Joseph M. Bryan, a North Carolina businessman whose enthusiasm for philanthropy was matched by his love for golf, left a $500,000 bequest to Wake Forest University that will help support the university’s men’s and women’s golf teams, it was announced today.
The gift–part of the estimated $13 million that the long-time resident left to charities, non-profit agencies, churches and educational institutions through his estate–will be used to fund scholarships for both Wake Forest teams. The scholarships will bear Bryan’s name.
“Joe Bryan was one of the most generous souls North Carolina has ever known,” said Wake Forest President Thomas K. Hearn Jr., who announced the gift this morning at the opening of the annual Wake Forest Pro-Am Golf Tournament in Winston-Salem. The announcement came only days before the first anniversary of Bryan’s death on April 26, 1995.
“He was a joyful giver, who changed the lives of countless people who benefited from his generosity,” Hearn added. “He will be remembered as one of our state’s most visionary philanthropists.”
Bryan, who moved to Greensboro in 1931, was a top executive for 30 years with what is now Jefferson-Pilot Corp., an insurance, financial services and communications company. He and his late wife, Kathleen Price Bryan, gave away an estimated $30 million to North Carolina colleges and universities, public television, Alzheimer’s research, and numerous civic and charitable causes in Greensboro during their lives.
“He was a visionary who was a great believer in education and youth,” said long-time friend Jim Melvin, a former Greensboro mayor and co-executor of Bryan’s estate. “He gave simply because he wanted to do the right thing. He felt a real obligation to give back to his community and state.
“Mr. Bryan always had a high opinion of Wake Forest,” Melvin added. “He saw Wake Forest as having the premier golf program in America, and he wanted to contribute to that. He wasn’t a great golfer, but golf was very special to him.”
Bryan’s estate gift to Wake Forest was one of the few he made to an organization outside Winston-Salem. He designated half of the gift to fund athletic scholarships and half for the general scholarship fund. With the approval of the estate’s executors, the university chose to earnmark the scholarships for men’s and women’s golf.
Bryan’s interest in golf dates to the 1930s when he began attending the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., and when he helped fund the purse for what is now the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic golf tournament. He attended the Masters nearly every year and remained heavily involved with the Greensboro tournament throughout his life. He joined Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters is played, in the early 1940s at the invitation of golfing legend Bobby Jones, who co-founded the club. Bryan was one of Augusta’s earliest members.
The Bryan scholarships will be awarded to a rising junior on the men’s team and the women’s team, based on the player’s contributions to the team and academic achievement. The scholarships will be awarded for the first time next fall.
“It’s very exciting to see the women’s program get this attention,” said women’s golf coach Dianne Dailey. “Since it’s an upperclass scholarship, it will give the players something to work toward. It will be an incentive and a reward for good play and academics.”
“This is a tremendous boost to our scholarship program,” said men’s golf coach Jack Lewis. “The Bryan scholarships will add to the storied tradition of our scholarship offerings which include names such as Arnold Palmer and Lanny Wadkins. It will be a prestigious honor for any of our student-athletes to achieve.”