It is with a heavy heart we share that Stewart Stearns, the longtime President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, passed away at the age of 72 on December 7th from long-term health issues.
For 22 years, Stewart guided our foundation to new heights while fostering and strengthening our valuable relationships within the community. Under Stewart’s leadership, the Community Foundation established itself as a trusted partner in the community, growing its charitable assets from $334,000 to more than $163 million during his tenure, while also and developing key initiatives such as Season of Sharing, Literacy Empowers all Families (LEAF), and early programs supporting fathers and families. Stewart also oversaw the creation of the Legacy Society in 1993 and construction of the Community Foundation’s current home, the Leila and Michael Gompertz Center, which opened in 2004.
In a national first, Stewart also created the Community Foundation Trust of Sarasota County, a qualified trust that allows donors to specify the cooperating bank or trust company used to invest their gift. Once pioneered by Stewart, this concept is now a standard among community foundations.
Stewart lived a life dedicated to helping others realize their full potential. Prior to leading our foundation, Stewart was the Executive Director at North Texas Community Foundation, Regional Manager of Community Affairs at Levi Strauss & Co., Executive Director and CEO at United Way of Chaves County, and Assistant Professor at Northern Illinois University. Stewart’s education reflected his diverse array of interests, studying Social & Cultural Anthropology at University of Albany, SUNY, psychology at Eastern New Mexico University, and Anthropology at Southern Methodist University.
Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Stewart moved to Sarasota, Florida, with his wife, Marjorie, to become the Community Foundation’s first Executive Director in 1988. An inseparable pair, Stewart and Marjorie recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and renewed their vows this January.
While Stewart was respected and beloved by our community in so many ways, we will always be grateful for his leadership and the care he put into making Sarasota County a better place for all of us. Our hearts go out to his family, especially his wife, Marjorie.
A Celebration of Stewart’s life be hosted by the Community Foundation from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on January 6th. This celebration is open to the public, and remarks by select family and friends will begin at 5 p.m. Per Marjorie's wishes, memorial contribution may be made in Stewart’s name to Season of Sharing at https://www.cfsarasota.org/donors/support-season-of-sharing.