February 11, 2010

Sturgis award presented to Seymour Bryson

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Seymour Bryson first came to Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1955 on a basketball scholarship, but in the more than five decades since, he has left his mark in countless ways on campus and the world beyond.

In recognition of his efforts and extensive community service, Bryson today (Feb. 11) received the 2010 Lindell W. Sturgis Memorial Award for professional achievement. The SIU Board of Trustees presented the award and plaque to Bryson at the Student Center. His name will also go on a permanent plaque hanging in the Student Center.

“I’m very gratified,” Bryson said upon learning of the award. “To quote Abraham Lincoln, ‘Everybody likes a compliment.’ I guess I see this as a compliment, that perhaps some people believe I’ve performed my duties and responsibilities beyond what was expected. This is a very prestigious award and I’m very pleased to receive this recognition.”

Through the years, Bryson has been known for his involvement in a variety of professional associations, commissions and organizations, while holding various elected and appointed positions and devoting much time to community service. He has served the state on the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, the African American Family Commission, the State Use Commission, the Department of Rehabilitation Service Advisory Council and much more, along with a number of roles at the community level. He served as president of the Carbondale chapter of the NAACP, president and member of the board of directors for the Carbondale United Way, and more.

“I am convinced that Dr. Bryson, who faithfully served SIUC in some capacity for 55 years, is indeed one of the people that the Sturgis family had in mind when they established an endowed fund in memory of the former member and chairman of the SIU Board of Trustees, Lindell W. Sturgis,” wrote Anna Jackson, English lecturer, in a letter nominating Bryson for the award. She cited Bryson’s contributions not only to the University and the Carbondale community but also to the state of Illinois and on the national level.

She said during travels around the country she frequently meets people who are quick to tell her “a positive story of how he helped them or their children or just someone that they know. With a reputation like that, it is again obvious to me that Dr. Bryson has extended a helping hand to many people and in that outstretched hand was service to mankind.”

Diane Meeks, board member for the SIU Foundation, said she has known Bryson for more than a quarter-century and has seen some of his many efforts to help young people, including the annual Academic Excellence program Bryson founded several years ago to honor African American students for their academic success.

“It thrills my heart to see parents cheering for their children and to see those students proudly step on stage to be recognized for their academic worth,” Meeks wrote in support of Bryson receiving the award. She said she’s seen Bryson travel to see students participate in events and supported them in a variety of ways.

“I appreciate this giant of a person who is always gentle and helpful to young children and their parents,” Meeks said. “I have come to respect him as a scholar, an administrator and a person who loves young people and who wants for them no less than what he wants for his own children and grandchildren.”

Bryson’s colleagues also praised his dedication to public service, including serving as the first chairman for the Diversifying Faculty in Illinois program, serving on the Illinois Board of Higher Education and as chair of the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education, along with many other posts.

The prestigious 2010 Lindell W. Sturgis award is the latest in a career marked by awards. Bryson won the 2007 Senator Emil Jones Mentoring Award, 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. He’s also a 1992 inductee into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as well as the Quincy High School and SIUC Halls of Fame.

Bryson has worn many hats at SIUC, and indeed continues to do so. He’s currently assistant to the chancellor and his position includes serving as the executive director for Head Start and assisting with fund-raising for Saluki Way and for Project Hope and Opportunity.

A Quincy native, Bryson is a three-degree alumnus of SIUC, earning his bachelor’s in social work in 1959, his master’s in rehabilitation counseling in 1961 and his doctorate in educational psychology in 1972. One of the first African Americans to letter in basketball at the University, he was also a three-year MVP and two-year team captain for the basketball team.

But, it’s his contributions off the court that Bryson is most proud. He’s helped bring at least $50 million in external grants to SIUC. He’s held a number of faculty and administrative positions at SIUC, including 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 prior to its dissolution in the 1990s.

He’s also been SIUC’s acting affirmative action officer, special assistant to the president for affirmative action and director for the Center for Basic Skills (now the Center for Academic Success.) His resume likewise includes service as executive assistant to the chancellor and the president and he served from May 1999 to July 2008 as associate chancellor for diversity. And all the while, he’s invested himself and his time to help others in a multitude of ways.

In mid-2009, the circle drive in front of the Student Center became Seymour L. Bryson Circle Drive in honor of his contributions to the University. Bryson and wife Marjorie are the parents of three children: Robin Bryson, Todd Bryson and Keri Young.