Billy F. Bryant

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Billy F. Bryant

Nashville, TN

Billy F. Bryant, age 91 of Nashville, TN, died on April 25, 2014. He was born on November 29, 1922 in McKenzie, TN to Robert Picard Bryant (a Methodist minister) and Ray Pace Bryant.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 67 years, Mary Nelle Bryant; his sons, Bob Bryant (Sarah) and David Bryant (Susan); daughter, Beth Murdoch (Mike); grandsons, Daniel Bryant (Marisa), Sam Bryant (Stephanie Hagan) and Andrew Bryant; granddaughters, Claire Thurmond (Will) and Rachel Bryant, and great-granddaughter, Ella Louise Bryant (born to Daniel and Marisa Bryant).

Billy joined the Navy in 1942 and was selected for the V-12 and NROTC programs, through which he received his undergraduate training. He and Mary Nelle married in Bells, TN in 1946 and moved to Nashville. After receiving a M.S. degree from Peabody College in 1948, he began his long association with Vanderbilt University, first as a graduate student, receiving his Ph.D in 1954 (the third Ph.D in mathematics granted by Vanderbilt), and then as a member of the faculty of the Mathematics Department, becoming a full professor in 1966.

He actively taught at Vanderbilt for 50 years, from the fall of 1948 through the 1997-98 academic year. He served Vanderbilt in many capacities, including as Chair of the Mathematics Department, Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Mathematics Department, and member of the Arts & Sciences Faculty Council, the Graduate Faculty Council, and the Faculty Senate. In 1965, the University awarded him the first Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and in 1986 he received the Thomas Jefferson Award for distinguished service to the governance of the University. When he retired from full-time status in 1986, to celebrate his devotion to teaching his family established the B. F. Bryant Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is given annually to a graduate student in mathematics judged by the faculty to have done outstanding work teaching undergraduates.

Billy spent a year at Princeton University on a Ford Foundation Faculty Fellowship and academic sabbatical years at the University of California--Berkeley (on a National Science Foundation Faculty Fellowship) and the University of Cambridge. He spent a summer on the Mathematics Panel of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and semesters at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and as a Brown Fellow at the University of the South.

He was an active member for many years of the Southeastern Section of the Mathematical Association of America, which he served as Chair, Governor, Secretary-Treasurer, and Section Lecturer. In 1993, he received the Section's Award for Distinguished Service.

Billy and Mary Nelle joined Calvary United Methodist Church in 1952 and have been actively involved at Calvary ever since. Among many roles, he served as Chair of the Official Board, Sunday School Superintendent, and Sunday School teacher.

His community service included acting as treasurer for UNICEF of Nashville, delivering for Mobile Meals, reading for the blind for Nashville public radio, and teaching in the Nashville adult literacy program.

Friends are invited to celebrate his life at a Memorial Service at Calvary United Methodist Church on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 2 p.m. Rev. Bryan Brooks will officiate. There will be visitation in Masters Common at Calvary before the service at 1 p.m. and after the service.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Calvary United Methodist Church General Fund, 3701 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215; or to the B. F. Bryant Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Department of Mathematics, 1326 Stevenson Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37240.

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Published in The Tennessean from Apr. 27 to May 4, 2014
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