AMHERST, Mass – The university’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted April 15 to name the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center (FAC) for the late Randolph W. “Bill” Bromery, in honor of the former chancellor who played a transformative role in creating today’s vibrant and diverse public research university.
Bromery served as chancellor of UMass Amherst from 1971-79. Bromery first came to UMass as a professor of geology in 1967 and quickly ascended the leadership ranks, first as department chair, then vice chancellor for student affairs, and then chancellor in 1971. His appointment as chancellor made him the second African American ever to lead a predominantly white campus, and the first African American to lead the Amherst campus.
During Bromery’s tenure as chancellor, he oversaw construction of the Fine Arts Center. A dedicated saxophonist and lifelong student of jazz, Bromery listed meeting the pianist Eubie Blake at UMass Amherst as one of his most treasured moments as chancellor. He also helped to recruit to the faculty jazz legends such as Max Roach, Archie Shepp and Fred Tillis, also the first director of the FAC. Roach and Tillis, along with Dr. Billy Taylor, are founders of the FAC’s signature Jazz in July program.
Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, who recommended the honor to trustees, said, “Naming the Fine Arts Center after Chancellor Bromery will enable us to celebrate his contributions to this campus while also extending his memory beyond our walls and into the larger Amherst community and arts community at large through the reach of the Fine Arts Center and its popular performances. As we look toward the 50th anniversary of the Department of African American Studies at UMass Amherst in 2020 and reflect on the campus’s history working in support of social justice and inclusion, we are eager to appropriately acknowledge a chancellor who has had such an enormous impact on our space, reputation and path toward excellence.”
Jamilla Deria, director of the Fine Arts Center, said, “We are honored that the Fine Arts Center building will be named after such a visionary leader as Chancellor Bromery. As he was so instrumental in diversifying the UMass Amherst campus, it seems fitting that a building that houses so many creative endeavors by our diverse community of students, faculty and professionals alike should bear his name and continue this legacy.”
Subbaswamy noted that Bromery was instrumental in diversifying the campus in terms of both gender and race. Under his leadership, the ratio of undergraduate men to women improved to 50-50, efforts were intensified to recruit and support minority students, and the number of faculty of color increased. He was instrumental in establishing the Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students (CCEBS).
Additionally, his efforts brought to the campus the archives of both W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond. These acquisitions cemented the library’s reputation as a top repository for African American thought and served as the foundation for the establishment of what is now the W.E.B. Du Bois Center.
Subbaswamy noted that, “While Chancellor Bromery is known to this campus chiefly as our first African American chancellor, he also led a distinguished life outside of UMass. Dr. Bromery was a Tuskegee Airman during the Second World War and had a notable career with the United States Geological Survey where he designed instruments for aeromagnetic surveying. His impact on higher education extends beyond our campus and his resume highlights his dedication to both the state and, chiefly, public higher education.”
In addition to his leadership roles at UMass, Bromery served as chancellor of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education, interim president of Westfield State College, president of Springfield College, and president of Roxbury Community College. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science, was regularly appointed to boards of major corporations and institutes of higher education, and was awarded nine honorary degrees. Bromery died in 2013 at the age of 87.
Since its founding in 1975, the UMass Fine Arts Center has been a central force in the cultural, social and academic life of the university, the Five College campuses, and the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. The Fine Arts Center's combination of educational, visual, and performing arts programs not only makes it unique, but it also secures a vital and necessary position for the university to meet the diverse needs of scholars, faculty, students, alumni and the broader community.