Jennings Bryant: the "Compleat" scholar.

Author:Thompson, Susan A.
Position:Biography
 
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Jennings Bryant is one of the last true generalists in the field of mass communication. The name of this prolific scholar is inexorably linked with entertainment theory, media effects, television and children, and mass communication theory. The successful journal Media Psychology, developed under his conceptualization and tutelage, continues to thrive. In any good library, one can fill an entire shelf with his classic scholarly volumes and textbooks, and the Erlbaum Communication Series that he edits could fill a complete library stack.

Bryant is renowned for all dimension of his scholarship--his research, teaching, and service. For 14 years, Bryant served as director of the Institute for Communication Research at the University of Alabama, where he directed research contracts totaling more than $7.6 million for governmental agencies, foundations, and corporate clients. From 2002 to 2003, he served as president of the International Communication Association, one of the discipline's most prestigious scholarly organizations. In 2006, he received a BEA Distinguished Scholar Award. Through the years, he has spoken at conferences and universities around the world. His books have been published in a number of different languages, including Spanish, Russian, Romanian, Korean, and Chinese.

But Bryant is not your typical, run-of-the-mill famous research scientist. He is not narrowly focused on one particular area of scholarly interest (thus, the epithet, the "compleat" scholar, using the archaic spelling denoting the idea of a true Renaissance man; cf. Walton, The Compleat Angler, 1653/2003). He enjoys theoretical and applied research in a number of different areas, and his contributions have always been and continue to be substantial. As the director of a research institute, he proved himself highly successful and productive. As a writer and editor, his brilliance has always been and remains unmatched. In the areas of instruction and mentoring, Bryant is again the compleat scholar, as he excels not only in research and service but also in the classroom.

Despite the fact that he is so famous (or, as he would say, infamous), he is not a stuffy, egotistical bore. Quite the opposite. He is kindhearted. He's friendly. He is a voracious reader--he especially loves mystery novels--and he's an avid media consumer. His intellectual versatility makes him a brilliant conversationalist. While engaged in conversation with him, one soon recognizes a delightful sense of humor (one that can take a slightly wicked turn around those he knows well) accompanied by a hearty laugh. He is a large man with a generous supply of graying hair and a graying beard to match, with Newman-blue eyes that sparkle whenever one of those warm, infectious laughs erupts.

Bryant earned an A.B. in history from Davidson College in 1967 and a master's of divinity in communications and counseling from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1971. He received his Ph.D. in mass communication from Indiana University in 1974.

Bryant has three beautiful and brilliant women in his life, his wife Sara and his daughters, J. Alison and Adrienne, and one handsome and brilliant young man, his son Todd. Sara (formerly Poteat) Bryant, his wife of 38 years, teaches gifted children in Tuscaloosa. Oldest daughter Alison Bryant earned her Ph.D. in communication from the University of Southern California and is now director of research for Nickelodeon. Todd Bryant graduated in 2005 with a master's in telecommunication and film from the University of Alabama and is working as a freelance multimedia specialist in New York City, doing production and postproduction work for the likes of HBO and the Sundance Channel. Adrienne Bryant, the youngest, received her B.A. magna cum laude from Barnard College of Columbia University in 2005, with minors in philosophy and dance, and she is currently assistant manager of the Mark Morris Dance Group in New York City. Jennings and Sara live in Tuscaloosa during the school year and retreat to their gorgeous Victorian farmhouse in the mountains of North Carolina in the summer, where they often entertain graduate students and other guests...

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