July 18, 2008

Seymour Bryson to retire from SIUC Sept. 1

by Christi Mathis

Seymour Bryson

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A basketball scholarship brought Seymour Bryson to Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1955. He enjoyed a record-setting playing career and still holds the University’s rebounding record. But, when he retires as SIUC’s associate chancellor for diversity Sept. 1, Bryson hopes people remember him for a legacy well beyond the basketball court.

“While I’m proud of my achievements in the area of athletics, I want my grandchildren and other people to know me for much more than that,” said Bryson, three-year MVP, two-year team captain and one of the first few African Americans to letter in basketball at SIUC. “I’ve helped bring at least $50 million in external grants to this University. I’m one of three African Americans to progress from assistant professor to full professor here, the first African American to serve as associate dean of a college and the second of three African American deans on this campus.”

“I’ve been able to see the University from the traditional academic side as a professor and a collegiate dean and on the other hand, from the non-traditional side of diversity and equity,” Bryson added. “But what I’m proudest of is when I see students I’ve worked with over the years be successful. I’m very excited to see many students leave here after going through our programs and be very successful.”

When Interim Chancellor Samuel Goldman came to SIUC in 1980, Bryson was the first person with whom he worked.

“We have been friends and colleagues ever since,” Goldman said. “He is a most devoted and dedicated Saluki and he has made significant contributions to the University and beyond.”

A native of Quincy, Bryson is a three-degree alumnus of SIUC, earning his bachelor’s degree in social work in 1959, his master’s in rehabilitation counseling in 1961 and his doctorate in educational psychology in 1972.

Bryson’s tenure at SIUC encompasses numerous faculty and administrative positions. He served as assistant professor, associate professor and professor at the Rehabilitation Institute; acting coordinator and coordinator of the Developmental Skills Program; and associate dean, acting dean and dean of the College of Human Resources before it was disbanded in the 1990’s. He’s been the campus acting affirmative action officer, special assistant to the president for affirmative action and director of the Center for Basic Skills, now the Center for Academic Success. He’s been executive assistant to the chancellor and the president, and since May 1999, associate chancellor for diversity.

As associate chancellor, Bryson has overseen affirmative action, the Center for Academic Success, the Career Preparation Program, Upward Bound, Future Scholars, Student Support Services, Head Start Program, Black Resource Center, Office of Diversity and Equity and University Women’s Professional Advancement.

Bryson has left his mark in a number of professional associations, commissions and organizations, serving in a variety of elected and appointed positions through the decades. He’s currently serving in three posts by appointment of the governor. The governor appointed him in 2002 to the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission (he’s currently interim chair), in 2005 to the African American Family Commission and to the State Use Commission in 1983. He previously served two terms on the Department of Rehabilitation Service Advisory Council.

Widely sought as a consultant and with numerous published works to his credit, Bryson has made dozens of presentations at professional meetings. He’s also been active in community service and the University, including serving as president of the Carbondale chapter of the NAACP, member and chair of the Diversifying Faculty Initiative for three years, president of the Jackson County 708 Mental Health Board, and president and member of the board of directors of the Carbondale United Way.

Numerous awards and honors recognize Bryson’s contributions. Winner of the 2007 Senator Emil Jones Mentoring Award, Bryson’s honors also include the Introspect Access Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education, the School of Social Work Alumni Achievement Award and the Black Affairs Council Roby Given Award. The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inducted Bryson in 1992 and he’s an inductee into the Quincy High School and SIUC Halls of Fame. Bryson is a perennial honoree of Who’s Who Among Black Americans since 1977.

The days of legal segregation and Jim Crow remain vivid memories for Bryson but he proudly notes, “Even then, SIU was very proactive addressing the principles of diversity and inclusion. I still see evidence today of that principle. Southern was a leader with a national reputation for diversity, particularly racial and ethnic diversity. Although change has come throughout the country, SIUC remains a leader.”

Bryson said retiring this fall seems quite apropos, as it’ll nearly coincide with son Todd earning his master’s, bringing to nine the number of SIUC degrees earned by the immediate Bryson family. Wife Marjorie has two, daughter Keri Young has two and children Todd and Robin each have one.

“SIU has been very good to me,” Bryson said. “I’m very much connected with this university since 1955 when I first came here.”

A connection that’s grown for more than a half-century won’t just end when Bryson retires though, he said. He plans to continue to work on behalf of the University in some capacity. Details are uncertain as yet regarding Bryson’s new role but he anticipates he’ll still be involved with Project Hope and Opportunity, raising scholarship funds for students.

“I want to still be a part of SIU and help it retain its national reputation for being very supportive of inclusion,” Bryson said. “I approach my retirement with some ambivalence. There’s a season and a time for all things and it’s time for me to spend more time with my own family. But, all of my associations with this University have been positive. I’m very pleased with what SIUC has done for my family and me. I’ve had the benefit of being blessed to work with administrators who have encouraged and supported me and who have allowed me to implement and work in the areas I’ve found to be productive. They’ve let me do my job and we’ve achieved a lot. I’m proud of this University and my association with it.”