C. Stewart Doty, retired UMaine professor and respected activist, dies at 82

Posted March 11, 2011, at 9:49 p.m.
C. Stewart Doty
C. Stewart Doty

C. Stewart Doty, a University of Maine professor for 31 years and a union activist who played an instrumental role in leading a group responsible for earning collective bargaining rights for UM faculty members through the Maine Teachers Association, died on March 4 at his home. He was 82.

Doty died peacefully at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., from complications of prostate cancer, according to family members.

Known affectionately as “Stu” by those who knew and worked closely with him, Doty was a longtime history professor at UMaine. He taught French and European history as well as the history of French-speaking North Americans. He was said to be a fierce opponent of the Vietnam War and a dedicated advocate of First Amendment rights.

But perhaps his most notable achievement came in 1978, when as a union activist and president he led a group of faculty members in a move that earned all public higher education faculty in Maine a 6 percent increase in pay and gave them a greater voice at the negotiating table.

Doty helped attract 83 percent of eligible faculty to vote, and they decided 496-344 in favor of unionizing. He later became the founding president of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine.

“He was a gentle, pacifist soul,” said David Bright, a former State Desk editor at the Bangor Daily News and editor-in-chief of UMaine’s student newspaper who worked closely with Doty during his time at the university. “He was very outspoken on the issues of his time.”

Bright went on to tell how Doty was an adviser to the esteemed Students for a Democratic Society, a group that took stances on cultural issues during the  ’60s and ’70s.

“He was at almost every rally on campus, and he helped to educate and provide guidance to a number of people who would go on to bigger and better things,” Bright said of the time he spent with the educator from 1966 to 1970.

Bright fondly recalled Doty’s presence at events on campus such as blood drives for soldiers returning from the conflict in Vietnam, rallies on the steps of Fogler Library, and his bold criticisms of then-Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith when she visited campus without knowing the U.S. had deployed troops in Laos.

Doty, according to those who knew him, often would draw on his vast knowledge and background as a history professor to stand up for what he believed in. He always encouraged people to learn from the time in which they lived, according to Bright.

Doty also was said to have a deep knowledge of Southeast Asia that made him immensely effective in speaking out against the war.

“My family and I always laugh, because I honestly think between my father’s time as a union president and his role as an activist — the FBI had to be tapping his phone,” joked son Peter Doty.

In addition to his time at UMaine and his role with unions, Doty received the Presidential Research and Creative Achievements award in 1994, shortly before his retirement. He published seven books, including biographies, historical profiles of Maine and a personal memoir.

After a career at UMaine that spanned from 1964 to 1995, Doty retired and moved with his wife to Albuquerque, N.M. There, family members said, he “seemed to be more active” as he continued to lecture and volunteered at a local museum.

Doty was born in 1928 in Fredonia, Kan., to Ethel and Charles Doty.  His family later moved to Topeka, Kan., in search of greater job opportunities at the onset of World War II.  He graduated from Topeka High School and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Washburn University in 1950.

After his graduation, Doty spent time in the military and eventually received a master’s degree from the University of Kansas. He came to the University of Maine after leaving Kent State University in Ohio.

Doty is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jean, and his sons David, Theodore and Peter.

A memorial service will be held on March 26 in Albuquerque, N.M. A summertime service is planned in Maine but a date has not yet been set for the occasion.

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