B-CU to memorialize fourth president

Services will take place on March 1 and 2 on campus for Dr. Oswald P. Bronson

Bethune-Cookman
Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, waves to “his friends’’ as his wife, Helen, looks on. The former president was known for his standard opening line, “My friends.’’

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

The Bethune-Cookman University family is mourning the passing this week of Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, the institution’s fourth president. Dr. Bronson died on Sunday, Feb. 17, at age 91.

A 1950 alum, Dr. Bronson served as Bethune-Cookman’s president for 29 years – from 1975 until 2004. He then was named president emeritus.

A memorial service is scheduled for Friday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Heyn Memorial Chapel, 640 Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd., Daytona Beach.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 2, at the Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center, 698 West International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach.

B-CU achievements

Under his leadership, major fields of study increased from 12 to 37. In addition, seven continuing education centers for students began operating throughout the state, the website states, according to the university.

Student enrollment increased during Dr. Bronson’s tenure from 1,520 students in 1975 to 2,794 in 2003. He also presided over tremendous growth of the institution’s physical plant, budget and endowment.

Fifteen new buildings were constructed under his administration, most notably the 2,500 seat Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center. The institution’s annual budget grew from $6.2 million in 1975 to $51.4 million in 2003, and the endowment surged from $1.2 million to $26.5 million in the same time period, B-CU notes.

“Dr. Bronson’s legacy is that of a revered educator, spiritual leader and humanitarian whose reach extended throughout the nation,” said B-CU’s Interim President Hubert Grimes. “He was a larger-than-life-figure who transitioned during a month in which we celebrate giants in Black History. I considered him a mentor and friend.”

President and pastor

He graduated from Bethune-Cookman in 1950 and earned a bachelor of divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary. He received a Ph.D. degree from Northwestern University in 1965.

Dr. Bronson went on to serve as president of Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta from 1968-1975, Bethune-Cookman from 1975-2004 and Edward Waters College in Jacksonville from from 2005-2007.

An ordained United Methodist minister, Dr. Bronson also pastored a number of churches over 16 years. 

Dr. Bronson is survived by his wife, Helen Williams Bronson, former curator of the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation at Bethune-Cookman; three children: Josephine “Bunny” Bronson, Flora Stitt, Oswald “Chip” Bronson Jr.; five grandsons; three great-grandchildren; a sister, Dr. Audrey F. Bronson, and other relatives.

Herbert Thompson Funeral Home in Daytona Beach is in charge of arrangements.

A detailed story on the life and legacy of Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, which includes family reflections, will appear in Feb. 22 issue of the Florida Courier. It also can be read online at flcourier.com.

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