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Carbondale bids farewell to Welch, Bryson

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  • Courtesy of Facebook/ Morris Library Harvey Welch Jr., who died this past weekend, was first to integrate the SIU basketball team.

    Courtesy of Facebook/ Morris Library Harvey Welch Jr., who died this past weekend, was first to integrate the SIU basketball team.

Carbondale Times
updated: 5/10/2019 11:57 AM

Carbondale and southern Illinois have spent the past week mourning two local icons whose marks on athletics, the university and the community at large will remain for years to come.

Harvey Welch Jr. and Seymour Bryson, whose paths took them from the basketball court to the upper echelons of SIU's administration, both died last weekend at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. Welch died Saturday, while Bryson followed Sunday.

"Both embodied the best of what it was to be a Saluki," SIUC Interim Chancellor John Dunn said in a statement. "They honored us by choosing to be students at SIU and then became prominent in numerous roles as educators and contributors to the education of future students. They set a high standard that has been emulated by many others who benefited from the opportunity to work with them and share their love of all things Saluki. Their contributions to SIU, the community and region beyond have been widely acknowledged and will never be forgotten."

Welch was laid to rest Thursday at Oakland Cemetery. Visitation for Bryson will begin at 11 a.m. Monday, May 13, to be followed at 1 p.m. by a service at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church.

Bryson earned three degrees from SIU, set a school record with 1,244 career rebounds from 1955 to 1959 (a record that still stands), and went on to become the first African-American associate dean of a college and the second African-American dean.

Welch was the first black athlete to letter in basketball at SIU, playing from 1951 to 1954. After serving 20 years as a colonel in the Air Force, he returned to SIU as the first African-American dean of student life and as vice chancellor of student affairs.

"They were pioneers and both were incredible gentlemen," said SIU Athletics Director Jerry Kill. "What they've done for our university, the impact that they made, the lives they touched, it's just incredible. Seymour just received a lifetime achievement award from our university last week. They loved this university and made incredible contributions and sacrifices for it. It's a very difficult loss for SIU and the Saluki Athletics family."

Both also were involved in community service. Bryson served as president of the Carbondale Chapter of the NAACP, member and chair of the Diversifying Faculty Initiative, president of the Jackson County 708 Mental Health Board, and president and member of the board of directors of the Carbondale United Way.

In addition to leadership at his church, Welch served a six-year term on the Board of Directors of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, as Rotarian District 6510 Governor, and on the Carbondale Park District Board of Commissioners, including serving as its president for many years. He was a relentless supporter of the development of Hickory Ridge Golf Course and the Super Splash Park. He also served on Carbondale's Board of Fire and Police Commissioners for nearly 30 years.

SIU gave Welch its Distinguished Service Award last year.