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Black History Month

Randolph Bromery, education pioneer, broke barriers throughout his life

Randolph Bromery, then the new interim president of Roxbury Community College, in the library of his home in Amherst, Mass., in 2002.Palmieri, Nancy Globe Photo

This Black History Month, the Globe is saluting people from Massachusetts who have made a difference.

A pioneer in higher education, Randolph Bromery broke barriers throughout his life.

Born in Cumberland, Md., in 1926, Bromery attended a segregated school as a child. During World War II, he served as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a legendary group of Black military pilots.

After the war, Bromery attended Howard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He earned a master’s degree in geology from American University and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. He worked as an airborne exploration geophysicist with the US Geological Survey before moving on to academia.


Bromery became the sixth African American faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1967 when he joined the geology department. He became the university’s first Black chancellor in 1971.

While serving as chancellor, Bromery established UMass Amherst’s W.E.B. Du Bois Archives and helped found the Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students. His leadership allowed the emerging discipline of African American studies to be taught at UMass Amherst. During Bromery’s tenure as chancellor, the number of women and minorities in the university’s faculty and students significantly increased.

Bromery went on to hold executive positions at other institutions, including Westfield State College, Springfield College, and Roxbury Community College. He also served as chancellor of the state Board of Regents of Higher Education.

Bromery was a talented saxophonist and, as chancellor, recruited well-known jazz musicians to join the school’s faculty. Bromery’s father was a jazz trumpet player and his mother ran a catering business from their family’s home.

Bromery, who was married and had five children, died in 2013. In 2002, when he was named interim president of Roxbury Community College, he told the Globe, “I still have more to do.”


Rose Pecci can be reached at