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Bethune-Cookman University Honors Living Legends during "A Family Affair" 2017 Homecoming Parade


(Pictured Left to Right: Dr. Cleo Higgins and Mrs. Helen Bronson)

As we prepare to see familiar and new faces during this week for homecoming, we are constantly reminded of the history that was planted at Bethune-Cookman University. What was once tucked away as a small black institution has blossomed and grown to stretch the main thoroughfare of International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach, Florida.

B-CU most recently celebrated 113 years of historical memories since its founding. There are many influential pillars whose legacy lives on. True to the theme of this year’s homecoming, “A Family Affair,” B-CU is honoring two individuals important to the University’s rich heritage in Saturday’s parade: former first lady of B-CU Helen Williams Bronson, and Dr. Cleo S. Higgins.

Cleo S. Higgins, Ph.D. is a former Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty of B-CU. She retired in 1988 after years of service, receiving the title Distinguished Professor Emeriti.

Dr. Higgins met Mary McLeod Bethune upon her first visit to the college campus in January 1944. Higgins was inspired by Dr. Bethune's commitment to lifelong learning, which involved education of the head, hand, and heart - the primary images of the Bethune-Cookman University logo - which was designed by Dr. Higgins in 1947 when she was structuring the curriculum of the college's humanities division as its chairman.

Dr. Higgins attended Le Moyne College, Memphis, Tennessee where she received the B.A. in English; Master of Philosophy (Ph.M.) degree in English from the University of Wisconsin at Madison; Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in English, University of Wisconsin at Madison and completed additional studies at the University of Chicago, New York University and Florida A&M University, and Bryn Mawr.

Dr. Higgins received the Mary McLeod Bethune Medallion for Service and Achievement in 1956. She is a charter member of the Daytona Beach Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc. Sorority instituted in 1958 and The Links, Inc.

Helen Carolyn Williams Bronson was a student at Florida A&M University and during her time on, “The Hill,” she went home to be with her mother for Mother’s Day. Her home church had gotten Mrs. Bethune to be the Mother’s Day speaker.

So powerful was Mary McLeod Bethune’s speech that she transferred to Bethune Cookman College. There she met Oswald Perry Bronson, Sr.  She had no idea she’d be married to the president and serve 29 years as the institution’s First Lady.

A graduate of Bethune-Cookman College, Helen Bronson served as curator of the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation and was instrumental in preserving historic memorabilia of college founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.

An endowed scholarship for high-achieving students is named in honor of Dr. Oswald and Helen W. Bronson.

Helen Bronson and Dr. Bronson have three children: Josephine "Bunny" Bronson, Flora Stitt, and Oswald "Chip" Bronson Jr., and five grandsons.

This Saturday, October 28th at 9:00 A.M. these two living legends will serve as the 2017 Bethune-Cookman University Homecoming Parade Grand Marshals. The homecoming parade will start on Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard behind the Burlington Coat Factory Plaza. This event is free and open to the public.

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About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship, and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit

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