Physically spent but mentally alert, Milton Byrd, 92, accepted his fate with the words, "It's time to complete the cycle." Within a few hours, on March 6, 2014, he died peacefully in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Milt was born January 29, 1922 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a graduate of Boston Latin School, a traditional classical high school, and received both his A.B. Cum Laude in 1948 and his M.A in 1949 from Boston University. He then left Boston to study at the University of Wisconsin, where he received his Ph.D in American Studies in 1953. In 1961 he was awarded a Carnegie Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for the study of University Administration at the University of Michigan. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and an honorary member of Phi Delta Kappa.
He married Susanne J. Schwerin of Sheboygan, Wisconsin on August 30, 1953.
Between 1942 and 1946 he served in the United States Army Air Corps as a meteorologist in the Philippines and New Guinea.
Milt began his academic career at Indiana University in 1953 as a faculty member in the humanities. From 1958-1962 he was on the faculty at Southern Illinois University, Alton, where he became Associate Dean of Instruction and helped oversee and direct the construction of a new library. He was Vice President for Academic Affairs at Northern Michigan University from 1962-1966. As President of Chicago State University from 1966-1974, he oversaw the creation of a new $65 million campus. He met with and managed large crowds during highly sensitive political environments and campus strikes. Ultimately he converted a neglected and despondent municipal college into a thriving urban university. He was Provost of Florida International University from 1974-1978. There he planned and implemented a second major campus. He served as President of Adams State College, in Alamosa, Colorado from 1978-1980, before joining the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C. as Senior Consultant. He also served as a member of their Board of Directors. He liked to boast that he never sought tenure.
In 1981 Milt and Sue moved to Anchorage, Alaska. Milt left the academic world to become Vice President for Corporate Development at Frontier Companies of Alaska, a company that provided transportation, civil construction and oil field services for the large oil companies on the North Slope.
With the development of the word processor and limited training opportunities for its use, and with academia still in his blood, Byrd resigned from Frontier in 1985 to found Charter College. He opened the college with seven students and a faculty and staff of eight in September 1985. When he retired as its president in 2005, Charter College had become a fully accredited four-year college with a faculty and staff of over 70 and a student body of over 700. He was President Emeritus until his death.
Dr. Byrd, as many addressed him, served on numerous boards and civic organizations. Four successive governors - Tony Knowles, Frank Murkowski, Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell appointed him to the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education. He served on the Commission from April 1994 to October 2013, the longest tenure served in Commission history. He sat on a number of Committees and served as Vice Chair of the Commission.
He was active in many organizations in various capacities. In Alaska he served on the boards of the Alaska World Affairs Council and the Support Industry Alliance and was a past President of each. He also served on the board of Commonwealth North. He was formerly Vice President of Common Sense for Alaska, Inc. and on the board of the Resource Development Council of Alaska.
He was a member of the Alaska Community Foundation, the Anchorage Rotary, the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska Press Club and the Advisory Committee of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Alaska at Anchorage.
During his long academic career and prior to coming to Alaska, he was President of the Florida Association of University Administrators and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. He was a member of the Chicago Council for Urban Education and the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities;
He wrote with Arnold L. Goldsmith a Publication Guide for Literary and Linguistic Scholars, published in 1958.
Milt was a generous contributor to a number of Anchorage organizations and supported many of their projects. Among them are Anchorage United Way, Anchorage Rotary, Commonwealth North, The Support Industry Alliance, The Anchorage Museum, The World Affairs Council, The Alaska Community Foundation and The Salvation Army. Contributions in his memory may be made to any of these or personal favorite organizations.
Milt was an avid reader with a particular interest in American and world history. He was an eternal optimist - his glass was always full. He enjoyed a good lecture and when necessary was prepared to engage the speaker. He also enjoyed traveling, cruising, swimming, walking and seeing a good movie. He particularly enjoyed engaging his children in substantive discussion or debate. He never raised his voice, but quietly and logically presented his views while carefully placing all of his facts into historical perspective. They enjoyed that exchange and cherish those memories.
Milt's younger sister, Frances Sanderson preceded him in death.
He is survived by his wife, Sue, of 1122 Golf Club Road, Las Cruces, NM 88011, three children: D. Toni Byrd of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Leslie G. Byrd of Apex, North Carolina, and David T. Byrd of Hudson, New York, one grandson, Gabriel A. S. Byrd of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and one sister, Thelma Sterling, of Monsey, New York.
A celebration of Milt's life is scheduled for Sunday, June 29, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. at the Petroleum Club, 3301 C Street # 120, Anchorage, Alaska, 99503.
Published in Anchorage Daily News from Mar. 30 to Mar. 31, 2014.