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Coveted Firearms Collection Evidence of Alumnus’ Desire to Give Back toVMI

FullTextImage/img/@altHenry Stewart, '35

For Henry Stewart ’35, the opportunity to help at the VMI Museum as a cadet turned into a life-long interest and the ability to fulfill a long-held ambition.

According to Colonel Keith Gibson, the Director of the VMI Museum, Mr. Stewart volunteered to help maintain the VMI Museum’s antique firearms. “He swiftly became fascinated with the Colt revolvers, not only how they were designed and manufactured but also their development.”

His interest continued after he graduated from VMI. Throughout a varied business and entrepreneurial career that included introducing the first ballpoint pen to the United States and serving as vice president of Columbia Records, Mr. Stewart devoted himself to amassing a collection of 800 firearms, mostly revolvers. So devoted was he to this task that, according to Colonel Gibson, he made a purchase during the last week of his life.

Many museums in the United States and Europe were interested in acquiring this collection. However, he was determined to donate these firearms to VMI. This did not surprise Colonel Gibson because, “Henry often spoke of giving back to VMI and providing future opportunities to cadets.”  The Henry Stewart 19th Century Antique Firearms Collection went on display in the VMI Museum in the fall of 2010. 

There was another reason behind his decision to give the collection to the Institute. “Henry often said that his unfulfilled ambition was to return to VMI to teach, “said Colonel Gibson. “Through the donation of this important collection of firearms to VMI, he has fulfilled that ambition for, through it, countless cadets will get a close look at a fascinating period of technological and military history.”