Years of impact: Larry Stewart gives back to help grow UNI business real estate program
The path to real estate certainly wasn’t straightforward for Larry Stewart. It started with a career in education, of all places.
After serving in the U.S. Air Force for four years in the early 1950s, Stewart, who grew up just west of Charles City, graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, then known as Iowa State Teachers College, in 1957. He finished a master’s degree in counseling and began teaching and counseling at various Iowa and Minnesota schools. Stewart eventually worked his way up to Richfield High School in the 1960s, one of the largest schools in Minnesota at the time.
But by the early 1970s, Stewart was ready for a career change. He decided to make the jump to real estate, joining Edina Realty, now one of the largest real estate companies in Minnesota. He looks back now and calls it one of the best decisions he ever made.
“I’m glad I quit teaching school at 40 years old,” Stewart said with a laugh. “It was a change that made a lot of sense.”
The change also led him home. In 1975, Stewart moved back to Charles City to join a local real estate firm. Twelve years later, in 1987, Stewart started his own firm, Stewart Realty Company, in a one-room office in downtown Charles City.
Stewart was always glad to help grow the real estate industry. So when he got a big opportunity at his alma mater, he didn’t squander it.
Stewart knew the late Jim Berry from their college days — they and their wives lived right next door to each other south of campus. They remained good friends throughout the years and close colleagues in real estate. By the mid-1980s, Berry was serving on the Iowa Real Estate Commission, which had implored Iowa’s state schools to launch a real estate program. The University of Northern Iowa answered the call. And through Berry, Stewart began serving on UNI’s Real Estate Advisory Council, which helped steer the direction of the program.
Jim Berry, Sarah Cox (Real Estate ’10), Larry Stewart
Stewart, who served on the council for about 20 years, was integral in helping the real estate program grow into what it is today — one of the foremost real estate degrees in the country.
“Well, it was fun to get back into the university as an advisory committee council member,” Stewart said. “[Berry and I] were pleased that we got to participate in the development of that program. And by the end, the program was very active.”
Stewart is retired now in his hometown of Charles City, but he has admired the real estate program from afar. His real estate company has turned into a family affair, with his son Dean taking the reins in 2003 and his daughter Lori working as a realtor.
Stewart’s involvement with UNI’s business college led to numerous connections he still holds dearly today.
"I had fun getting acquainted with real estate professionals throughout the state through the real estate program,” Stewart said. “I guess it was a good way to top off the last 20 to 30 years of my career.”