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updated: 5/14/2014 8:05 AM

Robert D. Stuart Jr.: Former Quaker Oats CEO, ambassador remembered as 'great American leader"

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  • Robert D. Stuart Jr.

    Robert D. Stuart Jr.
    Courtesy of Stuart Family Foundation


Lake Forest resident Robert D. Stuart Jr. -- who spent 15 years as Quaker Oats Co.'s chief executive officer -- is remembered for his service as a U.S. ambassador, philanthropy, business acumen and political activism.

Stuart, 98, whose grandfather co-founded Quaker Oats, died of natural causes May 8. A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest.

Truman Anderson has been executive director of the Stuart Family Foundation in Lake Forest since 2000. He said Stuart was a grand gentleman who will be missed by many.

Anderson said Stuart focused much of his energy on philanthropy after he was U.S. ambassador to Norway from 1984 to 1989.

"Working with his children and grandchildren via the Stuart Family Foundation, he funded research on several public policy matters," Anderson told the Daily Herald in an email. "His support of campaign finance reform was perhaps especially characteristic. It placed him at odds with many fellow Republicans, but he was convinced that unregulated political spending was harmful to our democracy."

Officials at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni issued a statement crediting Stuart's generous support of initiatives to create better television programming, improve America's image abroad while countering terrorism and building greater domestic civic literacy.

An independent, nonprofit organization, the council of trustees and alumni is described in its mission statement as committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability of universities and colleges. The council said Stuart's donations, in part, helped in efforts to reform higher education.

"As we mourn the passing of this great American leader, we remember with gratitude the many ways in which he left our nation and our world wiser and stronger," the organization said.

After serving in the Army in World War II, Stuart attended Yale Law School and received his juris doctorate in 1946. He then joined Quaker Oats, where he was CEO from 1966 to 1981.

Stuart, who sat on several corporate boards including United Airlines, was praised for diversifying and expanding Quaker while CEO. PepsiCo merged with Quaker in 2001.

President Ronald Reagan appointed Stuart as ambassador to Norway. He remained chairman emeritus of the Council of American Ambassadors.

Other federal positions followed for Stuart when he returned home from Norway in 1989, such as appointments to the defense Base Closure and Realignment Committee by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in the early 1990s.

Stuart also was involved in the Republican Party in Lake County.

With Robert J. Milton, he co-founded the Lake County Republican Federation in 1962 to provide financial resources for local party candidates. Federation President Larry Falbe said the organization became effective and substantial because of Stuart's leadership and inspiration.

Stuart stayed active with the federation long after leaving its executive board and was a fixture at its events, organization officials said. He attended the Lake County GOP federation's "A Conversation with Senator Mark Kirk" in December.

Kirk reflected on Stuart in a statement Tuesday to the Daily Herald.

"Robert Stuart was a patriot who served his country not just as an ambassador, but in countless ways through his work in our communities," Kirk said. "Bob was tireless through his 90s in his patriotism."

Internal Revenue Service records from 2011 indicate the level of financial support Stuart committed to his Lake Forest-based foundation. He donated 71,300 shares of PepsiCo common stock that at the time was worth about $5 million.

Along with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, records from 2012 show the foundation donated to groups such as Morality in Media, Parents Television Council, Chicago Public Radio, Heritage Foundation, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Heifer International.

Twitter: @DHBobSusnjara

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