Stewart collection on display

Photos, papers and awards chronicle MU coach’s life and career
Monday, September 12, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:23 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

Stormin’ Norman Stewart has donated a lifetime of awards and memorabilia to the University of Missouri’s Western Historical Manuscript Collection, but not even Stewart, the most successful coach in MU history, is certain what’s inside all 21 boxes.

The collection, based at Ellis Library, recently became available for public inspection and includes plaques, correspondence, photographs and newspaper clippings that span 60 years. But Stewart isn’t ready to sit back and reflect on the past.

“I’m still very active and working hard and have not really had time to study all my things in detail,” Stewart said. “But I’m sure there will come a day when I’ll sit down and go through the boxes and be surprised at what I’ve achieved.”

David Moore, associate director of the Western Historical Manuscript Collection, said his organization had been discussing the collection with Stewart for several years.

Stewart donated the collection in 2002, but a mix-up between the manuscript collection and historical society left the memorabilia in storage for three years. Stewart wasn’t asked to sign the necessary consent form before the collection could be made public, an oversight that was resolved when Stewart intervened.

Several of the boxes are full of plaques highlighting Big Eight Conference Championship victories, baseball achievements and golfing awards. The majority are engraved with “champion” or “first place.”

Other boxes reveal 15 scrapbooks filled with newspaper and magazine clippings and messages of support and congratulations. One letter from the Missouri Regional Blood Services thanks Stewart for his efforts on meeting community blood collection needs.

The collection of items includes the letter offering Stewart a player position on the MU basketball team and the Presidential Honor plaque bestowed by former President Bill Clinton on behalf of the American Cancer Society.

There are also letters from close friends and colleagues that provide insight into how highly Stewart is regarded by his peers. The letters Stewart received when he retired number in the hundreds. His basketball coaching career included 634 victories in 33 years.

Both Stewart and his wife, Virginia, are pleased the collection is no longer gathering dust at their Columbia home.

Stewart said he finds it hard to rank his awards in any order.

“I view my charity and basketball awards equally, but they are not just about me,” he said. “They signify the achievements of all the players, coaches and individuals who have assisted me along the way.”

Stewart was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1989 but overcame the disease and helped form the Coaches vs. Cancer charity, a collaboration between the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the American Cancer Society.

“The cancer was initially a shock and a terrible thing, but we beat it, turned it around and made it a positive, raising over 25 million dollars in the process,” Stewart said.

The Western Historical Manuscript Collection is a fitting place for keepsakes of his greatest achievements, Stewart said. The manuscript collection is jointly run by the University of Missouri and the State Historical Society.

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