Campus Life

Robert Bryan, who served as interim President from 1989-90, has passed away

Robert Armistead Bryan died on December 27, 2017, in Gainesville, Florida, at the age of 91. 

Bob was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Kathryn ('Kay') Elizabeth Williams Bryan (1921-2007). 

He is survived by their two children, Lyla Kay Bryan King (Kim) and Matthew Armistead Bryan (Sheri), of Tallahassee, and four grandchildren, Molly Ann Bryan, Matthew Armistead 'Buzz' Bryan, Jr., Mary Kathryn King, and Robert Bryan King. 

Bob Bryan was born in 1926 in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the son of Morris Armistead Bryan and Susan Katharine Maulfair. From the age of two, Bob was raised by his father and stepmother, Catharine Chaffee Bryan. He was educated in the public school system in Miami, Florida. He served in World War II as a ship's officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine. After the war, he was graduated from the University of Miami with a B.A. in English. He completed a Ph.D. in English at the University of Kentucky in 1956. His specialty was the poetry of John Donne. In Lexington, Bob and Kay met on a blind date arranged by mutual friends. He proposed to her the next evening, and they were married six weeks later, on February 3, 1953. A few months later, Bob was drafted for service in the Korean War. He spent two years in Tokyo as a Special Agent in the U.S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps. Kay was with him in Tokyo much of that time. Bob and Kay returned to Lexington, where Bob finished graduate studies, teaching at the University of Kentucky. 

Bob spent nearly his entire professional career at the University of Florida, where he began in 1957 as an assistant professor of English. He was promoted to professor in 1968. Meanwhile, he began a parallel career in academic administration as a part-time assistant dean of the Graduate School in 1962. He spent a year, 1969-70, as Florida Atlantic University's first graduate dean and director of the Division of Sponsored Research. Turning to full-time administration in 1970 at the University of Florida, Bob was, successively, Dean of the Faculties, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Provost, from 1970 to 1989. He served under Presidents Reitz, O'Connell, York, Marston, and Criser. He was particularly proud of the University's admission to membership in the Association of American Universities in 1985. Bob ended his professional career at the University of Florida in 1990, having served for one year as Interim President. While Interim President, he led the University to hire Steve Spurrier as head football coach. In 1991-92, he left retirement to serve as Interim President of the University of Central Florida. He left retirement again in 1993-94 to serve as interim President of the University of South Florida. 

Bob was an avid fisherman and sports fan who cultivated close relationships with faculty, students, family, and friends. His leadership, sense of humor, quick wit, and passion for higher education, will remain with us for years to come. 

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, January 11, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Florida. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: The University of Florida Foundation-Gift Processing, P.O. Box 14425, Gainesville, FL 32604, for the Robert A. Bryan Merit Scholarship Fund.

Please visit his memorial page at 


UF News Author
December 31, 2017