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Delaware State University's oldest alum, beloved teacher dies at 106 years old

Courtney Stevenson leaves a legacy in the Dover community

Delaware News Desk
Courtney Stevenson, a Delaware State University alum and retired faculty member, died at 106 years old Aug. 5.

Two months after celebrating her 106th birthday, Dover’s Courtney Stevenson, a retired teacher and Delaware State University’s oldest living graduate, died Aug. 5 at Bayhealth Medical Center.

Before her hospitalization, Stevenson was living at Cadia Healthcare Capitol in Dover. Due to COVID-19 visiting restrictions, her sorority sisters in Alpha Kappa Alpha, Epsilon Iota Omega Chapter, celebrated her birthday at Legislative Mall June 12.

Her AKA sisters sang happy birthday and released 65 balloons, the same number of years she was part of the sorority. Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen presented a certificate from the city in recognition of her birthday milestone.

A Lynchburg, Virginia native, Stevenson earned a degree in home economics from what was then Delaware State College for Colored Students in 1944. That same year, she married her husband William, a Dover native. They were married for 56 years until he passed in 2001.

During her Del State undergraduate years, Stevenson lived with the family of Charles Henry, a prominent African American dentist. She attended services with them at Whatcoat United Methodist Church in Dover, where she met her future husband. She continued to attend church there for 77 years.

She went on to teach countless young people at the Garrett Preschool Program in Wilmington, Delaware State College High School, Thomas Clayton Elementary School in Smyrna and the Louis L. Redding Comprehensive High School in Middletown.

In 1961, Mrs. Stevenson joined the home economics faculty at then-Delaware State College where she taught for 30 years until her retirement in 1991. Not long after, then-President William B. DeLauder persuaded her to come out of retirement to serve as the college’s acting Chair of the Home Economics Department. She retired again in 1994.

Stevenson was a past president and treasurer of her AKA Epsilon Iota Omega Chapter and was a graduate advisor of the Delta Lambda Chapter at Delaware State University.

During her career, she earned a Master of Art in Higher Education from New York University and did further graduate studies at the University of Delaware, Iowa State University and Philadelphia College of Arts and Science.

Shavonne Bailey, president of the AKA Epsilon Iota Omega Chapter, said that she was an institution in the Dover community and beyond.

“With a warm heart and sweet spirit, she personified commitment and service to her community. As a former chapter officer in the Epsilon Iota Omega Chapter, she laid the groundwork for what our chapter is today, and she will be missed dearly,” Bailey said. “On behalf of the members of the Epsilon Iota Omega Chapter, we extend our condolences to her family as well as the Delaware State University community – where she was the oldest living alumni.”

Funeral arrangements

A public viewing will be Saturday, Aug. 15 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Evan W. Smith Funeral Home, 518 S. Bay Road. An Eastern Star service and a Celebration of Life service will follow the viewing.

While the public viewing is open to the public, the Celebration of Life service attendance will be by invitation only. The service will be livestreamed on the Courtney Stevenson memorial webpage via https://www.evanwsmithfuneralservices.com/. 

In the interest of public health, those attending the public viewing must wear a mask and social distancing will be required. The interment will take place after the funeral at Sunset Memorial Garden on College Road in Dover.