Former Bethune-Cookman University president dies in Port Orange at age 91

Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, Sr., will be remembered for his years in education.

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  • | 2:00 p.m. February 18, 2019
Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, Sr., died on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 91 years old. Courtesy photo
Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, Sr., died on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 91 years old. Courtesy photo
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Former president of Bethune-Cookman Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, Sr., died Sunday, Feb. 17, in Port Orange.

Bronson was a 1950 alumnus of the university, then called Bethune-Cookman College, and he served as the institution’s fourth president for 29 years, from 1975 until 2004, when he was named president emeritus. He was committed to academic excellence and it was the cornerstone of his presidency, according to press release.

A noted fundraiser, visionary educator, theologian and community leader, Bronson was appointed to serve in an advisory post by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. As a former student of B-CU Founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bronson adopted a spirit of servant leadership and worked to advance her education mission.

Bronson marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and pastored several United Methodist churches in Florida, Georgia and Chicago from 1950-1966. 

Spending nearly four decades at the helm of exemplary institutions, Bronson served as president of the following institutions: 

  • Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia from 1968-1975
  • Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida from 1975-2004
  • Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida from 2005-2007

Bronson regarded every person he encountered as his “friend," the press release states.

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.”

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; his sister, Dr. Audrey F. Bronson, and many more relatives and friends. Funeral arrangements are to be shared at a later date.

Interim President, Hubert L. Grimes, has personally extended condolences to the Bronson family.

“Dr. Bronson's legacy is that of a revered educator, spiritual leader and humanitarian whose reach extended throughout the nation,” said Grimes in the press release. “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.”


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