Stewart (’54) says “Northwest is home” after living overseas for 25 years

Jon Stewart

Covering a lecture about foreign affairs while working as a reporter for The Daily in 1953 led to a 25 year career in the Foreign Services for alumnus Jon Stewart (B.A., 1954).

Stewart was born in Oregon and lived in Alaska until he came to the UW to pursue journalism. He reported and copy-edited for The Daily and also joined the ROTC to stay out of the army, which eventually led him to serve in the Air Force for two years in Texas, working nights at a TV station.

With the lecture in the back of his mind, he started actively thinking about the Foreign Services when the GI Bill passed. He moved to New York City where he met his wife and decided to attend the American University in Beirut for graduate school, receiving his M.A. in 1960 in International Relations.

“It was always interesting,” Stewart said of his 25 year career in the Foreign Services. He and his wife and two sons, lived in Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt within that time span and experienced many dangerous events, but also good times.

One perilous occurrence was the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut. Thankfully Stewart wasn’t in the country then, but moved there a few months later. Stewart said he was living in an apartment and went downstairs to walk the dog when he heard an explosion and saw smoke. A terrorist truck bomber had blown up the barracks of the U.S. Marine contingent at Beirut International Airport, killing more than 200 Marines. Stewart’s wife and other non-essential staff were evacuated, while Stewart was called up to help staff the embassy.

“It’s not an easy life,” he said. “You have to travel all the time and you don’t make that much money.”

Regardless, Stewart appreciated every place he lived and has hopes of returning to his former stomping grounds.

“I would like to go back,” he said. “I’m probably getting too old to do it, but I’d like to go back to Beirut. We spent some good years there.”

Stewart’s most rewarding accomplishment in his professional career was being selected to be the Public Affairs officer in Saudi Arabia. At the time, the embassy was traditionally in Jeddah, but the Saudi’s agreed to move the office to Riyadh.

Although not a specific event, “the atmosphere and the ability to get started in a situation that hadn’t been accessible to us previously” made it a successful time in Stewart’s life.

After using the skills he learned at the UW throughout his entire career – writing, reporting, communicating policies with embassies, and talking with locals in various countries – Stewart returned to Seattle.

“My wife is a New Yorker, but New York is not a place you go to retire,” he said. “Northwest is home.”

-By Erica Thompson