The ninth annual Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award, given to a husband and wife that has provided exemplary leadership in community advancement, was presented to Thelma E. and David L. Steward at the Harbison House Feb. 28.
At the ceremony, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton praised the couple’s strong record of civic and philanthropic engagement in the St. Louis region.
“Today, we are celebrating the legacy of Jane Harris, the continuing good work of Whitney and Anna Harris, and this year’s honorees, Thelma and David Steward,” Wrighton said. “The Stewards have demonstrated the type of commitment and dedication to the St. Louis region that Jane cherished so highly. Through their widespread involvement in the community, their exemplary work ethic and their commitment to faith and family, they have made a lasting impact.”
Wrighton also praised the ongoing service and support by Anna and Whitney Harris, which exemplifies the rich and important tradition of service being carried forward.
As the late Jane Harris and her husband, Whitney, specified in their gift, the award’s recipients are given a cash prize to donate as they see fit. The Stewards chose to distribute their $50,000 cash prize among three organizations: Union Memorial United Methodist Church, Girls Inc. of St. Louis and Washington University.
David Steward is a business leader in St. Louis and the founder/chairman of World Wide Technology Inc. (WWT), a value-added reseller of products that offer advanced technologies such as IP telephony, wireless communications, adaptive network security and secure data storage, along with a range of professional services for those products. Headquartered in St. Louis, WWT rose from a four-person office in 1990 to employing more than 1,000 and generating $2 billion in sales.
WWT’s success has been honored with many industry awards, among them: From 2004-06, it was ranked by Black Enterprise magazine as the top minority-owned business in the United States; it was singled out by Diversity Business as the second- largest revenue producer; and it landed on Deloitte’s list of “Widely Watched Technology Fast 500 Companies.” Steward’s rise to the top of his field also was noted by the National Minority Supplier Development Council.
WWT shows up on many coveted listings by the government and major high-tech companies as preferred contractors and resellers. Equally important, WWT has consistently been awarded high marks by its customer base for customer service and excellence.
For nearly 32 years, David has been married to Thelma E. Steward, a St. Louis native and graduate of the St. Louis Municipal School of Nursing. Her commitment to infant health care began as a registered nurse in Homer G. Phillips Hospital’s newborn and premature nursery and has grown to focus on enhancing the larger community and contributing to a higher quality of life for all St. Louis citizens through active volunteerism.
As a dedicated member of the United Methodist Church, Thelma has been active with its Methodist Women organization, has co-chaired the stewardship enrichment committee for Union Memorial United Methodist Church and continues to teach Sunday School at Salem in Ladue United Methodist Church. She also is active in the Charmaine Chapman Society of the United Way and has served as its co-chair. She is a former member of Charitable Women and supports Family Ministries. Thelma was an active parent at Whitfield Academy and Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School for many years. Her current board positions include Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis, Girls Inc., Saint Louis Art Museum and the Sheldon Center.
Born in Clinton, Mo., David Steward graduated from Central Missouri State University, now known as the University of Central Missouri. Before founding WWT, he held sales and marketing positions with Wagner Electric Corp., Missouri Pacific Railroad and Federal Express. In 2004, he published a book co-written with Robert L. Shook, “Doing Business by the Good Book: Fifty-two Lessons on Success, Straight From the Bible.” It includes a foreword by former president George H. W. Bush.
Being named St. Louis Variety’s 2006 “Man of the Year” shows the impact Steward has had on his adopted hometown. In the business sector, he holds leadership roles in Civic Progress of St. Louis, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, the Regional Business Council and the Missouri Technology Corp. He supports the community’s academic, cultural and social services by serving Webster University, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, First Banks Inc., Saint Louis Science Center, St. Patrick’s Center, United Way of Greater St. Louis (for which he served as campaign chair in 2005 and currently chairs its Board of Directors), the Greater St. Louis Area Council of Boy Scouts of America and Harris-Stowe State College’s African American Business Leadership Council.
Past recipients of the Harris Community Award include Nancy and Kenneth Kranzberg (2007); Ruth and Alvin Siteman (2006); Mary Ann and E. Desmond Lee (2005); Marilyn and Sam Fox (2004); the late Elizabeth and William H. Danforth (2003); Ann and Lee Liberman (2002) and Alice and the late Leigh Gerdine (2001). Lucy and the late Stanley Lopata were the inaugural awardees in 2000.