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Jean Stead – Her Story

Jean was born as the only child of Tom and Marion Garner in Birmingham, Alabama. Tom was an insurance agent and Marion a stay-at-home mother. Birmingham was one of the most environmentally polluting and socially unjust cities in the United States and so it was within the context of the civil rights movement in Birmingham that Jean grew up. Due to the overcrowded schools and lack of quality education available in the community (race was never mentioned as a reason in the Garner house), Tom and Marion sacrificed to send Jean to an exclusive, all-girl school for six years. Here she made close friends that have endured through time; Jean attributes this to all the sharing that took place at the spend-the-night parties (rather than dates) during high school. She did, however, receive the kind of college prep education that she would need to academically survive in the social environment of college.

The Developing Years at Auburn University

After graduating from the Brooke Hill School for Girls, Jean selected Auburn University to spend her college years. The statistic that Auburn’s male-female ratio was about 7 men to 1 woman was what really swayed her decision. Jean took complete advantage of the social environment at Auburn by being an active member of Kappa Delta social sorority, serving as the Sigma Chi pledge sweetheart and becoming an avid Auburn University football fan. What a great freshman year it was for Jean, until April Fool’s day when Jean experienced a brain aneurysm, requiring immediate brain surgery. She was very fortunate to survive with just a few complications.

Even though Jean returned to Auburn after her surgery with a baldhead and a paralyzed eye, she was able to resume her social and, oh yes, her academic pursuits in liberal arts. It was then when Tom, her father, presented her with a major dilemma. (He was financing all of Jean’s college expenses.) He told her that he didn’t really care what she majored in as long as she could fill in the blank of the following sentence, “Daddy I can get a job doing _______.”  Jean had never really thought about getting a job as she approached her junior year at Auburn. She decided that she would major in business, reasoning that this was the major that she could use to get a job. The switch to business was a great social move for Jean as well since she was one of the only women in her classes.

As Jean approached graduation, she realized that her incredible college experience was coming to an end and that she would be missing Pat Sullivan’s senior year playing football. Pat Sullivan, the quarterback of the football team, was picked to win the Heisman Trophy the next fall. It was within this context that Jean decided to stay at Auburn and pursue her MA in economics. She served as an instructor of economics while working on her degree, deciding that she loved teaching at the college level. It was also during this time that she met and fell in love with her wonderful husband and colleague, Ed Stead, who was also teaching as a graduate student. In fact, Jean was actually a student in Ed’s FORTRAN computer programming class her senior year, earning only a B.

The Searching Years

Upon their completion of their master degrees from Auburn, Jean and Ed married in 1973. They both had fallen in love with teaching at the collegiate level. They formed a shared vision to one day teach college in the mountains and live in a glass house in the woods. This vision guided their professional decisions for the next decade. In order to accomplish this vision, they utilized the “Theory of Sucking It Up,” which essentially states that one of the parties may have to “suck it up” while the other has to capitalize on the opportunity available to help achieve their shared vision. While Ed was working on his PhD at LSU, Jean worked as an urban planner for the City/Parish Government of Baton Rouge and as an economic consultant at a consulting firm.

After Ed finished his PhD, they moved to Western Illinois University, where Ed was an assistant professor of management and Jean an instructor of economics. While at WIU, Jean pursued her MBA and was introduced to the work of Herman Daly, the father of ecological economics, who challenged everything she learned in her previous two degrees in economics. It was here at WIU in 1978 that Jean and Ed decided to write their book, Management for a Small Planet, sometime in the future (See Our Story). In order for Jean to have the opportunity to study under Herman Daly at LSU, she and Ed decided that they had to live in separate cities. Ed would live in Birmingham and teach at the University of Alabama Birmingham and Jean would live in Baton Rouge, LA and attend LSU. On the way to the PhD program, however, all their plans changed when Jean got pregnant with their daughter. Herman Daly graciously allowed Jean to take his course as an independent study, and she moved to Birmingham with Ed where their daughter, Garner Lee, was born. Garner Lee’s arrival in 1980 changed their lives and perspectives forever.

The next year Jean, Ed, and Garner Lee (now five months old) headed to Baton Rouge so Jean could begin the doctoral program. UAB graciously gave Ed a leave of absence for a year and Ed Gray, chair of the Management Department at LSU, gave Ed a visiting professorship at LSU teaching 12 hours of organizational behavior. Jean was charged with finishing all of her PhD coursework in one year. Ed turned into Mr. Mom and considered going to teach four classes on campus a vacation, while Jean studied and went to class from 3:30am until 9pm everyday. Jean, Ed, and Garner Lee moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northeast Tennessee in 1982, where Jean and Ed took positions in the Management and Marketing Department at East Tennessee State University. Jean defended her dissertation and graduated from LSU in 1983. In 1994 Jean and Ed built their glass house on their mountaintop. Garner Lee, who always said as a child that she would live in a big city since she was ‘forced’ by her parents to grow up in the woods, moved to New York City and later on to Silicon Valley, where she is definitely out of the woods.

The Visionary Years

Jean and Ed have made their home in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee since 1982, living their shared vision they developed in 1973. Although they have a house in Auburn, AL where Ed’s heart still lies, Jean considers the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains her home. It is here that their vision of Management for a Small Planet came to fruition in 1992, now in its third edition, and it is here that they raised Garner Lee. The flexible schedule afforded by their academic life allowed them to be active in her life, from being grade parents to cheering her on in her cross-country and track meets. And it is here that they built their house of porches and glass in the woods. Note that almost all of the pictures on this website are taken from their front porch or patio.

Living in the majestic mountains of the Blue Ridge provides Jean with the spiritual nourishment of nature. The climate allows for the growing of some of the most beautiful flowers ever seen. Trained as a Master Gardener, Jean’s gardens provide her immense pleasure as she shares her flowers with others as well as keeping her house full of flowers during the blooming season. The vegetable gardens providing tomatoes, peppers, etc, help keep Jean connected to earth, the real source of wealth.

Working in the Melting Pot Ministries of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, which focuses on the needs of the homeless, lonely, hungry and lost in the local community, provides Jean with a better understanding of the social injustices in the local and global community. This connection to those in need is important for Jean to maintain her balance. It is balance that she seeks whether in her own life or in the subsystems of our sacred ecosystem. Jean believes that there is a possibility that humankind can move toward a more sustainable world through a rising spiritual consciousness and enlightened business leaders.