Bryant ’73 Wins 2021 Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching

A member of the English faculty since 1989, Bryant was presented with the award at the 2021 commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 13.
Posted on September 30th, 2021 by

Dr. Phil Bryant ’73

English and African Studies professor Phil Bryant ’73 was named the winner of the 2021 Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching at the Gustavus Adolphus College Class of 2021 commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 13.

“I feel very humbled and very privileged to receive this award,” Bryant said. “Not for myself, but for the great teachers that I had at Gustavus. I think about their generosity and try to pass that along to my students.”

A 1973 graduate of Gustavus, Bryant went on to earn his master’s in creative writing from Columbia University before returning to the hill as a faculty member in 1989. Since then, he has based his teaching around student-centered discussions that foster genuine learning and connections.

“The students, they’re so surprising in what they bring to the classroom,” said Bryant. “Not just information, but a part of themselves. The intellect grows in that kind of environment.”

“He asks us good questions,” said one student nomination. “Even when a student doesn’t know the correct answer to his question, he uses their answer as a way to develop the conversation. Wrong answers are never looked down upon or laughed at.”

Beyond the classroom, Bryant has authored four books of poetry, most recently The Promised Land, which hearkens back to his experience growing up Black on the South Side of Chicago. Today, Bryant uses his position to mentor BIPOC faculty and students, often with a unique blend of wisdom and humor.

“I have never met another professor who laughs so much and can inspire so much laughter in me,” a student wrote.

Nearly five decades after his time as a student, Bryant still finds himself inspired by the professors who guided him at Gustavus. “I had teachers that when they saw me, they said ‘you belong here.’ That’s what I try to follow and mimic, to get students to recognize what some people 50 years ago recognized in me.”

The Edgar M. Carlson Award was established by the Gustavus Board of Trustees in 1971 to honor former President Edgar Carlson for his years of distinguished leadership and in recognition of his commitment to academic excellence. Gustavus faculty, staff, administrators, and students nominate professors for this award, and each year at commencement a faculty member, selected by the Provost based on the recommendations of previous award recipients, is honored for their exceptional skill and effectiveness as an instructor.

Recent Carlson Award Recipients

2021: Phil Bryant, English
2020: Kate Knutson, Political Science
2019: Margaret Bloch Qazi, Biology
2018: Greg Kaster, History
2017: Pamela Kittelson, Biology
2016: Eric Carlson, History
2015: David Obermiller, History
2014: Matt Panciera, Classics
2013: Rebecca Fremo, English
2012: Alisa Rosenthal, Political Science
2011: Barbara Zust, Nursing
2010: Leila Brammer, Communication Studies

A full list of past Carlson Award winners dating back to 1971 is available online.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


One Comment

  1. Johnny Broughton says:

    Phil Bryant has always been a highly intelligent person. I should know, he was my buddy at Gustavus. I too graduated in 73. Even though I came up as a pre med student from Georgia, I dropped out of the program and was heading back home, Dr. Falck convinced me to stay at Gustavus as a Instrumental Music Major. Phil also convinced me to stay. Because I stayed I am blessed to have a Masters in the Performing Arts, a Masters in Music Education in which I taught for 48 years in the Minnesota, Indiana, and Georgia public school systems. I started my PHD program in Park Forest ,IL. I will never forget Mark Lammers and Phil especially in the music class at Gustavus. I really didn’t spend a lot of time socializing at Gustavus because of an R&B group call ShowTime out of NewYork came on campus and recruited me for weekend gigs throughout the state. We were the Opening act for a man by the name of Isaac Hayes. When the group left for California, I decided to stay and get my degree at Gustavus. I didn’t have time withe BSO but still spent time with Phil