Robert J. Stevenish, P ’86, L.H.D. ’19, a longtime member of the Board of Trustees whose deep business acumen and endless commitment to Clark University informed critical University strategies for two decades, passed away on January 26, 2022. At the time of his death, he was midway through his fourth term as trustee.
Bob Stevenish was not himself a graduate of Clark University, but as the parent of an alum, Robert Stevenish II ’86, he dearly believed in the Clark mission, and as a trustee he played a foundational role in helping the board set a course for the institution’s forward momentum.
For many years until he retired, Mr. Stevenish was an executive at the highest levels of the retail industry. He led, nurtured, and grew a host of companies whose names are familiar to shoppers across America: J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, and Modell’s Sporting Goods, where he served as president and chief operating officer.
His leadership extended to the suites and boardrooms of other companies that needed thoughtful decision-making and a steady hand at the helm, including in CEO positions at Trilegiant Corporation, NetMarket, and Fedco. He later offered sound guidance as chairman of the board for Adler Germany and Myron Corporation USA.
Beginning with his appointment in 2003, Stevenish brought his vast business knowledge and love of Clark to bear during his four terms on the Board of Trustees, a span that included a decade serving as a trustee alongside his son, Bobby, which friends say was one of his great joys. A significant gift from father and son in 2005 established the Stevenish Career Management Center at the Graduate School of Management (now School of Management) to provide career planning resources for its students, and as a member of the GSOM Advisory Board he offered sage direction for one of Clark’s cornerstone schools. In 2009, he was named a chapter honoree of Beta Gamma Sigma, the national business honor society, “for exemplifying the ideals of Beta Gamma Sigma — honor, wisdom, and earnestness.”
He served in numerous leadership capacities on the Board of Trustees, chairing multiple committees, including both the governance and investment committees, both of which met with unparalleled success during his time at the helm. As co-chair of the Campaign Clark fundraising campaign, he helped steer the most successful comprehensive campaign in University history — in the process expanding opportunities for students and faculty to venture into new areas of discovery to produce the kind of enduring impact for which Clark is known.
“Clark benefited from Bob’s extraordinary wisdom and experience,” says trustee and friend Larry Landry ’71, MBA ’75. “He had the biggest heart and would drop everything to help you without thinking about it — that’s how he felt about Clark.”
At the 2019 Commencement ceremony, Bob Stevenish was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree to commemorate his many lifetime achievements and contributions to the corporate world and to acknowledge his abiding love for and tremendous efforts on behalf of Clark University. It was a momentous day for Mr. Stevenish, who long ago had embraced Clark University as his own. On this day, before an audience of thousands on the green, Clark returned his embrace.
“In your years on the Board of Trustees,” the citation read, “you’ve proven to be a perceptive and tactical leader. The skills and instincts you’ve honed in corporate boardrooms help ensure that Clark sets the strategies and marshals the resources necessary to provide a world-class education for generations of students eager to make their mark on the global stage.
“Mr. Stevenish, you answer the call of organizations that need someone of talent and integrity to help them navigate the road to better outcomes. We are grateful that you continue to give Clark University the benefit of your talents — as a businessman, as a father, and as a true Clarkie.”
Robert Stevenish leaves his wife, Isabella, son, Robert Stevenish II, daughter, Kristine Sullivan, and his grandchildren.