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Former UMass Amherst chancellor Randolph Bromery dead at 87

Randolph William Bromery, a distinguished geologist who ushered in a new age of diversity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst during his tenure as chancellor, died on Tuesday in Danvers. He was 87.

Bromery served as Amherst’s chancellor from 1971-1979. After leaving the school, the career educator went on to lead Westfield State University, Springfield College, and Roxbury Community College, a statement from UMass Amherst said.

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“Randolph Bromery was a pioneering scientist and educator whose legacy still resonates daily at UMass Amherst,” said current Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “He worked diligently to expand educational opportunities for black students in the 1970s.”

Bromery was born in 1926 in segregated Cumberland, Md. to Lawrence Randolph and Edith Edmonson Bromery.

“As a young teen-ager, it nearly drove me to the brink of insanity when I witnessed these frequent patronizing and condescending verbal exchanges between my father and his so-called white liberal employers and other white residents,” he wrote in 2004.

After enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Bromery went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Howard University, a master’s degree in geology and geophysics from American University, and a Ph.D in geology and oceanography from Johns Hopkins University, the school said.

He joined the Amherst faculty in 1967 and taught geology until 1970 when he was appointed to be the first vice chancellor of student affairs, the school said.

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When Bromery entered the university, he was one of just seven African American faculty members out of 1,000 and only 36 of the 14,000 students who attended the school were African American, the school said.

He helped found the Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students, a program designed to recruit black students to the school. And in 2000 he and his wife Cecile established a fund to help minority students pursue degrees in geosciences, the school said.

Bromery received nine honorary degrees, served on the board of eight major corporations and as president of the Geological Society of America, and was honored as the National Academy of Science’s Outstanding Black Scientist in 1997, the school said.

Amherst is planning a memorial service in the spring, but calling hours will be held for Bromery at Douglass Funeral Service, located at 87 North Pleasant St., Amherst, on March 6 from 4-8 p.m.

Bromery is survived by his wife Cecile Bromery and children Keith M. of Tallahassee, Fla., Dennis R. of Amherst, David T. of Ellicott City, Md., and Christopher J. of Lynn, Carol Ann Thompson of Baltimore, Md., 11 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Todd Feathers can be reached at todd.feathers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ToddFeathers.

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