The Society of the Stewards: A brief history
So you’ve heard the rumors about the Stewards: the group is a right-wing conspiracy, they only accept white, Catholic males, they have a secret agenda, and so on. These rumors have circled ever since the group was exposed in 1988. With the recent twist in the 2013 GUSA election regarding candidates’ affiliations with secret societies, Vox has decided to look into these rumors and at the history and role of the Society of the Stewards on Georgetown’s campus.
The society was first exposed in 1988, when Rev. Joseph T. Durkin, S.J., moderator of the Stewards and a Georgetown professor, sent two letters to The Hoya voicing his objection to the group’s secrecy and refusal to admit women, according to a 1988 Voice article. Less than a week after the publication, a member of the society held a press conference in which he informed the public the group would be dissolved.
Several editors, including past and present Editors-in-Chief of the Hoya and GUSA senators, including the present vice president, were exposed as members. The controversy led many to step down from their positions and also shook up that year’s GUSA race, since two candidates were members. Minority and women’s groups on campus strongly disapproved of the organization, according to a 1988 Voice article.
A different article from the same issue said that the Stewards “like to keep people confused as to the different aspects of the society.” One of those aspects that has been foggy since the society was first discovered is the difference between the First, Second, and Third Stewards.
“My Steward contact never went into much detail about the history, except to imply that the group was very old,” Joe Rand reported in the article.
The Speaker of the Stewards Society (first and second), Adam Augustine Carter (COL ’87, LAW ’91), published an article in the Georgetown Academy, a presently-defunct, conservative Catholic publication, in 2001 explaining the background and purpose of the organization and defending it against wide-spread rumors and criticism.
“The Second Stewards Society is a college fraternity of mostly alumni and students of Georgetown University,” Carter said. “We seek to inspire service to our school, and aspire to the building of character in young men, that they may be better sons, husbands, and fathers.” He said the group “shares in a tradition” that began with the first fraternities, such as the Fat Hat Club and Phi Beta Kappa, both at the College of William & Mary.
Carter also made clear that the society was founded as an all-male fraternity, which he defended in the article: “We believe that certain tensions and emotions are uniquely shared amongst men, as the are amongst women. To initiate women into our small membership is not a matter of better or worse, it would simply be different.”
He also explained that the society chooses to remain private, though not a secret society, because “men hold most dear the things they keep private.”
As for the purpose of such a group, Carter said it is a “quiet and private effort that internalizes charity.” The statement is reinforced by the recently uncovered tax forms, which show the Stewards have made donations to numerous groups on campus, such as the Philodemic Society and Mask and Bauble.
The 1980’s-era rumors that the group is largely conservative and Catholic and has an agenda of furthering those views were likely true, though Carter defended the society by saying that students are quick to judge because they are ignorant of many aspects of the society. In the article, however, Carter said, “True to the vision of John Carroll we are blind to all other things.” Though this proves their official alignment with Jesuit values, the group also had strong ties with the Georgetown Academy, which was quite conservative, often on the verge of being offensive to progressives, and with strongly conservative members, such as Manny Miranda (SFS ’82), one of the Stewards’ founders, according to a 1988 article in the Washington Post.
According to a Voice feature, the Academy disapproved of the “Safe Zone Program” in the late 90’s, through which professors would post stickers on their doors indicating they were available to discuss gay students’ concerns.
The publication also protested former Georgetown University President Leo O’Donovan‘s decision to fund GUChoice, what is now H*yas for Choice, in 1991. A Stewards founder, Manny Miranda—also a founder of the Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative Catholic watchdog group—became the lead attorney in the Academy‘s canon lawsuit against Georgetown for funding the organization. The case went to the Vatican, since canon law is the Catholic Church’s legal framework, to which Catholic institutions are supposed to adhere. In 1992, the Vatican agreed that the school should not fund GUChoice, and the group was disbanded. The follow year it regrouped under its current name.
The most recent headlines about the Stewards show that multiple GUSA candidates are involved. Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14) admitted his membership in the Second Stewards, while Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) admitted to being in an undisclosed secret society. This event, along with the $147,966.93 they hold in assets and the thousands they donate to certain student groups every year, shows that the group may have more reach than many expected.
“While the Society applauds Jack Appelbaum’s service to GUSA, the privilege belongs entirely to him. We are not interested in king-making,” said Sam Schneider (COL ’13), the undergraduate leader of the Second Stewards. “His record of public service should be all that matters to any thoughtful person weighing the merits of his candidacy.”
Photo: Voice Archives
The full article in the Georgetown Academy about the Stewards:
A 1988 article in the Voice:
The following two documents are a second article from the Voice in 1988: