David Steward, World Wide Technology co-founder and chairman, grew up in the small town of Clinton, MO. And when he was old enough to join the Boy Scouts, there was no troop that allowed children of color in town.
However, Steward’s mother and several people in the community joined together to start a new troop that was inclusive of black and white children in the community.
“I so enjoyed the experience,” Steward said. “I went all way up to Life Scouts. With the distraction of girls and playing basketball, I was just short of becoming an Eagle Scout.”
Those experiences provided leadership skills that have helped him become successful, he said. And to give back to his community, Steward recently became the regional director of the Central Region of the Boy Scouts of America. He is responsible for overseeing the programs and activities that serve 700,000 Boy Scouts in 13 states.
“I am still using the Boy Scout’s core values in everyday life,” said Steward. “To be able to share that and to love that and to be able to lead and provide a foundation for young people in 13 states is an opportunity to give back in a unique way.”
For the past 13 years, Steward has served in various Boy Scout leadership roles, including board member, staff executive and council president. Most recently he was president of the Greater St. Louis Area Council for the Boys Scouts of America. He focused his council leadership on making the organization more inclusive.
“As council president, Dave started a strategic plan targeted at reaching minority youth in the City of St. Louis,” said Ron Green, scout executive and CEO of the Greater St. Louis Area Council.
Steward gathered the mayor, superintendent of schools, police chief and other local leaders to recruit over 60 African-American adult volunteers. Now local membership is up 45 percent, Green said. A majority of those new members are African-American children.
After the experience Steward had in his youth, he vowed that no person of color would be turned away from the organization again, he said.
“I wanted to give all young people as much opportunity and access to this valuable program,” Steward said. “The only way I was going to be able to do that was to take a leadership role.”
Even beyond his childhood, the Boy Scouts helped foster Steward’s early business career. When Steward graduated college, the country was in the middle of a recession. He approached a local banker, who lent him $300. With this in hand, he hitchhiked to St. Louis, moved in with his sister and worked part-time as a substitute teacher until he landed a stable position as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America.
In 1976, he became Missouri Pacific Railroad Company’s first person of color to sell rail services.
Four years later, he joined Federal Express and served as senior account executive. There, he earned recognition as a top salesman and was inducted into the company’s sales hall of fame in 1981.
After starting his first business called Transportation Business Specialists, Steward then co-founded World Wide Technology in 1990. In 2011, the company’s annual revenue reached $4.1 billion. It is the country’s largest African American-owned business.
Steward said he strongly believes the Boy Scouts can change the lives of children in this region and build a stronger local community, especially in the African-American community.
“I will do everything possible to get broad access to this next generation,” he said, “because I believe it will make a significant difference in how we lead this community into the future.”