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Cathy Stembridge, alumna, longtime leader of the Northwestern Alumni Association, has passed away

Catherine Logan Stembridge, who served as executive director of the Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA) for many years, died March 4. She was 70 years old.

Stembridge was beloved by her University colleagues and the hundreds of alumni she knew through the years as she played leading roles in Alumni Relations and Development (ARD) and championed Northwestern around the world.

Stembridge died after a long illness in her Evanston, Illinois, home, with her husband of 47 years, George Stembridge III, by her side.

Cathy Stembridge
Cathy Stembridge

For more than 30 years, she served Northwestern alumni, first as director of the Northwestern Alumni Association’s clubs program, then as the association’s deputy director and executive director, and then as associate vice president of ARD, overseeing the NAA, Annual Giving and Marketing and Communications. Along the way, she became an alumna herself, earning a master of science in communication degree from the School of Communication in 2000.

“I will forever be grateful to Cathy for her dedicated service and friendship,” said Robert E. McQuinn, vice president for Alumni Relations and Development.

“So many of us were inspired by Cathy’s joyful enthusiasm for the Northwestern University community,” McQuinn said. “I will miss her, as I know will be the case for so many, including her colleagues and the countless Northwestern alumni and volunteers whose lives she touched.”

Since 2013, Stembridge had served as director of leadership committees for We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, and colleagues said she epitomized Purple Pride. She was a member of the Council of One Hundred, Rho Lambda and the Women’s Board of Northwestern University. Stembridge also was an honorary member of the N Club and NUMBALUMS. Along with her husband, she was a member of both NU Loyal and the Northwestern University Leadership Circle as well as a devoted Wildcats fan. 

Richard “Rich” Dean ’69 (’96 P), a Northwestern trustee who served as NAA board president from 2004 to 2006, recalls Stembridge as a dedicated leader who helped the alumni association expand its focus to engage and support diverse affinity clubs and groups, such as the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association, the Latino Alumni of Northwestern University, the Northwestern University Pride Alumni Association (formerly known as the Northwestern University Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association) and others.

She also made personal connections with NAA volunteers around the world, Dean said. “Among so many other valuable and lasting contributions to the University, I remember Cathy for putting a genuinely warm, engaging and very personal face on the Northwestern Alumni Association,” he said. “She made every NAA volunteer feel special and valuable.”

Northwestern trustee Thomas “Tom” Z. Hayward Jr. ’62, ’65 JD (’89, ’90, ’94 P), a former NAA president and Alumni Regent, said Stembridge provided “outstanding leadership and dedication for the many assignments she undertook with a smile and enthusiasm. She had a wonderful friendship with all alumni that encouraged them to support Northwestern.”

Former NAA president Dan Jones ’61 (’91 P), a University trustee, recalls Stembridge as a “standout” leader. “Her people skills were unmatched in the various roles she filled,” he said. “In addition, she became a wonderful friend of all of us who were volunteers in the NAA.” 

Stembridge earned her bachelor of journalism degree at the University of Missouri, where she joined the Alpha Phi sorority. 

Together with her husband, she enjoyed travel, boating and gardening. They had lived in Evanston since she and George were newlyweds and he was stationed with the U.S. Navy in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Stembridge was devoted to cats of all kinds. According to her obituary in the Chicago Tribune, “She rooted for the Northwestern Wildcats in the classroom and on the field, and she opened her home to rescue otherwise-unadoptable felines.”

Stembridge is survived by her husband, George; their children, Catherine “Katie” Wisby ’05 MBA (Jake) and George “Skip” Stembridge IV (Nina); their grandchildren, Beau and Mary Grace Stembridge; and many cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.

Funeral services are pending. In lieu of flowers, Stembridge requested that donations be made to the WSS Foundation.