Stever was born on Oct. 24, 1916, in Corning, N.Y. He graduated from Colgate in 1938 and received his doctorate in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1941, and then, within weeks, went to work at the MIT Radiation Laboratory. He joined the MIT faculty in 1946, eventually directing the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering while holding a professorship in aeronautical engineering. He left MIT in 1965 when he became president of Carnegie-Mellon.
Stever's presidency of Carnegie Mellon University was marked by significant change and growth in the institution, including the merger of Carnegie Institute of Technology and Mellon Institute to form CMU, the establishment of a College of Humanities and Social Studies, the addition of the School of Urban and Public Affairs, the formation of a Department of Computer Science and a Statistics Department, and a Transportation Research Center. His work at CMU, combined with his earlier work at MIT, prepared him for the Directorship of the National Science Foundation.
As director of the NSF, he strengthened NSF's highest priority mission as supporter of basic research, primarily conducted in universities by peer-reviewed principal investigators. This was, and still is, NSF's most important contribution to the nation's strength and well-being. A secondary NSF role emerged, resulting from the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. He rapidly increased NSF's non-fossil and renewable energy sources research, later transferred to ERDA and DOE.
Following his work in the Nixon and Ford administrations, Stever served as an independent corporate board member, a non-profit organization trustee and a science and technology consultant. He contributed to management, research, manufacturing technology, and product development at a dozen corporations, including TRW, Goodyear and Schering Plough. He was also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and Government.
Ronald Probstein, the Ford Professor Emeritus of Engineering at MIT, knew Stever for 60 years. He says Stever “was a superlative administrator who was always quick to understand a problem at hand, and just as quick to bring in the right people to solve it. I saw him on many occasions in the midst of exceedingly contentious situations, but he never ruffled.” In hiring and working with people, Probstein says, Stever “asked for the best, and was convincing enough to get just that.”
Stever is survived by his sister, Margarette Johnson; sons Guy Jr. and Roy; daughters Sarah Stever and Margarette Weed; and seven grandchildren. His wife of 58 years, the former Louise Risley, died in 2004.