This story begins in Savannah, where Dick Stewart was born and then migrates to the Lowcountry after six years. Prior to his senior year in high school, Dick Stewart’s family moved from Bluffton to Beaufort. The last stop in his childhood proved to be the fateful place he would end up creating a legacy along with his wife Sharon.
Dick is a man of many words and a passionate visionary with a lot of horsepower to get things done. Many know him as a leading developer, and some who know him well would uniquely categorize him as a “Venture Philanthropist.” When asked what he would label himself, Dick’s answer was much simpler.
“I’m a citizen at heart,” Dick quickly responded. “I enjoy being a proactive citizen of Beaufort and applying myself to its economic development through ecological, educational, and historic initiatives that are woven into my daily work.”
Each day, Dicks runs 303 Associates, a development and real estate company named after his first property purchase in Beaufort – 303 Federal Street. After years of corporate life-based in Atlanta, his business philosophy focuses on “development in full” and not sub-divide or create “sprawl,” which affects many larger cities.
“The goal with our projects is to create community-centric places that bring people together,” says Dick. “We invest our efforts and resources in building dynamic, family-oriented, and community-enriching places.”
This goal runs parallel with Dick’s approach to philanthropy too. The list of roles and honors he has taken on as an engaged citizen is extensive – County Council and Chamber of Commerce to name a few – however, it is the hand he has played in the University of South Carolina – Beaufort (USCB), Port Royal Sound Foundation (PRSF), Crystal Lake, and other important initiatives that are most notable.
Because of his vision and gumption and the passionate groups of people who join these efforts to carry out long-term visions, Beaufort is now poised to expand its economy and improve the quality of life for all citizens.
“When Sharon and I were deciding where to live after my corporate career in telecommunications, we remembered all our fond memories of Beaufort and the downtown area,” says Dick. “It has always been a special place. The view from the downtown bluff, overlooking the waterways with thousands of years of history and its natural beauty, appeals to me in a spiritual way. We love the sense of community with the galleries, events, restaurants, and shopping. It’s exactly where we want to be.”
And the opportunity turned out just as good for Beaufort. With the Stewarts in town by the late 1990s, an effort began to build up the local college, attain four-year status, accommodate students on campus, and grow the offering of majors to areas that fit with the Beaufort lifestyle, like Marine Science, History, and the Arts.
“USCB’s Beaufort Campus would be years behind in its growth were it not for Dick Stewart. His foresight and ingenuity have allowed USCB to house and develop more academic programs in Beaufort from which the entire region will benefit,” says Bob Lefavi, Dean of the Historic Beaufort Campus of USCB.
The Stewarts have personally donated more than $100,000 in scholarships for USCB students in programs, funded Professor grants, and supported the growth of the University to carry out a vision of having Beaufort as a place of opportunity for those who grow up here and those who choose it as their home. This also ties in closely with another key component of bringing out the best of Beaufort – the Port Royal Sound.
The ecology of our area, specifically the Port Royal Sound, which is the hub of all rivers throughout the county, has received a great boost in understanding thanks to the Port Royal Sound Foundation. PRSF hosts a thriving Maritime Center at Lemon Island for the public. The facility was a former marina, vacant for over six years that Dick purchased with this vision in mind.
“Dick’s commitment and dedication to our unique, local environment is extraordinary. Being one of the founders of the Port Royal Sound Foundation, he has always advocated for educating our residents and visitors about the incredible waters that surround this community. The Foundation’s free museum, the Maritime Center, opened in 2014 and now welcomes thousands of visitors and school children each year to learn about the Port Royal Sound. We host educational programs, including fishing, nature hikes, boat tours, summer camp, and so many others that connect people to the Sound. The Foundation is also sponsoring important research with USCB and working with other great partners to learn more about the Sound and identify what we need to do to protect it. The Stewart’s love for this community helped make this all possible. Dick’s vision has guided the Port Royal Sound Foundation’s important work and will continue to do so well into the future,” says Jody Hayward, Executive Director of PRSF.
Every citizen of Beaufort County has a vested interest in the well-being of the Port Royal Sound, which is why Dick is now helping to merge efforts by the Maritime Center and USCB’s Marine Science program with a new land acquisition on Lemon Island. Plans are to create a new lab and facility for continued discovery and promotion of the Port Royal Sound’s ecology and sustainability.
These efforts at the collegiate level also flow down to the local schools through intentional programming and resource building for teachers to incorporate local history and science into their lesson plans. Each year, students of all ages are engaged in several projects and programs hosted by the Port Royal Sound Foundation and often within their own classroom.
And Dick believes that as many projects continue to progress and responsible development is performed, “all the dots will begin to connect throughout the community.” Beaufort is a special place with an amazing past, bright future, and exceptional quality of life.
It’s no wonder why Dick Stewart was honored by the South Carolina Governor as a Home Grown Champion of Economic Development. He values conservation and sees education as a path to prosperity. He believes in this town and its potential to blossom while preserving what makes it such a special place to live, work and visit.
As seen in:
Dick Stewart – Beaufort Lifestyle