BronsonOswald P. Bronson, Sr., Ph.D., an alumnus of Bethune-Cookman College, served as the institution’s president for 29 years – from March 18, 1975, until 2004 when he was named President Emeritus.

An ordained United Methodist minister, Dr. Bronson pastored in a number of churches over 16 years. Prior to being named president of Bethune-Cookman College, he served as President of the Interdenominational Theological Center.

Oswald P. Bronson was born July 19, 1927, in Sanford, Florida. He was the son of Uriah Perry and Flora Hollinshed. Unfortunately, he was only 4 years old when his mother died, but despite this tragedy…his father continued to instill Christian values within the family. As a child, Bronson remembers meeting Mary McLeod Bethune. She patted him on the head and told him he “would be a great man someday”.

brownsonThis directed Dr. Bronson on the path to graduate from Bethune-Cookman College, and, in 1950, earning a bachelor of divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary. He also received a Ph.D. degree from Northwestern University in 1965. During his senior year, Dr. Bronson was voted “most likely to succeed” and served as the student chaplain for the class of 1950. He was married to B-CC classmate, the former Helen Carolyn Williams on June 8, 1952. Their union was blessed by four children, Josephine Suzette “Bunny”, Audrey Lois, Flora Helen, and Oswald Perry ”Chip” Bronson.

When Dr. Bronson served as President for BCU, his top priority was pushing the students to achieve academic excellence. He sent many students home who were not focused on academics but instead focused only on being civil rights activist. One student he sent home wrote him a letter about how that decision impacted his life. In the letter, the student said - “I left, and I went to FSU, I got the academic challenge, but I missed the fellowship. I knew that I was not at a place where I was accepted. I finally decided to come back to Bethune-Cookman College and made my mind, I was going to go to the library and just do it myself”. Dr. Bronson’s goals for the students were not only to pursue academic excellence, but do both, saying “ I wanted to not do either/or, but both and, fight for justice at the same time dig in those books”. As President, one of the important changes on campus Bronson believed came during his term was the increase of freedom and opportunity. Students could now play a larger variety of sports, visit and study at different Universities around the world, and more money was available to assist students going to school. Dr. Bronson strived to accomplish transforming Bethune Cookman College into a university offering graduate programs. During his term as president, he laid the blueprint for B-CC to become B-CU, as it did on February 14, 2007.

A noted fundraiser, visionary educator, theologian and community leader, Dr. Bronson was appointed to serve in an advisory post by former President of the United States William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton. As a former student of B-CU founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Bronson adopted a spirit of servant leadership and worked tirelessly to advance her mission to educate the whole person. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., pastored several United Methodist Churches in Florida, Georgia, and Chicago from 1950-1966, and was highly respected among college and university presidents throughout the country.

Dr. Bronson passed away on February 2, 2019, at the age of 91 years old. He spent nearly four decades at the helm of exemplary institutions, namely the Interdenominational Theological Center (Atlanta, GA) from 1968-1975, Bethune-Cookman College (Daytona Beach, FL) from 1975-2004, and Edward Waters College (Jacksonville, FL) from 2005-2007. Much of his life’s work is memorialized in the book, “Chief Servant Leader: The Life and Leadership of Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, Sr., President of Bethune Cookman.” (Legacies and Memories 2004) Bronson will always be remembered for beginning his talks with “My friends..”, and, taking both hands of a person with whom he was shaking hands. Making eye contact, Bronson gave the impression that at that moment his entire attention was devoted to them.

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