Sunday Profile: Doug Stewart prepares for retirement after three decades at CMC
For more than 30 years, Doug Stewart has been the multi-faceted force driving Colorado Mountain College’s marketing efforts throughout its 11 Rocky Mountain campuses.
“Simply put, Doug Stewart is synonymous with Colorado Mountain College,” said Carrie Besnette Hauser, CMC president and CEO.
From his technical photography and communications skills, to soft skills such as fitting perfectly into the college’s mascot costume to greet students, Stewart has dedicated most of his professional life doing his best to convince different generations that CMC is the right college for them.
For this third generation Coloradan who grew up hearing stories about “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” a notorious client of his great-grandfather’s dentist office, selling the Colorado dream was never that hard after all — especially in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“There is so much adventure here. I can be running a trail less than five minutes from the office, or go to Grizzly Creek and be in the wilderness within a 10-minute drive,” said Stewart, who is an avid skier, runner and biker.
Stewart moved to Carbondale with his wife Ellen in 1984, specifically to be a Professional Photography student at CMC.
“There were three National Geographic photographers who went through their photography program and I figured that if it was good enough for them, it would be good enough for me,” he laughed.
By his second year in the program, the Stewarts had welcomed a daughter, Katie, and later on their son, Collin, as they settled down in the valley.
FROM FREELANCING TO Retirement
Doug Stewart’s CMC journey started after one of the photos from his many freelancing jobs in the mid 1980s made almost full page in a Denver metro area newspaper. The image, featuring a llama carrying a solar system on its back, also made the front page of The Aspen Times and Glenwood Post (pre Post Independent).
That wasn’t his first published photo, but perhaps the most important. The client was Colorado Mountain College, whose solar program would use llamas to haul panels to remote backcountry areas.
“How can you go wrong with pictures of llamas carrying solar panels?” Stewart jokes.
With a previous bachelor’s degree in communications, Stewart was not just a photographer, but also a writer. And CMC was in need of both.
“At that time, the college was struggling financially, so having a big splash like that got their attention,” he said.
After that, Walter Gallacher, the college’s marketing director at the time, continued to hire Stewart for different projects until a full-time position was created for him in 1990.
Gallacher, who retired from CMC in 2005, became Stewart’s mentor during his first years in the institution. He is playing the role again today, almost 30 years later, as Stewart is set to retire this June from the same director of marketing position.
Gallacher’s first piece of retirement advice to his one-time apprentice? Take your time.
“When you spend a lifetime at work, you deserve at least one year off for reflection, before deciding what path to take,” Gallacher said.
Also retiring from CMC in June is Library Director Mindy White, one of the few people working in the institution for as long as Stewart. She doesn’t have any advice on retirement yet, but acknowledges that he’s been an integral part of the college.
“I know he’ll be missed,” White said.
The search for his successor won’t be easy for CMC.
“Doug has never been content with the status quo,” affirms Frank Martin. “He has the highest integrity, and is constantly enthusiastic.”
Martin has been the college’s web editor for the past 11 years under Stewart’s leadership and will participate in the hiring process of the new marketing director.
“Finding someone who challenges assumptions and bias is vital,” Martin said.
DRIVEN BY COMPASSION
Through the organization ‘Compassion International,’ Doug and Ellen have sponsored children abroad for about 30 years. Of the four children they have sponsored, they got to meet three, one from India and two from Bolivia.
The last two they met during their many trips to the South American country, where the family has established deep roots. Their daughter, Katie, lived there for a decade before moving back to the valley, and son Collin is still in Bolivia, where their grandson Matias was born.
“My son and I went on a couple of motorcycle trips there,” Doug Stewart said. “It’s just so wide open and wild. I love that sense of adventure.”
When asked what his first year of retirement will look like, Stewart didn’t hesitate to answer. “There will be a lot of camping, hiking and backpacking, more traveling to Bolivia and hopefully some extra time with the kids at my church [The Orchard] in Carbondale.”
After a short pause, he continued, “and maybe some work.”