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Educator had hand in many causes

The father of SPC's Clearwater campus helped found an AIDS ministry and a food bank.

Published May 15, 2007


Pioneering educator and community activist William Fred Stephan III died Saturday (May 12, 2007) at Mease Countryside Hospital. He was 81.

The Clearwater native successfully meshed two careers, one as an educator and another as a volunteer and civic visionary.

Mr. Stephan was known as "the father of the Clearwater campus" of St. Petersburg College, arriving in 1957 to teach and work as an administrator.

"I've always liked working with people better than things, " he told an interviewer in 1980 as he returned to the classroom full time.

Mr. Stephan also helped establish the food bank for Religious Community Services and, with his late wife, Mary, the nonprofit AIDS Partnership, a countywide ministry dedicated to teaching awareness and serving anyone infected or affected by the disease.

"They were essentially selfless people, " said Jade Moore, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

In addition, Mr. Stephan was appointed to the Clearwater City Commission and helped create the county's first bus transfer system.

Mr. Stephan was born July 7, 1925, and raised in Clearwater, the son of Dr. and Mrs. William Fred Stephan Jr.

After graduating from Clearwater High School in 1943, he was commissioned an ensign in the Navy at Northwestern University and received a bachelor's degree in education from the University of North Carolina.

He went on to earn a master's degree in education administration. While an instructor at St. Petersburg High School in 1949, he and Mary McKay were married in Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church in Clearwater. The couple raised four sons.

Their eldest, Fred, died of AIDS in 1993, and Mary Stephan would make her own mark on Clearwater as the founder of the AIDS Partnership and the author of God's Gifts in the Midst of AIDS. It was published in 2001, five years before her death.

Mr. Stephan joined the faculty of what was then St. Petersburg Junior College in 1955 as a math teacher. Two years later, he became the coordinator of continuing education and ran the college's first evening program while continuing to teach.

During this time Mr. Stephan served as director of "Great Decisions, " a local foreign policy discussion program that sent opinions to the State Department, the Florida congressional delegation and the Foreign Policy Association.

He also served in neighborhood groups, on the Central Pinellas Transit Authority and on a citizen's advisory group to the Metropolitan Planning Association.

Mr. Stephan kept a close eye on zoning and construction to safeguard the aesthetics of his hometown. In 1980, he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Clearwater City Commission from December 1980 to February 1981.

"I believe in environmental management, " said Mr. Stephan, an enthusiastic camper and sportsman. "I don't think you have to stop development. But I think you need to manage and conserve lands very carefully."

In 1980, Mr. Stephan worked to help found Religious Community Services' food bank and was an active RCS advisory board member.

"Bill was involved at our inception, " said Bill Trautwein, director of the RCS food bank, who was surprised by Mr. Stephan's death.

"He was a longtime volunteer and just two years ago received a Founder's Award for his contributions, " Trautwein said. "We were expecting him last Saturday to help with the letter carrier's drive."

When one of Mr. Stephan's sons called with news of his father's death, he told Trautwein, "Dad would want you to know he's not going to be there."

"That's how Bill was, " Trautwein said.

Mr. Stephan's survivors include three sons, Clifford M. of Clearwater, Paul M. of Bradenton and David W. of Los Angeles; and two grandchildren. Rhodes Funeral Directors of Clearwater is handling the arrangements.

No services are planned.

[Last modified May 15, 2007, 07:09:25]

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