Posted - August 22, 2011
Last Eureka College Classmate of Ronald Reagan
Willie Sue Smith Stewart, 101, dies Aug. 17 in Houston
A page from the Class of 1932's yearbook with Ronald Reagan (top) and Willie Sue Smith
(second from bottom).
The last surviving member of Ronald Reagan’s Eureka College Class of 1932 has passed away. Willie Sue Smith Stewart died at age 101 on Aug. 17 in Houston.
“Willie Sue Smith Stewart had a long and distinguished post-graduate career as an educator after coming north as a young African American woman from Houston, Texas, to study ‘neath the elms at Eureka College,” said Eureka College President J. David Arnold. Stewart attended Eureka College at the urging of her father, who was a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which is affiliated with the college, Arnold said.
Arnold and his wife, Katherine, visited Stewart and her family just before her 100th birthday last year.
“She shared stories about taking classes with ‘Dutch’ Reagan, including that she passed notes between ‘Dutch’ and his girlfriend Margaret Cleaver,” Arnold said.
Stewart enrolled at Eureka College in 1928. She was among 41 graduates in the Class of 1932. She received a degree in English. She later received a master’s degree from a university in Texas.
Stewart’s son, Harry Stewart, notified President Arnold on Aug. 18 of his mother’s death. Stewart asked Arnold to notify Ronald Reagan’s eldest son, Michael Reagan, who had become friends with Mrs. Stewart over the last few years.
Eureka College organized a card shower for Stewart on her 100th birthday in July 2010.
Services for Stewart were 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, Mineola, Texas. Mrs. Arnold and Eureka College Director of Alumni Relations Shellie Schwanke were in attendance.
Article in the Chicago Tribune >
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