If you go to any ACU home game, you are sure to see Dr. Jonathan Stewart, finance professor, sitting in the stands or standing on the sidelines, cheering on the Wildcats. This year, Dr. Stewart is ACU’s Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR). FARs are chosen to help create a caring and supportive campus environment to grow and advocate for student-athletes. The FAR is involved in helping make sure that student-athletes have the appropriate systems and environments in place so that they can succeed in academics and as a person.
Dr. Stewart has taught Financial Management, a required class for all business majors, for the last fifteen years and in doing so, has felt privileged to meet so many students. Being the FAR allows him to get to know students in other majors with whom he would not normally interact and build relationships and friendships with them. Dr. Stewart is in charge of overseeing a committee that checks student-athlete eligibility and making sure they are meeting NCAA and ACU requirements. ACU only allows student-athletes to miss a certain amount of classes, so Dr. Stewart approves travel schedules. A large part of his job is just being available to student-athletes so that they can feel comfortable talking to him about difficulties or just to chat. Dr. Stewart tries to go by practices and travels with each team at least once so they can see his face and become familiar with him. His favorite part of the job is coordinating the guest coaching program. Student-athletes nominate their favorite faculty and staff to be honored as guest coaches. Guest coaches can go to practices, watch film, attend pregame meals, and see what the student-athletes do day-to-day beyond the classroom. Dr. Stewart loves to see how it blesses the faculty and staff that get nominated and meeting those individuals who have such a strong positive influence on ACU’s student-athletes. “I get to meet the faculty and staff that the students love,” said Dr. Stewart. “It is also good for them to see how much time, dedication, and love the student-athletes put into what they do.”
Working as ACU’s FAR certainly aligns with Dr. Stewart’s calling to mentor and teach. It allows him to know and interact with a much bigger group of students, all with different concerns, majors, and backgrounds. “I am still learning and trying to find my way,” said Dr. Stewart. “It is fun to say hi to people while I am walking around campus or checking up on how things are with students in the Bean or in chapel.” Dr. Stewart tries to practice mindful prayer for the student-athletes. For example, there always injuries and physical struggles in athletics, so when Dr. Stewart sees someone in a brace or on crutches, he says that he prays for their healing and peace. “It can be stressful for an injured athlete to not compete and be with the team. I try to be really intentional about praying for them and following up on that,” says Dr. Stewart. Student-athletes also have to be exceptional time managers to succeed in the long run. Dr. Stewart prays for their ability to be well-organized and uncommonly focused and makes sure to be available to help students achieve those goals.
Like the rest of us, Dr. Stewart was very excited about having ACU football back on campus in the brand-new Anthony Stadium. In particular, Dr. Stewart has really enjoyed the opportunities that the stadium has provided for communities at ACU and in Abilene. He enjoys walking through tailgates and seeing students setting up their tents and alumni catching up with each other. In Dr. Stewart’s eyes, the stadium has brought about a great improvement and positive effect upon ACU culture, especially when it comes to athletics. “I hope that the excitement that having a home stadium has created will bleed over into other athletic events,” said Dr. Stewart. “We can use this as a way to support and encourage each other no matter if we are a professor, student, athlete, or alumni and focus on building relationships and improving our community.”
Be sure to come say hi to Dr. Stewart at all of our home games and cheer on our student-athletes. Go Wildcats!