Deaths: Curtisteen Steward, public health

Curt Steward_new

Curtisteen Steward was honored in 2003 with Archbishop Francis George, left, for her work to support the CeaseFire violence prevention program headed by Gary Slutkin, right, professor in the School of Public Health.

Curtisteen Steward, 66, former associate dean of finance and resource planning in the School of Public Health, died April 30 of lung cancer.

Steward, who retired in November 2011, worked at UIC for nearly 35 years, including 20 years in the School of Public Health. She helped nurture the school’s Community Outreach Intervention Project and the Cure Violence program.

After retirement, she continued to work part-time as deputy director in the office of the dean.

“Curt was, for a long time, the heart and soul of the School of Public Health and the motor that made all things run,” said dean Paul Brandt-Rauf.

“She opened her heart to all kinds of people, and many of us were fortunate to be part of her extended family,” said Jaclyn Finch, the school’s associate dean for resource and allocation planning, who worked closely with Steward for many years. “She never said ‘You can’t do it,’ but that she’d figure out a way to do whatever it is you asked her to do.”

Steward was instrumental in establishing the internationally known Cure Violence program in the late 1990s.

“She converted the impossible to the possible, the hard to done,” said Gary Slutkin, executive director and founder of Cure Violence.

“Curt helped pave the way to get CeaseFire (the program’s original name) off the ground by helping guide things through all the administrative processes that needed to happen so that I could focus on doing my work,” Slutkin said.

“Without her, we wouldn’t be operating in 60 communities and 25 major cities today. She put her mind, heart and energy into making things work.”

Cure Violence honored Steward and Archbishop Francis George, the program’s honorary chair, in 2003 for continued commitment and service to the initiative to reduce violence in Chicago neighborhoods.

Steward joined UIC in 1980 as an administrative assistant in the Office of Access and Equity, then worked in the College of Medicine and Office of the Chancellor.

She was a volunteer dispute resolution mediator in the Office of Access and Equity and continued to attend quarterly mediators’ meetings after she retired.

“She was one of the most candid and fearless mediators I’ve ever had,” said Caryn Bills-Wendt, associate chancellor and director of access and equity. “She would take on any kind of problem, and could always reach a solution quickly because of her knowledge of campus HR processes and her people skills.”

Steward was instrumental in launching and raising the profile of two campus groups, the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Blacks and the Chancellors Committee on the Status of Women.

She is survived by five children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The School of Public Health will hold a memorial service at a later date. A scholarship fund for UIC public health students has been established. Donations should be made payable to the UIC School of Public Health, marked “in memory of Curtisteen Steward,” and sent to the Office of Advancement, UIC School of Public Health, 1603 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60612.

For more information, contact 312-355-4501 or

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