Mae Stewart ’52

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Mother’s Day lunch consists of Asian kebabs, German Potato Salad, European sausages cooked on a grill, and a good old American salad. Picnic tables are placed under the sycamore trees in the backyard. At one table the conversation flits back and forth between Burmese and English, at another a German-accented voice asks about the meaning of an English word, and a Chinese-accented voice gives the answer. There are more than fifteen people present, ages ranging from a 20-year-old student to a 95-year-old honored houseguest.

Welcome to Mae Stewart’s house.

For her former students, who dreaded the return of their graded Philosophy papers and Greek exams, this image may not be the first to arise when they think of Miss Stewart. The academic professionals who have sought her advice and experience in accreditation and program development may never have seen this side of Mae. The ladies who have sat under her guidance and teaching in women’s ministries are more likely to picture her teaching Bible or coordinating events. Those who’ve traveled with her on PBU tours place her in spots around the globe, but rarely see how the globe enters her home.

Mae grew up as the youngest by far in a family of six, so she was essentially raised as an only child. She was quite shy and quiet as a child. Growing up in New England, the daughter of Scottish immigrants, she was saved under the ministry of Jack Wyrtzen. Her relationship with the University began many years ago in Massachusetts, when, as a young teen, she began attending Grace Baptist Church. There she met the McShane family, whose youngest daughter Marjorie was her youth leader, friend, and mentor. The McShane’s eldest daughter, Lois, was married to Clarence Mason. Clare and Lois encouraged Mae to attend Philadelphia School of the Bible (PSOB), and she enrolled in 1950.

“I enrolled before I got accepted,” Mae says. “They took a risk, and I guess it paid off.” She spent one year at the Spring Garden Street campus and then moved with the school to 1800 Arch Street when PSOB merged with the Bible Institute of Pennsylvania to become Philadelphia Bible Institute (PhilaBI). Of her time as a student, Mae says, “I wasn’t a leader, but I was put into positions of leadership. Clare Mason would sign me up to speak somewhere, and I’d say, ‘I can’t do that; I’m just a kid!’ and he’d reply, ‘Of course you can.’”

After graduating from PhilaBI, Mae went on to study at Wheaton. Her mother was widowed and Mae wondered if she should return home to take care of her, but her family and friends encouraged her to go on with her education. During her student days, Mae worked with China Inland Mission. After five years at Wheaton, Mae had a BA in Philosophy and had finished the coursework for an MA in New Testament, with an emphasis in Greek.

For five years Mae served at Grace Baptist Church in Massachusetts. “I don’t know what they called me,” she says. “Medium-sized churches in that day had one pastor and one woman. They called us by all different names, but we did everything from putting together the bulletin to youth ministry.” When she was asked to come to Philadelphia College of Bible (PCB) to teach, she came with experience in missions and a local church, with an understanding of where students would go after graduation and what they would encounter.

Of her return to PCB, Mae says, “I had to choose between two ministries, and chose PCB. Maybe it was the familiar that helped me make the decision. I think I was challenged by the thought of teaching. Even as a little girl I’d play teacher and view myself as a teacher.” Mae finished her MA and came back to PCB to teach Greek and Philosophy.

Mae’s arrival on campus coincided with Dr. MacCorkle’s first year as president. At her very first faculty workshop, he announced that PCB was going to seek Middle States Accreditation. “Most of us thought it was an impossible dream, because no Bible College had achieved regional accreditation, but from the day I arrived it was full speed ahead toward that goal,” says Mae. “I don’t know how I became involved, except that by nature I’m organized, I can get things done, and I write acceptably. It’s a gift, an ability to put things into perspective. It just grew; whenever a new document was needed for accreditation, I would be involved.” When Dr. Babb became the president, he saw Mae’s gift for administration and encouraged her to pursue that area. She continued to teach full-time for many more years. “In my time,” says Mae, “I’ve seen more change and helped implement more change [in accreditation and program development] than perhaps anyone else. Change is a factor that challenges me. We’ve accomplished a lot of things in my 46 years at PBU.”

Mae’s involvement with international students began with a single family: Dr. Samuel Hsu, Dr. Timothy Hui, and Dr. Andrew Hui. Dr. Hsu originally came to the United States sponsored by a missionary family, but when his brother wanted to come, there was no sponsor. After working with missionary kids during her time at Wheaton, Mae had developed a heart for the world, and she became one of his sponsors. “Everyone in my family is a member of the family of Miss Stewart. Whether it is a birthday or a holiday, it is with Miss Stewart that we celebrate. Her prayers, her generous support, her wise counsel and strong advocacy have all played a significant part in our lives,” says Dr. Hsu.

When Mae moved across the street from the Langhorne Manor Campus, she had a house she could open to international students. Throughout the years, many have come through her doors, to live, to eat, and to find a home. “I came to the United States in 1996 as an international student and lived in Miss Stewart’s house for 9 years,” says Nang Tsin Lahtaw. “Since then, Miss Stewart has been playing a major role in my life as a mother, a friend, and a spiritual leader.”

Dr. Timothy Hui says, “I have heard Miss Stewart quote Colossians 3:24 in the NASB many, many times. ‘It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.’ That is why she has taken on so many behind-the-scene projects at the college, long before the accolades that came her way near the end of her tenure.” This year, Mae Stewart “retires” from PBU. Anyone who knows her understands that she’ll continue to be involved in many different roles. Mae’s learned that unexpected challenges arise for us all, but she encourages alumni and students with this word: “The greatest thing in all the world is serving Jesus Christ. Nothing compares with that. It involves commitment and sacrifice. My commitment for 46 years has been to biblical education.”

[framed_box]Carrie Givens, M.A. is a Communications Specialist in Communications and Marketing and Adjunct Faculty member in the School of Arts and Sciences.  She graduated from PBU in 2003.