Bryant History and Traditions

Since 1863, the University has been preparing students with the knowledge, skills, and qualities of character to achieve a lifetime of success.

Bryant University. Since 1863.

The expansion of business enterprises in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century created unprecedented job growth. Bryant founders Henry Bryant and Henry Stratton recognized that workers, particularly Civil War veterans, interested in new job opportunities would need a business education. The two men founded Bryant and Stratton National Business College, which grew to 40 locations altogether, including the campus in Providence, R.I., in 1863. Ezra Mason, a Rhode Island accountant, was also a founding partner, and he managed the college.

>> Bryant's Charter (Jan. 14, 1863)

Women at Bryant

From the beginning, Mason wanted to inspire women to attend college. In 1865, he declared, "We have had the privilege of according diplomas to young ladies whose thorough attainments in all the requisites of accountantship would put to blush the pretensions of many a bearded competitor for like honors." Female students remained a minority for the next decade, but the college continued to actively recruit and attract women.

Business curriculum expanded to include the arts and sciences 

William Warner, who purchased the college from Mason in 1867 expanded the curriculum to include courses in the arts, humanities, and sciences including philosophy, history, languages, photography, sculpture, engineering, higher mathematics, hydraulics, and mechanics. Maximillian Berlitz was in charge of languages and later went on to build his empire of Berlitz Schools.

  • 1863 - Originally called Bryant and Stratton National Business College, Bryant was founded as part of a national chain of private coeducational commercial colleges.

  • 1916 - Harry Loeb Jacobs buys the college and merges it with the Rhode Island Commercial School, granting bachelor of commercial science and bachelor of accounting degrees.

  • 1949 - Bryant becomes a nonprofit, governed by a board of trustees.

  • 1963 - Bryant holds its first Women's Symposium.

  • 1964 - Bryant earns accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Bryant becomes a four-year school and offers a blend of business and liberal arts courses.

  • 1969 - The new Master of Business Administration degree program is introduced.

  • 1970 - Bryant breaks ground on the 220-acre estate in Smithfield, RI, donated by Earl Tupper, president of Tupperware Corporation.

  • 1971 - Bryant moves from Providence, RI, to the $17.5 million campus in Smithfield, RI. Bryant now occupies 428 acres and 79 percent of Bryant undergraduates live on campus.

  • 1973 - Bryant opens the Executive Development Center, which offers adult students classes and certificate programs that provide a practical education to excel in business.

  • 1994 - Bryant's business programs receive accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International.

  • 1996 - President Ronald K. Machtley takes office. The former U.S. Congressman and U.S. Naval Academy graduate leads Bryant to a new level of prominence.

  • 2001 - Bryant launches The Campaign for Bryant, the institution's first comprehensive capital campaign.

  • 2001 - The Elizabeth and Malcolm Chace Wellness and Athletic Center opens. The facility rivals state-of-the-art, private fitness centers.

  • 2002 - The George E. Bello Center for Information and Technology is the highlight of the physical transformation of Bryant's campus. Designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, the Bello Center houses the Heidi and Walter Stepan Grand Hall, the Douglas and Judith Krupp Library, and the C.V. Starr Financial Markets Center.

  • 2003 - Bryant is reclassified as a Master's I institution by  U.S. News & World Report  and ranked in the Top 20 in its category in the Northeast.

  • 2004 - Bryant College becomes Bryant University, with two colleges: the College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences.

  • 2004 - The Campaign for Bryant successfully ends, raising more than $40 million for new facilities, programs, and scholarships.

  • 2005 - The U.S.-China Institute opens on campus to enhance academic and business programs with Chinese academic institutions and foster trade between U.S. companies and China.

  • 2005 - The Communications Complex in the Koffler Building provides students with a state-of-the-art digital multimedia studio.

  • 2006 - The Confucius Institute, the first China-funded institute in Southern New England dedicated to the promotion of Chinese language and culture, opens. The joint project between Bryant University and the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) is managed by the U.S.-China Institute at Bryant University in collaboration with the China University of Geosciences at Wuhan.

  • 2010 - The 11,000-square-foot Ronald K. and Kati Machtley Interfaith Center opens

  • 2012 - Bryant enters into a joint venture agreement with the Beijing Institute of Technology, Zhuhai.

  • 2012 - Bryant is reclassified as NCAA Division I.

  • 2013 - Bryant University's 150th Anniversary celebration. 

  • 2014 - The University launches the $75-million Expanding the World of Opportunity: The Campaign for Bryant’s Bold Future, the largest fundraising effort in the University’s history

  • 2015 - Ground is broken for the 50,000-square-foot Academic Innovation Center to open in fall 2016

  • 2015 - Bryant Zhuhai welcomes its first class of Chinese students

  • 2015 - The state-of-the-art Bulldog Strength and Conditioning Center opens

  • 2016 - The Conaty Indoor Practice Center opens

  • 2016 - The Academic Innovation Center opens

  • 2020 - Distinguished economist and economic development expert Ross Gittell, Ph.D., is named Bryant University's ninth president

  • 2022 - Bryant opens School of Health and Behavioral Sciences

>>Historical excerpts from Bryant College. The First 125 Years by Valerie Quinney, edited by Peter Mandel and Elizabeth O'Neil (1988). 

Education that can be applied in the marketplace has always been a hallmark of a Bryant education, and the integration of liberal arts into the curriculum has played large role in the success of the institution and its graduates. A Bryant course catalog in the 1930s described "A Liberal Business Education." In addition to such traditional business courses as accounting, finance, transportation, marketing, and management, students could also choose to take psychology, English, economics, public speaking, and personality development." The catalog stated, "It is a college education as thorough and scholarly as that afforded by the older type classical college in its field, but the curriculum is especially planned to satisfy the practical and exacting demands of business." 

Bryant's signature wrought iron archway is an icon that bridges the old campus and current one. The archway was preserved from the original campus in Providence and relocated to Smithfield in 1971. The archway was dedicated to the Bryant community as the Senior Class Gift of the Class of 1968. Tradition dictates that to pass through the archway before commencement is bad luck and legend has it that students who walk through the archway before commencement will not graduate. The Class of 1987 donated the brick pathway detouring around the archway to encourage students to honor this tradition. In 2008, through the generosity of the Class of 2008, the archway was refurbished and expanded brick walkways were installed.

In 1935 the school moved from downtown Providence to the city's East Side and became Bryant College of Business Administration. The College moved from Providence to its current location in Smithfield, Rhode Island in 1971. In 2004 Bryant became a University, galvanizing its long tradition of integrating business and liberal arts with the establishment of the College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences.