A Grateful Granddaughter

March 15 2016
Category: Alumni

The Bryant-Macquarrie Skilled Nursing Lab
Health Sciences Center, Cowles Hall


“Together, my grandparents gave me everything that money couldn’t buy. It is my sincere hope that all who study nursing here in this lab will show their patients the kindness, love and compassion shown to me by these two wonderful people.”

Catherine Bowman Perez ’70

Gladys Lillian Bryant and John Allan Macquarrie inspired their granddaughter, Catherine Bowman Perez ’70, to seek out the privilege of an Elmira College education.  She has honored their love and nurturing by naming the Clinical Enrichment Practice Laboratory in the new Health Sciences Center, the Bryant-Macquarrie Lab.  Their story is compelling. 

Born in Boston in the 1890s Gladys and John were a couple who had little in common before they married. 

John was the middle child of five in a Roman Catholic immigrant family.  He worked as a skilled tradesman specializing in ornamental plasterwork.  His work can be seen in impressive structures across the nation in locations such as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Vassar College, and the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island.  It can be also be seen in important iconic buildings such as the E.W. Mailand Mansion in Ponca City, Oklahoma, Holy Name Cathedral in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and many other significant private and public structures in places ranging from Denver, Colorado to St. Petersburg, Florida.  His crowning achievement was the Metropolitan Theater in Boston, now the Wang Center.  His enterprising spirit persisted through the Great Depression, where in order to find work, he traveled to Havana, Cuba, to work on structures there.  As his career progressed, he rose to a supervisory position and continued to exercise his creativity through oil painting and photography. 

Gladys Bryant, on the other hand, was the youngest of nine in a Yankee Protestant family.  She was a descendent of the aristocratic Hartwells of America and the “blue collar’ Bryants, who were proud to include poet William Cullen Bryant in their family tree.  She grew up on a large dairy farm with what doctors described as a weak heart.  Gladys was not expected to live to adulthood although she lived to the age of 85.  She did not venture off the farm often, not even to attend school.  She was educated instead by the caring and hardworking standards set by her mother. 

Gladys and John eloped when she was seventeen and he was twenty-one.  This unlikely pair lived lovingly together for 56 years until John’s death in 1971.  During that time, their different backgrounds cultivated a nurturing and ambitious environment for their young granddaughter.

As a child, Catherine spent six years in their care, during which time she had many childhood illnesses.  Gladys often referred to her mother’s handwritten book of medical remedies to nurse Catherine back to health.  “She would have been an extraordinary nurse had she had the education that she so desired.  She was an extraordinary nurse without one,” Catherine recounted.  Her grandmother’s abundant selflessness and love live on in Catherine’s memory.     

Gladys was a simple cook and homemaker.  She loved flowers and animals.  She would sing melodies from the ’20s, filling the home with happiness.  “There didn’t seem to be one song that she couldn’t sing from memory.  She had a beautiful voice that was so special that I can still hear it.  It was a musical voice that was always soft and calming. It made me feel protected, secure and happy,” added Catherine.  As protector and advocate, Gladys ensured her granddaughter’s foundation for the world.

John, a gentleman to all who knew him, always dressed to perfection, had a quick wit and a wry sense of humor.  “He taught me social skills and good manners and gave me a sense of independence and self-confidence,” Catherine remembered.  Equally dedicated to his granddaughter, he encouraged her to pursue a college education, taking her on her first college interview.  One of Catherine’s fondest memories of Elmira College was inviting her grandfather to Father-Daughter Weekend in 1968.  The fond memories from that weekend remained with both of them for years to come. 

Today, Catherine’s testimony to Gladys’ and John’s legacies lives within the Bryant-Macquarrie Laboratory in Elmira College’s new Health Sciences Center, where students will be inspired, much as Catherine was, to seek an education that balances ambition with compassion.

Catherine concluded, “Together, my grandparents gave me everything that money couldn’t buy. It is my sincere hope that all who study nursing here in this lab will show their patients the kindness, love and compassion shown to me by these two wonderful people.”