Presented to Alan Stewart
It is my privilege to introduce you to our first honoree this evening – Dr. Alan Stewart of the University of Georgia, Department of Counseling & Human Development Services. To a degree, Dr. Stewart embodies Meda Chesney-Lind's assertion: personal history as a basis for research. And I think that is a theme that particularly resonates with those in Victimology as many of us – and many of our colleagues – have come to this field in part because of personal experience with crime.
Two separate automobile crashes took the lives of two cousins during his youth. As a teen, Dr. Stewart and his father shared a passion for restoring old cars, and as restorers of old cars are wont to do, father and son often visited local auto salvage yards in search of a particular part. It was during these trips that Dr. Stewart would, as most of us would, wondered about the circumstances that led to the crashes that these cars had obviously been in. And as he looked at cars so severely damaged that it seemed impossible that anyone could have survived, Dr. Stewart would reflect on the person who likely had died, the person’s family, and interestingly enough, wonder how the family had learned of their loved one’s death…who told them, what words did they use, how did they react and cope with their loss?
Dr. Stewart received his MA in 1988 from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in Community / Clinical Psychology and in 1994, his PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Georgia where he is currently an associate professor.
As a mental health professional, a significant area of interest for Dr. Stewart is trauma and loss, in particular the role of narrative or, as Howard Zehr articulated this morning, story-telling, as a mechanism for coping with trauma.
But it is Dr. Stewart’s research in the area of death notification that I believe is his unique and notable contribution to the field of Victimology. For those whose trauma involves death, it is the moment of notification that forever bifurcates their lives. It is, psychologically, the time of death for their loved one, it is the notification that serves as fodder for flashbacks, intrusive recollections and traumatic memory. It is the IED of sudden, violent death. Dr. Stewart has examined and continues to examine this sensitive and difficult topic from both the perspective of those who receive the news and those who deliver it. His innovative research has influenced death notification training throughout the US as well as the actual practice of death notification delivery. Among journal articles and book chapters on death notification, Dr. Stewart and his co-author, Janice Harris Lord, have a book in press on the subject.
These are some of Dr. Stewart’s contributions to the field but I would like to tell you a bit about my impressions of him as a person. Those of you who have talked with him today have found him to be a modest, gracious, unassuming man. And in talking with his colleagues, I have learned that these characteristics do, indeed, reflect his personality. In fact, his first reaction when I called to tell him of his nomination was his insistence that various colleagues were more worthy of the recognition then he. Or, as Janice Harris Lord said, “Alan has the ability to make you feel as though your contribution to a project is the most significant, most important, most meaningful component of whatever you’re working on – and he makes survivors with whom he speaks feel the same way.” And whether or not these characteristics are desirable in a researcher, they absolutely position Dr. Stewart to be able to conduct research on this most sensitive of topics.
Dr. Stewart’s name may not be familiar to you, or certainly not as familiar as other notables in our field. But I predict that it will become so. I also predict that the American Society of Victimology is just the first of many who will honor the research of this lovely man. Please join me in honoring our colleague Dr. Alan Stewart.