Economy class: The Edward F. Stuart Legacy Fund

Northeastern Illinois University Economics Professor Emeritus Edward Stuart loves to travel. More than that, he loves to lead student groups on study tours. In fact, during his 31-year tenure at Northeastern, Stuart has led 17 study trips to cities such as Barcelona, Warsaw and Munich.

Committed to teaching and learning through travel, Stuart believes it is important for students to travel and study abroad as part of their college experience. Exposure to places far from home is the kind of life lesson that can’t be learned in the classroom. In addition to the sights, food and culture, travel abroad prepares students for an increasingly global employment landscape.

“Having some study abroad experience is really a step up in just being able to expand their employment possibilities,” Stuart said. “Once they get employed, having had study abroad experience helps them move up the career ladder with whatever organization they happen to work for.”

Since 2001, the NEIU Foundation has offered the Student Travel Award, which provides funding for major travel expenses to undergraduate and graduate students who are presenting their work at academic conferences, but no such fund existed for economics- and business-minded students who wanted to study abroad. Until now.

Stuart’s study tours caught the notice of a colleague, Associate Professor of Economics Michael Wenz, whose first trip abroad was in 2014 to Madrid, Spain, where he presented a paper at a conference.

“Two years later I spent my sabbatical semester in Poland working at Politechnika Częstochowa and the Warsaw School of Economics, and I had the chance to meet up with Ed's study tour group while they were in Budapest,” Wenz said. “It was easy to see how much the students appreciated the opportunity.”

Wenz became a champion of Stuart’s study tours, encouraging his students to engage in travel-study. But he wanted more. After discussing it with his Department of Economics colleagues, Wenz took a new idea to Stuart.

“Ed retired from the full-time faculty a few years ago, but he continues to teach and lead our travel study group. I wanted to plan for the future and make sure that travel-study remains a part of the Economics Department and that Ed’s good work lives on,” Wenz said. “We are excited to create a scholarship in his honor. I can't think of a more appropriate way to help prepare our students to lead in the world.”

Stuart’s reaction to the proposed Edward F. Stuart Legacy Fund: “I was thrilled.”

“It’s a great combination of philanthropy and helping students at Northeastern in general, but specifically students who need to study abroad but don’t have all of the necessary funds,” said Stuart, who himself was unable to travel as a student due to financial limitations. “I think study abroad for students at Northeastern is really valuable because they don’t usually come from families that do that, so it’s really crucial.”

Together, Stuart, his family and the Economics Department established the fund with a matching grant. Stuart will match the first $5,000 in donations. In addition, Wenz will contribute $25 to the Economics Department Foundation for each of the first 20 contributions of $25 or more, and Economics Department faculty will contribute $100 for each of the first five donations of $100 or more.

“It all came together like things do in life. Things happen together sometimes by chance, but the right chances happen at the right time,” Stuart said.

Once the Edward F. Stuart Legacy Fund is fully established, it will be used to support student travel, both in study abroad programs and academic endeavors. Application and eligibility details will be announced soon.

The scholarship fund is not the only way Stuart is giving back to students. He also has decided to include Northeastern in his will.

“At the same time we were setting up this scholarship fund, my siblings and I had taken over my father’s estate and I didn’t have a will. My sister, who was the executrix, said, ‘You need to have a will,’” Stuart said. “I thought, now’s the time to give some money to my family members, but they are otherwise taken care of. Northeastern was the logical choice as to what to do with the other parts of it.”

It’s money well spent, Stuart said.

“In terms of getting a return,” Stuart said, “I can’t think of any other university students anywhere in the country that are more deserving and will be helped more than by donating to one of Northeastern’s scholarship funds or the Leader Fund.”

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Economics Professor Emeritus Edward Stuart speaks at the front of a classroom.