He calls himself a product of UND's academic environment. After growing up in Parshall, N.D., former UND basketball player John Stewart chose the school for all the right reasons.
"I liked accounting, and at that time, UND had by far the best accounting program in the state," said Stewart, a Minot businessman and 1978 graduate from the College of Business & Public Administration. "I didn't have any athletic offers and didn't think much about sports until the fall of '74, when I decided to try out for the JV team. Fifty guys tried out and I made it."
His accounting career eventually took him to Minot as a partner for Brady Martz. While he didn't come to UND to play basketball, it was basketball that has kept him close to his alma mater.
"I got as much out of my experience as anybody," Stewart said.
"John sets a great example for alumni of all of our sports, and it's something we talk to our current student-athletes about," UND director of athletics Brian Faison said. "There's someone out there helping you have this opportunity, and when the time comes for you to help out and you have the ability to do it, you should return the favor."
The Impact Scholarship was just the start of the Stewarts' involvement in North Dakota Spirit | The Campaign for UND. They already had teamed up with other former players of coach Dave Gunther to support a scholarship in Gunther's name. The Dave & Jane Gunther Scholarship Endowment was established this fall through the UND Foundation.
"The friends I made and the relationship with coach Gunther are like fine wine — they get better with age," Stewart said. "It took me 10 years before he I saw him as something more than a coach. He was not always likeable because he was all about preparation and discipline. Now, when I call or see him it's about a friendship, and I give him a big hug."
The Stewarts also have joined a growing pool of former student-athletes who have discovered another way of giving back — by leaving their legacy at UND. They've left a bequest to the UND Foundation to support a basketball scholarship endowment, as well as, a gift to the John & Jodi Stewart Professorship to benefit the College of Business & Public Administration.
"I'm honoring my parents, coach Gunther and accounting instructors who prepared me for life," Stewart said. "I have two passions, and it's important to remember that student-athletes are there as a student first."
"Bequests, life insurance designation, 401(k) designation all are great ways to leave a legacy at UND through the UND Foundation," said Steve Brekke, a fellow UND basketball alumni and current Associate Athletic Director for Development. "John defines North Dakota Spirit with his generosity on so many levels through annual gifts like the Impact Scholarship, to endowments, to a planned gift. It's what the campaign is all about."
As for Stewart's thoughts on North Dakota Spirit and what it means to him?
"It means achievement, getting the most out of yourself," he says. "You have to maximize what you have and I see it in UND's move to Division I."