Monday, September 29, 2008

Jack Stebbins

Jack Stebbins, a retired professor of mathematics at UWM, a neighborhood leader, fighter for social justice, and a loving husband, father and grandfather, passed away on Friday, September 26 at 11:22 am.

Jack Stebbins dedicated his life to improving the lives of those around him. But when people asked him what he did for a living, this loving husband, father and grandfather, replied "I have three kids.”

Jack was an excellent teacher and a strong supporter of public education, Milwaukee's public schools, and MATC.

He joined the American Federation of Teachers at UWM in the 1970s even though UW faculty did not have the right to organize. He believed that teachers had the right to fair treatment and representation and looked forward to UW faculty winning the right to organize. As recently as this summer, he met with a new generation of UWM faculty to encourage their efforts to organize a faculty union.

Jack was involved in the struggles for peace and justice, which he viewed as inseparable, for his entire adult life.

He and Mary Lou were close friends with Father Groppi and marched by his side in Milwaukee's Open Housing marches in the 1960s. They also started the meal program for the poor at St. Benedict the Moor Parish and volunteered there for more than 40 years.

In the late sixties, Jack organized faculty support for UWM students who were protesting the War in Vietnam. His activities prompted the denial of tenure. But Jack never doubted that he had done the right thing.

Jack was also instrumental in creating the Gordon Zahn Peace Prize given yearly to a Riverside High School student who works for Peace and Justice and the Mariners Neighborhood Association. He was the organization's secretary at the time of his death. Only two weeks ago he told me that he planned to run for re-election.

Jack, a graduate of Holy Cross University in Boston, claimed to have played pick up ball with former Celtic great, Tommy "Gun Gun" Heinsohn. Although Milwaukee was his adopted city, his love for his hometown Celtics never waned. He was thrilled to see them capture another championship last year.

Jack was an accomplished athlete in his own right, twice winning the National Handball Championship. His passion and love for athletics were reflected in the fact that he was teaching handball at UWM as late as last Monday.

Jack was a good and decent man. He will be remembered by all of us for his devotion to his family, his adopted city and to justice. He will be missed by his family, neighbors and friends, and by the thousands of people whose lives he touched.

Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your latest breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water You once poured into the wine cannot be Drained off again.

What has happened has happened. The water You once poured into the wine cannot be Drained off again, but Everything changes. You can make A fresh start with your latest breath.
(Bertolt Brecht)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jack was an inspiring figure. It is my honor to have known him. I've not met two people more dedicated to service of the under represented than Jack and MaryLou. I feel so fortunate to have known him and will miss him dearly.
--Annie Mansfield