Like many of us, Rob Stewart ’94 reassessed his life after 9/11. He had worked as a local TV news anchor, producer and reporter since 1995, first in Charleston and then in Myrtle Beach, before hitting the big time and moving to New York.
“I decided after September 11, if I was going to stay in news, I had to do something that would help inspire people,” he says. “When a reporter shows up at your door, it’s usually a pretty bad day, right? I wanted to do stories where I could authentically see people in the best light, not their worst.”
That intention eventually manifested into his own show, Rob on the Road, which is now in its 10th season on Sacramento’s PBS affiliate KVIE. Thanks to Stewart’s infectious personality and appealing mix of travel and profile segments, Rob on the Road is the station’s highest-rated local program.
“I travel the state to find what people came here for in the beginning – gold,” he says. “Today the gold is the people and places that make the state so special. The hard part is, I’m on the opposite side of the country from my family. I have to do something that fills my heart here, because my heart’s really back there. But I know life is about the journey and the lessons along the way.”
In fact, that’s what The Journey with Rob Stewart, his new show debuting this fall on KVIE, will be about. The show will have in-depth interviews with people who have important lessons to share. “I hope the show will inspire people,” he says.
Stewart’s own journey began in Cheraw, S.C., the youngest of two children of a former South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) chief and high school career counselor. The family home is the John Inglis House, which dates to the 1790s and has been in his family since the end of the Civil War. His sister, Christie ’90, was a senior at the College when Stewart started as a freshman.
“She laid all of the groundwork for me and took me under her wing,” he says. “My experience at the College helped open my mind. I was headed to law school and, my senior year, I did an internship at WCIV, the local ABC affiliate, and I fell in love with it.”
While he majored in political science, it was his psychology courses with Annette Godow that had the most lasting effect on him. “She taught me so much about things that later helped me through difficulties in my life,” he says. “In 2013, I had to face reality with alcohol and weight, and I remembered many of the things I learned in psychology at the College. I had a chance to turn my life around, and I did it. I haven’t had a drink since and I lost 80 pounds. I trace it back to CofC and the things I was taught there: how to start over, how to pick yourself up, how to be graceful with yourself.”
His struggles, of course, have made his storytelling even more empathetic, and in 2017 he won his first Emmy for a story about a 103-year-old woman who knitted caps and booties for babies.
“I made the conscious decision that, if it didn’t inspire, educate, entertain or inform, I’m out,” he says. “I’m not in this for the money. I’m in this to make moments matter.”
Featured image of Rob Stewart by Mike Ledford.