DSU announces death of oldest alumnus at age 106

DOVER — Delaware State University on Tuesday announced the death of Courtney Stevenson, who had been the institution’s oldest living graduate at age 106.

Mrs. Stevenson passed away on Aug. 5 at Bayhealth Medical Center in Dover, where she was hospitalized for almost the last two months.

Courtney Stevenson

Prior to her hospital admission, Mrs. Stevenson spent her last years residing at Cadia Healthcare Capitol in Dover, DSU said.

Due to the COVID-19 visitation prohibitions at the facility, her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Epsilon Iota Omega chapter, gathered on June 12 to celebrate her birthday at the Legislative Mall, where they sang “Happy Birthday” and released 65 balloons in honor of the 65 years she had been a part of the sorority. Dover Mayor Robin R. Christensen also took part and presented a certificate from the city of Dover in recognition of her birthday milestone.

After completing public school in her native Lynchburg, Virginia, and attending then-Morgan State College for a period, Mrs. Stevenson later completed her undergraduate education at the State College for Colored Students (now DSU), where she earned a Bachelor of Science in home economics in 1944.

During her DSU undergraduate years, she lived with the family of Dr. Charles Henry, a prominent African-American dentist, the university said. She also attended services with them at Whatcoat United Methodist Church in Dover, where she met her future husband William Stevenson, whom she married in November 1944. Their union would last 56 years until Mr. Stevenson’s passing in 2001.

She went on to serve as a teacher for countless youths 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 initial retirement in 1991. Not long afterward, then-DSU President William B. DeLauder persuaded her to come out of retirement to serve as the college’s acting chair of the home economics department – an interim post she had filled twice during her previous tenure. She retired again in 1994.

Mrs. Stevenson was a past president and treasurer of her AKA Epsilon Iota Omega chapter and was a graduate adviser of the Delta Lambda chapter at DSU.

During her career, she also earned a Master of Arts 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, the president of the AKA Epsilon Iota Omega chapter, said that as a 65-year AKA member of the AKA chapter, Mrs. Stevenson was an institution in the Dover community and beyond.

“With a warm heart and sweet spirit, she personified commitment and service to her community,” she said.

“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.”

A public viewing will be held Saturday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. followed immediately by an Eastern Star service and a Celebration of Life service, all at Evan W. Smith Funeral Home in Dover.

The Celebration of Life service attendance will be by invitation only; however, the service will also be video streamed on the Courtney Stevenson memorial page at evanwsmithfuneralservice.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.