By Emily J. Minor
BOCA RATON — Dr. Samuel S. Stephenson III, who picked up his wife and two small children in 1968 to move to Florida and help lead a fairly new college called Florida Atlantic University, died June 21 in hospice care. He was 93.
Born in Manhattan in New York on April 18, 1924, Dr. Stephenson would go on to fall in love with both engineering and teaching. He first attended Manhattan College and then the Stevens Institute of Technology in nearby Hoboken, N.J.
Eventually, he earned a doctorate of engineering from New York University and taught for many years at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island.
In 1965 while walking along the street in New York City, he would reunite with the woman who would become his wife, Jeanne Godfrey Stephenson. The two met years earlier during their families’ annual summer beach vacations in Madison, Conn.
“And that was that,” said their daughter, Karlen Stephenson. “They were 6 years old when they met.”
The couple eloped in Manhattan in April 1966. They were both in their 40s at the time, and neither had been married before, their daughter said.
Two years later, they uprooted their young family and moved to Florida when a colleague invited Dr. Stephenson to join the leadership faculty at FAU.
The couple bought one of the first lots in Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club. Mrs. Stephenson wanted their new home away from the water, because of their young children, and near the guard gate, because her husband often traveled, said their son, Sam Stephenson of Boca Raton.
In Boca Raton, Dr. Stephenson quickly immersed himself in scholastic and community circles.
A boater at heart, he served for 20 years with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 36, teaching boating and sailing for many years.
“He loved that,” Sam Stephenson said. “He loved teaching, and his students loved him.”
In 2004, he retired from FAU as a professor emeritus after 35 years. Through those years, he was a business and IT consultant to many major corporations, including PepsiCo Inc., said his children.
Always laid back and looking at life with a positive attitude, Dr. Stephenson was stricken with aggressive cancer three times in his life, first with carotid cancer at the age of 18. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer in 1986. Again, he survived.
Dr. Stephenson was diagnosed with bladder cancer in his early 80s. He lived cancer free until it returned and eventually contributed to his death, his daughter said.
“I honestly think the reason he was able to live so long was that he didn’t worry about things,” she said. “He was so laid back.”
He was also thoughtful, even bringing the bank drive-thru tellers chocolates at Christmas time, she said.
And he served on the board of directors of the Habilitation Center for the Handicapped in Boca Raton for more than 10 years.
“He always found the good in whatever was,” said his son.
Dr. Stephenson was buried July 1 at Boca Raton Cemetery alongside his wife, who died March 6, 2006. In addition to his children, he is survived by a daughter-in-law, Kirsten, and his six grandchildren.