The Columns

W&L Alum Pursues Family's Special-Education Mission

— by on October 1st, 2013

In 1893, Dr. John Q.A. Stewart established Stewart Home School, in Frankfort, Ky., for intellectually challenged youth and adults from around the world.

Today, 120 years later, Stewart Home School continues to meet its original mission, and Washington and Lee alumnus Dr. John P. Stewart, the great-grandson of the founder, serves as chairman of the board and resident physician. John, of the Class of 1948, is the latest generation of Stewart physicians who have kept the school thriving.

A recent feature story in the Lexington Herald-Leader described the school and its unusual work. When John’s great-grandfather opened the private, non-profit school, it welcomed 13 students on the 850 acres of the former Kentucky Military Institute. Today, it houses 355 students ranging from age 12 to adults.

One of the more poignant notes in the story was about a student named Tom Ayers, who came to the school when he was 8 and died earlier this month, at 91.

“I grew up playing with him,” John told the Herald-Leader. “He is buried in our old family plot because he was family.”

John has led the school since 1956. His son, Dr. John D. Stewart, of Lexington, spends one day a week there with patients and will be the fifth generation of the family to continue the school’s mission.

As the Herald-Leader story reports, students have “various learning styles and diagnoses including autism, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and Williams syndrome.”

John said that his great-grandfather was ahead of his time, and his philosophy remains central to the school. “We believe they all are capable of learning,” John said of their students, “and should be treated with dignity and respect.”