Barbara Everitt Bryant, director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census from 1989-93 and research scientist emerita in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, died March 3 in Ann Arbor of natural causes, surrounded by family.
Bryant was the first woman to become Census director, and the only woman to have ever directed a U.S. decennial census.
Barbara Alice Everitt grew up outside Columbus, Ohio. She attended Cornell University, majoring in physics, while also serving as an editor of the Cornell Daily Sun, graduating in 1947.
She married John Harold Bryant in 1948, and, like many women of her era, put her career ambitions on hold to start a family. While raising three young children in Birmingham, Michigan, she devoted her considerable energy to her family and volunteer activities.
When her youngest child entered first grade, Bryant returned to part-time work and then graduate school. Commuting 75 miles each way to Michigan State University, she earned a master’s degree in journalism in 1967 and a Ph.D. in communications in 1970.
Upon receiving her Ph.D., and with her children in their teens, Bryant embarked on a 38-year career in survey research, starting with 20 years at Market Opinion Research (now Escalent), including 12 years as senior vice president.
In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed her Census director. During her tenure, she oversaw the 1990 decennial census and numerous other surveys. Bryant joined the faculty of Ross School in 1993. There she designed the data collection methodology for the American Customer Satisfaction Index. She retired as research scientist emerita in 2008 at the age of 82.
Throughout her demanding career, Bryant volunteered in community and church, entertained guests, and organized and participated in family vacations and gatherings. She swam nearly every day, counting her mileage as she accumulated laps of the pool. She attended grandparent days and school graduations, hosted grandchildren and encouraged and inspired them as she did her own children and many people in her life.
Bryant published books, book chapters and journal articles. She was a fellow of the American Statistical Association and was active in the American Marketing Association and the American Association of Opinion Research. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1994.
She was married to John H. Bryant for 49 years until his death in 1997. She is survived by three children: Linda Bryant Valentine of Louisville, Kentucky; Randal Everitt Bryant of Pittsburgh; and Lois Beth Bryant of Ann Arbor, as well as eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. April 1 at the First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to U-M and designated for either the University Musical Society or the Ross School.