When he was a child, Shelley Stewart benefited from the encouragement of his first grade teacher, Mrs. Mamie Foster. Her message was simple, “Learn to read, get an education and you can be anything you want to be.” That statement is as true today as it was then. It’s the method of delivery, however, that has changed. Undoubtedly, teachers remain a huge influence in the lives of children. But it’s also true that kids today are inundated with messages of all types directed at them. Getting through all the clutter is the challenge.
Dr. Stewart’s career in marketing and the media provide The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation with a unique set of skills for reaching our youth. It’s a basic marketing principle that when you understand your target audience better, you are more likely to affect change in their lives. When applied to the issue of illiteracy, this approach results in solutions like a fleet of former school buses that transport students through a life-like experience to a place where eight out of ten dropouts ultimately end up – prison. Innovations like The Choice Bus are typical of the unconventional approach Dr. Stewart and The Foundation take to solving the dropout problem.
Board of Directors
Dr. Shelley Stewart - Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1930s, Dr. Stewart’s background can be understood in two words - obstacles overcome. Today a successful businessman, as a child his future was anything but bright. Dr. Stewart’s rise to prominence began as a radio personality in the 1950s and ‘60s. His radio broadcasts were a conduit for protest organizations during Birmingham’s civil rights struggles. His expansion into marketing also began in the 1960s, culminating in his position as the President and CEO of o2ideas, one of the country’s longest-running and largest privately held corporate communication companies. With all that he has accomplished, Dr. Stewart’s path out of poverty and abuse only emerged once he had taught himself to read - the lesson that’s at the very heart of The Foundation he created.
Stanley D. Lawler - Stanley D. Lawler is a graduate of The University of Alabama and the Birmingham School of Law. Since 1962, he has been President of the Lawler Foundry Corporation, a Birmingham based company dedicated to serving fabricators and forgers with dependable, high quality castings and forgings. He is currently a Director of the National Metal Museum in Memphis and a longtime member of the National Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metals Association. Among his many civic roles, Lawler is a member of the Birmingham Rotary Club and Vice President and Senior Board Member of The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation.
Matthew Dent - Matthew Dent, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Buffalo Rock Company, is responsible for the company’s overall operations, including 12 divisions servicing Alabama, western Georgia and the panhandle of Florida.
Matthew began his career with Buffalo Rock serving as an intern during his junior year at the University of Alabama, where he subsequently received his degree in Marketing from the Culverhouse College of Commerce. That proposed 3-month internship developed into a 2-year part-time position where Matthew garnered experience in warehouse operations, store level execution and sales, budgeting and planning, and direct support to the Tuscaloosa General Manager. Prior to his graduation in 1997, Matthew was hired full-time working directly with the Company’s Senior Leadership where he coordinated improvement projects and realigned operations, eventually being named Corporate General Manager of Marketing and Strategy. In 2005, as Vice President of Corporate Development, Marketing and Strategy, he assumed broader responsibilities, including the overall management of the 12 operating divisions and becoming directly involved with the executive management of his fellow officers. In 2008, Matthew was named Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and then named President January 1, 2011.
Matthew has served and is currently serving with a number of organizations locally and nationally:
Among other accomplishments, Matthew was named 2007 Top 40 under 40 by the Birmingham Business Journal.
Matthew enjoys spending time with his wife and their two young children. They reside in Birmingham, are active members at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church and enjoy traveling together, boating and water sports, playing golf, and being personally involved in their friends’ and families’ lives.