Stewart Stender is more than a loving husband and father of two. After living in Eden Prairie for 19 years, Stender has dabbled in many areas of community involvement. He’s a commercial real estate and investment guru, a trustee of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a trustee of the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and an antique collector. Through this mix of hobbies, career success and community connection, Stender stays busy. But even after committee meetings, mentoring appointments and antique shows, Stender still finds strength in supporting the societies that he loves.
As a child growing up in Green Bay, Wis., Stender was surrounded by volunteer opportunities. “My passion for philanthropy comes naturally from my upbringing,” Stender says. “I remember my parents’ involvement in United Way and YMCA fundraisers.” It wasn’t until 1982, through a job with Trammell Crow Co., that Stender started spending time with local and national organizations. Through encouragement from his boss, Stender joined the National Association for Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), an organization with more than 50 chapters throughout the United States. There, he served as an active board member and later was appointed president of the company. Simultaneously, he became involved in the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce where he was a board member. Becoming involved in the two organizations launched Stender into an addiction of volunteerism. After a taste of what it was like to help local groups, the urge to help others began to grow.
Shortly after his initial experience with the NAIOP and the Chamber of Commerce, Stender steered his passion for giving back in a different direction. In 1984, he began attending antique art shows. One thing led to another and by the 1990s, Stender was an active member with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
A love for art began long before his museum commitment. Stender’s wife and high school sweetheart, Deb Davenport, grew up surrounded in antiques. With parents who doubled as antique furniture dealers, Davenport’s love for old art was instilled in her at an early age. Naturally, after years of helping Davenport’s family load and unload antique furniture from the family car, Stender jumped on the bandwagon and plunged head first into art. “Together, we developed a passion for the old,” Stender says. “It’s something that we connect with.” Slowly, the pair started collecting 18th and 19th century art. “Antique collecting requires continual learning and research,” Stender says.
After years of scouting out antique portraits and weather vanes in New England, in 2003, Davenport and Stender decided to buy a second home in Connecticut. Coincidentally, their home is near the largest maritime museum in North America-Mystic Seaport. Famous for its 19th century re-creation of a New England costal village, Mystic Seaport is loaded with antique art.
So in 2006 when the Mystic Seaport Museum Board approached Stender about a trustee position, he jumped at the chance. “They were looking to diversify the geographical background of the board,” Stender says. “Plus, Deb told me to go for it.” With a little encouragement from his wife of 24 years, Stender is now part of the advancement and steering committees. Through conference calls, meetings and quarterly visits to the museum, Stender is getting accustomed to his latest volunteer endeavor.
“I think it’s good for the community to always give back,” Stender says. And when it comes to giving advice to others, the 49-yearold’s suggestions are simple: “Find an organization that’s interesting to you, ask how to become involved, and throw yourself into it. That’s what I did.”
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