‘…the godfather in Massachusetts’

Kenneth J. Cooper | 3/6/2013, 7:14 a.m.

Bromery led UMass Amherst so capably that other colleges in the state kept summoning him to straighten out their management problems. He was acting president of Westfield State College in the 1980s, president of Springfield College in the 1990s and acting president of Roxbury Community College in 2002-2003. He also served as chancellor of the state Board of Regents of Higher Education in 1990-1991, resigning to show his opposition to tuition increases.

When acting Governor Jane Swift asked him to temporarily lead RCC, Bromery said that “I couldn’t say no.” Why? “They essentially said if I didn’t take it, they would close it.”

Bromery said he could not let students from the black community be deprived of opportunities to earn degrees or acquire job skills. So he came out of retirement, saved RCC and cleaned up the mess.

“That was the worst management I’ve seen, financial management,” he said in the interview. “They had a series of presidents in there who didn’t really have the ability to run the college.”

Over the years, Bromery served on a number of corporate boards, including John Hancock Life Insurance, Chase Manhattan Bank, ATandT, and Exxon.

“I know how to find oil,” he said by way of explaining his service on Exxon’s board.

He served as a mineral resource consultant to several West and Central African countries, primarily with the Kennecott Copper Co. He also served as president of the Geological Society of America.

Bromery was born in 1926 in segregated Cumberland in western Maryland. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Howard University, a master’s degree in geology from American University and a doctorate in geology from Johns Hopkins University.

Besides his wife, Cecile, Bromery leaves sons Keith of Tallahassee, Fla., Dennis of Amherst, David of Ellicott City, Md., and Chris of Lynn; a daughter, Carol Ann-Thompson of Baltimore; a sister, Bettyjane Coker of Lanham, Md.; a brother, Robert of Bowie, Md.; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.    

A memorial service was held in Douglass Funeral Home in Amherst. The Bromerys had been longtime residents of Amherst before moving to Peabody last year.