Aid for Elementary Education
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Merle L. Bryant ('64) spent her life educating. Whether she was teaching young children in an elementary school setting or young adults pursuing their teaching degrees in elementary education, Bryant guided each of them with purpose and passion. So it is little wonder that upon her death, Bryant left a legacy that established the UMD Merle L. Bryant Elementary Education Fund to benefit the UMD College of Education and Human Service Professions.
Bryant's gift will be used to fund initiatives and further the development of UMD's Elementary Education Program. Paul Deputy, dean of the College of Education and Human Service Professions, is deeply grateful to Merle Bryant. "Her gift will allow us to extend our resources and help our elementary education students to develop their full potential as teachers," he said. "We will join her in building the future by using the funds well."
Bryant earned her graduate degree in elementary education from UMD. After teaching for a number of years in elementary schools in northern Minnesota, she worked at the University Laboratory School in Duluth as an instructor and supervisor of student teachers. When the University Laboratory School closed, Bryant was appointed to the faculty of UMD's Elementary Education Program, an honor that acknowledged her experience and devotion to education.
Verna Norha, who taught with Bryant at the University Laboratory School and later at UMD, remembered her as "a very dedicated person," adding that it was "a privilege to work with her." Vernon L. Simula, UMD faculty emeritus, recalled Bryant as "encouraging and nurturing" with her students and as someone who always had a "positive outlook." Frank Guldbrandsen from UMD's education department remembered Bryant as "an absolute ray of sunshine" who maintained an open door policy. "She was very student-oriented, and they gravitated towards her because of that," he said.
Many honors and awards were presented to Bryant for her work as an educator. She was a member of Pi Lambda Theta and Delta Kappa Gamma, both honor societies for educators. Bryant held many offices in professional organizations including extensive work in the local and state levels of the MEA and Delta Kappa Gamma. She was appointed to and chairperson of many UMD administrative and college of education committees over her tenure. She had many speaking engagements and was a published journal author.
Bryant traveled extensively both abroad and throughout the United States. A lifelong learner, she studied in Europe in the 1950s and did research in children's literature in England in 1974. She served as a docent for special groups at Glensheen, the historic Congdon mansion in Duluth.
Bryant was born in the small town of Tenstrike, Minn. and graduated from Bemidji High School as a salutatorian. After receiving her undergraduate degree in elementary education from Bemidji State College in 1946, she taught in a rural school, Bass Lake School in Bemidji. She served as an elementary teacher at Washington School in Thief River Falls, Whittier School in Austin, and Congdon Park School in Duluth. Bryant passed away in 2008 at the age of 93.
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