North Central College Life Trustee Judy Stevenson will be remembered for being a caring mother, a successful entrepreneur and business leader, a friend of the arts and a generous benefactor of North Central College and many other causes.
Stevenson died Monday, June 28, 2010, after a long battle with emphysema and related illnesses. She was a fifth-generation Napervillian.
“No one has been a more loving and generous champion of this college over the past quarter century than Judy,” North Central College President Harold Wilde said. “Since she joined North Central’s Board of Trustees in 1982, her vision and philanthropy have been central to every advance we have made.”
Stevenson’s Downers Grove-based company, Magnetrol International, achieved international success as an industry leader in the production of devices that control and measure the level and flow of liquids or dry bulk products.
Stevenson, of Oak Brook, grew up in Naperville a block from North Central’s campus and studied music at Pfeiffer Hall as a youth. After graduating from Naperville Community High School in 1956, she married and moved to California, where she worked during the day and sang with the Robert Shaw Chorale at night. A couple years later, she and her husband came back to Naperville, where Stevenson raised her two children, Laurie Swallow and Jeff Swallow.
She started at Magnetrol—then called Schaub Engineering—as a bookkeeper in 1964. She became executive vice president in 1971, president in 1975 and bought the firm in 1978.
Stevenson has been recognized and honored by numerous charities through the years for her philanthropy and community involvement. When North Central College presented her with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 2009, music professor Jeordano “Pete” Martinez described Stevenson as a “philanthropist whose generosity of spirit has elevated her love for the fine arts into a permanent legacy at North Central College,” adding that hundreds of students have benefited from scholarship programs that she established.
Martinez continued, “Our magnificent arts facilities, including Pfeiffer Hall, Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center, and of course, Meiley-Swallow Hall, are a reflection of your vision and unique spirit. We are honored by your leadership in philanthropy and your lasting commitment to North Central College, our students and our fine arts programs.”
Stevenson’s generosity helped fund the major renovation of Naperville’s former Grace Evangelical Church at 31 S. Ellsworth St. into Meiley-Swallow Hall, which features a theatre, art gallery and classrooms.
Wilde said at the Meiley-Swallow Hall dedication in 2007, “When I asked if we could name this building in her honor—in gratitude for all she has done for the college—it was the family names of her parents and her son and daughter she suggested instead. So like Judy—it’s not about her—but about roots and family and integrity and the highest of standards—about the future and the past—about inspiring young and old ‘with a taste of God’s grace.’ Could there be any better personification of what this building represents?”
Stevenson also was instrumental in contributing toward the renovation of North Central’s Pfeiffer Hall and Old Main buildings and construction of the Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center that was dedicated in 2008. In 1984 she established a North Central scholarship in the name of her father, Harold Meiley, and in 1992, she established the Dr. C. Frederick Toenniges Professorship in honor of a North Central music professor.
Magnetrol International employees established the Judy G. Stevenson Scholarship at North Central College, an annual financial scholarship that is awarded to female undergraduates often pursuing college degrees later in life.
Rick Spencer, North Central’s vice president for institutional advancement, who has known Stevenson since he was a child, said, “She was an extraordinary person—loving, visionary, generous and shrewd. It was a privilege to know her. She was one of a kind.”
Visitation will be held at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home, 44 S. Mill St., Naperville, Thursday, July 1, from 3 to 8 p.m. A funeral service will be held at Community United Methodist Church, 20 N. Center St., Naperville, on Friday, July 2, at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are appreciated to the Harold Emery Meiley Scholarship or the Judy G. Stevenson Scholarship at North Central College, 30 N. Brainard St., Naperville, IL 60540.