Robert Bryan, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics

April 23, 2010

Robert BryanRobert E. Bryan, professor emeritus of mathematics at Knox College, died Tuesday, April 13, in Galesburg. He was 87.

A member of the Knox faculty from 1963 to 1991, Bryan won Knox's highest faculty awards -- the 1983 Philip Green Wright - Lombard College Prize for excellence in teaching, and the 1989 Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award. In addition, the Illinois Section of the Mathematical Association of America honored him with its 1989 Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of the many workshops he led for high school mathematics instructors.

Bryan earned his bachelor's degree at Washington and Jefferson College, and his doctorate at Yale University. He was a member of the American Mathematical Society, Sigma Xi-The Scientific Research Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Bryan was preceded in death by his wife Helen. Bryan requested that no memorial service be held.


Colleagues Remember Bob Bryan:

Wednesdays will never be the same. Mitch Albom had "Tuesdays with Morrie." For the last eleven years I was lucky enough to have Wednesday's with Bob. Over a martini (or two) we discussed mathematics, literature, politics, current and past events at Knox, and the meaning of life. Every Tuesday Bob would make a trip to Uncle Billy's to pick up wonderful food for us to eat on Wednesdays, and it was on his way home from there on Tuesday, April 13, that Bob took his last steps.

I first met Bob and his late wife Helen when I arrived at the Galesburg Airport for a job interview in the spring of 1973. From that point, our relationship grew from colleague to friend to the son they never had.

The last time I saw Bob was the morning of Tuesday, April 13, when I picked him up to take him to a routine office visit at the urologist's office. I told him I had meetings from 9:20 to 11:30, but that he should call me when he was finished and I would pick him up. Don't worry, he said, I'll find my way home. That was so Bob. He never wanted to impose on or inconvenience anyone. And it was those qualities which led him to insist that I "not make a fuss" when he passed. I hope he will forgive me these few words.

Students remember Professor Bryan as a kind, gentle, patient, and caring professor who was able to explain difficult concepts and illustrate them geometrically with pictures on the board that most of us can only hope to rival with modern day technology. His colleagues will remember him as one of the pillars of the college he dearly loved.

He was a good man, a very good man, and I will really miss him.

Wednesdays will never be the same.

--Dennis Schneider, professor of mathematics, has taught at Knox since 1973


I had the privilege of knowing Bob Bryan as teacher, colleague, and friend. Bob Bryan's Calculus class was the first class that I ever had at Knox, and in it I made several lifelong friends, of which Bob was one. He was a kind and gentle individual along with being a fine mathematician, and his sense of humor frequently enlivened the mood of the department.

When I came back to teach at Knox, he and his late wife Helen welcomed me warmly and gave me a sense of belonging that was very important to me. When Bob retired, we missed very much his knowledge of geometry, but we missed even more his warm personality and good nature. Bob Bryan's passing leaves us one fewer true gentleman in the world, and I will miss him very much.

-- Kevin Hastings, professor of mathematics, is a 1976 Knox graduate who joined the faculty in 1986