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Polk State College Alumnus Writes Bestseller, Works for Americans with Disabilities

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Read about the accomplishments of our most recent Distinguished Alumnus Elizabeth A. Stewart, and how the quest to find her father - a Vietnam War colonel missing in action - shaped her future.

Elizabeth A. Stewart

Elizabeth Stewart graduated from Polk State College (known then as Polk Community College) in 1974 with an AA degree in Psychology. She received both her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Louisiana State University in 1975 and her Juris Doctorate in 1979.

After several years of practicing law in Louisiana and then in Polk County, Elizabeth moved to Washington DC where she spent 20 years as the Deputy General Counsel for the US Access Board. An independent Federal agency, the Access Board drafts accessibility guidelines and standards for people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act. In 2006, she received a presidential appointment from President George W. Bush to serve as a member of the Access Board for a four year term.

Elizabeth’s parents met at the Bartow Air Base where her father – a pilot – was stationed in 1944. She spent her childhood years moving to various Air Force bases across the USA and in Japan. On March 15, 1966, Elizabeth’s father, Col. Peter J. Stewart, was shot down over Dien Bien Phu in northern Vietnam. Still missing in action to this day, his name appears on panel 6E line 12 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Elizabeth spent more than two decades researching intelligence relating to American prisoners of war and those missing in action. Her efforts have taken her from Capitol Hill to Cambodia, from the South China Sea to the presidential palace in Hanoi and to the most remote regions of northern Vietnam. In 2007, she co-authored An Enormous Crime with former Congressman Bill Hendon. The book documents their research to find answers about her father and the American prisoners of war who were left behind in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia at the end of the war. The book quickly became a New York Times bestseller.

Today, Elizabeth is a sole practitioner in Lake Wales, FL focusing on family law.