First Carnegie Mellon president frequently served his country

April 11, 2010|By Jerry Vondas | The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (MCT)

H. Guyford Stever, who served as university president when the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Mellon Institute of Research became Carnegie Mellon University in 1967, died Friday, April 9, 2010 in Gaithersburg.

He was 93.

Mr. Stever became president of Carnegie Tech in 1965 and left CMU in 1972 to accept President Richard M. Nixon's nomination as director of the National Science Foundation. He served as presidential science adviser to Gerald Ford.

Carnegie Mellon will fly its flag at half-staff on Monday because of Mr. Stever's passing, CMU president Jared L. Cohon said.

Mr. Stever was by training and discipline a scientist, but always considered himself a teacher first, said his son, Roy Stever of Easton, N.H.

"Dad understood the value of a college education, even if you have to work hard to obtain one," his son said. "My father and his sister, Margarette, lost their parents at an early age and they had to struggle financially.

"Dad didn't have a dime when he went to college," said his son. "He received a scholarship to Colgate (University). A friend of the family bought him a suit so he could go to college. And I think it was the only suit he had for the four years he spent at Colgate."

Mr. Stever was born in Corning, N.Y., in 1916. He earned a doctorate in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the service as a scientific liaison officer.

After the war, he served on the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1956, he took a leave from MIT to serve as chief scientist of the Air Force, where one of his efforts was to help establish the space program.

In a message to the CMU community, Cohon called Mr. Stever a "visionary president" who helped create CMU "with characteristic thoughtfulness and effectiveness, setting the stage for the university's growth and achievement."

"The year was 1967," Cohon said during an interview afterward. "It was a remarkable feat and R.K. Mellon himself provided the funding."

During Mr. Stever's administration, Carnegie Mellon made advances in computing that helped lead to the establishment of the School of Computer Science, the Robotics Institute, the Software Engineering Institute and the nation's first university-wide computing network, known as Andrew.

"And we believe that during Mr. Stever's administration that Carnegie Mellon University held the first Conference of Computer Science, here in Pittsburgh," said Cohon.

Mr. Stever received the National Medal of Science in 1991 and the Vannevar Bush Award for leadership in science and technology in 1997. He was a fellow of the National Academy of Science and was a resident of the Asbury Methodist Retirement Community in Gaithersburg at the time of his death.

One of the proudest moments in the four years that Mr. Stever's granddaughter Kasey Stever spent at Carnegie Mellon University was attending the dedication of Stever House, a certified All Green Dorm on the university campus.

"My grandfather often talked to me about CMU," said Ms. Stever, a resident of Boston who received her degree in industrial design. And I was proud to have attended CMU."

Mr. Stever was preceded in death by his wife, the former Louise Risley, whom he married in 1946 when they both resided in Boston.

In addition to his son, Roy, Mr. Stever is survived by his son, H. Guyford Stever Jr. of Randolph, N.H.; daughters, Sarah Stever of Birmingham, Mich., Margarette Weed of Oakton, Va.; seven great-grandchildren and his sister, Margarette Johnson of Deland, Fla.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

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