category: Faculty Emeriti - In Honor Of

Claude Douglas ‘Doug’ Bryan

Associate Provost Emeritus for Student Success

Doug Bryan

Dr. Claude Douglas Bryan is the son of Rudolph and Beatrice Bryan. Born in 1954, he spent his childhood surrounded by the rugged beauty of Greenwood, S.C. The oldest of three children, he became the first in his immediate family to pursue postsecondary education. Once he started school, he continued taking classes for many years after receiving his doctorate, epitomizing the definition of a lifelong learner.

Bryan attended Furman University (Greenville, S.C.) for his undergraduate degree in English and sociology. Then, he moved from small-town South Carolina to the vast state of Texas where he followed his call to ministry at Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth. At Southwestern, he obtained three degrees: Master of Arts in Religious Education (M.A.R.E.), Graduate Specialist in Religious Education (G.S.R.E.) and his Ph.D. in philosophy, psychology and counseling.

In 1980, after completing his master’s degree, Bryan traveled to Africa to teach at the Nigerian Theological Baptist Seminary. His first teaching experience was in a foreign country that struggled to maintain electricity and running water, but he will never forget it. “It was challenging, but very rewarding,” Bryan emphasized about those two years that he spent educating ministry students.

Bryan met a young woman named Julie who was enrolled in the same missionary journeyman program he was. Bryan went to Africa and Julie traveled to Bangkok, Thailand. They corresponded during their two-year mission and were married a year after they both returned to the states. The Bryans went back to Texas and Southwestern, so he could pursue a doctorate. While there, he was employed as a teaching fellow for Southwestern and a marriage and family life counselor.

In 1985, Bryan was hired by Howard Payne University located in Brownwood, Texas, where he would spend the next 16 and one-half years of his teaching career. His initial role at Howard Payne was professor of Psychology and Interdisciplinary Counseling. Throughout his time at the Baptist school, he found himself in many roles including Dean of the School of Humanities (1997). Education was always his priority; and while dean, he simultaneously performed his duties and taught three classes. During this time, he was also chosen as a recipient of the Piper Professor, an award that recognizes 10 outstanding college professors in Texas each year.

Bryan always wanted to return home to the southeast and the opportunity came when he was informed of a teaching position at Gardner-Webb University. He applied, interviewed and in 2002, became a professor of Religious Education at GWU. Three years later, Bryan assumed the role of chair of the Department of Religious Studies creating a lasting impact on the school in a short time. Students recognized Bryan’s teaching abilities, and he received the Gardner-Webb University Student Choice Award three consecutive years. His favorite class to teach was the History of Religious Education.

Bryan moved in and out of administrative roles within academia, but in 2008 he permanently switched over to administration as Gardner-Webb’s Associate Provost for Academic Development. In this position, he supervised multiple departments including Academic Advising, the NOEL Center for Disability Resources, the Honors Program, the Writing Center, the Learning Assistance and Enrichment Program and Undergraduate Research. Bryan praised the efficiency of the leadership within the departments he managed.

Throughout his career, Bryan continued to take classes and further his already extensive education. For instance, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in social work at Howard Payne. He took courses ranging from microbiology to business classes to jogging. His motto – “Always be prepared.”

His preparation extended into the artistic realm. Creative writing became a passion for Bryan when he drafted his first play for a class assignment. GWU produced two of his plays, “I-Ya-I-Ya-O” and “Rummaging for Will.” He also published a novel entitled “What the Willows Know” in 2014. Hymn lyric writing served as another outlet for Bryan’s artistry.

Bryan also increased his knowledge about other countries and cultures. Since his first trip to Nigeria, he continued to teach and travel internationally. Some of his trips included: China, Lithuania, Romania and India. “I had the skill set, and they had the need,” he related. “There was an opportunity, and I needed to respond to that opportunity.” Retirement, however, does not mean a slower pace of life for Bryan. He and Julie returned from the Philippines in January 2020 right before the COVID-19 pandemic closed borders. He continued his work at the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary through online teaching.

In addition to his international service, Bryan has been heavily involved in his community through church and the local rotary chapter, Boiling Springs Area Rotary. The Bryans have been involved in church life at Boiling Springs Baptist and Shelby (N.C.) Presbyterian.

When looking back at his life, Bryan highlighted the two bookends of his career – teaching at Howard Payne for over 16 years and Gardner-Webb for over 17 years. Both universities helped to shape him into the successful professor and administrator he became. He fondly remembers the relationships he enjoyed with the students and faculty at GWU. “One of the take-aways from Gardner-Webb is the importance of adaptability,” he observed, “because needs change and people have to change with them.”

Bryan and Julie have two sons, Matthew and Stephen. Matthew graduated from Gardner-Webb with a communications degree, and Stephen graduated from GWU with his Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Post-Baccalaureate Family Nurse Practitioner.

Source: Personal Interview—Claire Coile

Written by GWU 2020 alumna Claire Coile

Edited July 2022, Jackie Bridges

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