teachers in schools across the country. She returned to Florida in 1989 after accepting a position as an assistant professor at UCF – where she helped the new bachelor’s program in exceptional student education – and has been with the university ever since. “My work has resulted in a greater understanding and appreciation of field equality so that every child has a champion,” she says. “It has also better prepared teachers to effectively teach all students – all learners, including those from underserved, underfunded, and under-resourced communities.” Address reduction of situational and environmental conditions that hinder the growth and development of young black men. Most recently, Stewart served as Program Coordinator for the Graduate Certificate in Support of Populations in High Need. The program not only looks at children and their families from the perspective of education, but also from other interdisciplinary offers. “Martha Lue Stewart’s passion, deep dedication, and tireless efforts have created a legacy within the UCF, central Florida, and the national communities,” said Mary Little, UCF professor and program coordinator for exceptional student education. “Their leadership, mentoring, community engagement, and ongoing advocacy affect so many. Each of us is honored to know and work with Martha Lue Stewart, and we will continue her vision for justice and social justice in our communities. ”A sign of years to come, writing, traveling, and leading educational initiatives across the world Ward are just a few of the retirement plans Stewart has in mind. Since 2003, and roughly every other year during the spring break, a Stewart Church ministry has sponsored an educational, historical, and cultural tour. Stewart often accompanies the 40 children, teens, and adults as they tour different parts of the United States and visit historical markers to learn about their African American history. And now, in retirement, she hopes to be more actively involved in the program, preparing lesson plans and other materials for the trip. “In 2019, 46 members of the church and the congregation traced the tracks of the subway,” she says. “The 6-day tour took us from Detroit, Michigan, where we visited a parish church that served as one of the ‘safe havens’ for enslaved people, to St. Catharines, Ontario, where we saw the British Methodist Episcopal Church, Salem Chapel, explored where Harriet Tubman worshiped in Canada. On our final stop, each teenage participant presented some of the historical figures they had met during the trip, including Will Still, Josiah Henson, John Morrison, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. ”In addition, Stewart will continue to partner with community on her groundbreaking Collaborate work that focuses on grandparents as primary caregivers. She also plans to set up reading posts in underserved communities, which will provide a place where children and their families can gather to read a book, discuss it, and when completed, take it home to be part of their own library will. Stewart may no longer have an office or classes at UCF, but she’s not saying goodbye forever. She plans to continue helping with dissertations and will keep in touch with colleagues and students. As someone who worked under all of the university’s presidents except Charles Millican – the university’s first president – she has seen firsthand the growth and accomplishments. “UCF is our home university that has taken great strides to become more inclusive and diverse,” she says. “Here you have the opportunity to go your own way, make new connections and dream bigger than you ever imagined.”


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