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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dr. Alvin Nelson Puryear, 85, of Williamsburg

Dr. Alvin N. Puryear (Courtesy of Nelsen Funeral Home)

WILLIAMSBURG — Alvin N. Puryear, PhD passed away on April 21, 2022 at the age of 85 at the Hospice House of Williamsburg. Dr. Puryear was a university educator; a church, civic and community leader; a distinguished alumni leader at Yale University; and a management and governance expert. Most of all, Dr. Puryear was a devoted husband who would have celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary later this year with his beloved wife Catherine W. Puryear, PhD who preceded him in death on October 3, 2021. He was also a proud father and grandfather to his three daughters and two granddaughters.

Dr. Puryear was born in Fayetteville, NC on April 6, 1937, to Byron Puryear, a building contractor, and Gladys Bizzell Puryear, an elementary school teacher. His family moved between Winston-Salem, NC and Hampton, VA, where he attended three racially segregated public schools. He graduated from George P. Phenix High School in Hampton, where he was an outstanding student athlete. He was class Valedictorian, Captain of the basketball team, Captain of the football team, and an All-State Tackle his senior year.

Dr. Puryear accepted a scholarship to Yale University after a Yale alumnus made the football coach aware of his academic and athletic accomplishments. However, instead of matriculating at Yale University directly from high school, he decided to enroll at Hampton Institute to enhance his preparation, having been educated in segregated public schools. In September 1956, he entered Yale University as a Freshman. He earned All-Ivy honors as a football player, and earned his BA degree as an Honors Graduate in Sociology.

Football remained an important part of his life. As a fifth-year senior, he was asked by the coaching staff at Yale University to serve as Graduate Assistant Football Coach. He also played for two semi-pro football teams in Connecticut and Massachusetts, while still in college. Upon graduation he was offered a contract by the New York Titans (now New York Jets). He ultimately chose not to pursue a football career in favor of continuing his education, however while a graduate student in New York City, he was a part-time football coach at Riverdale Country School. He, along with legendary head coach Frank Bertino, led the team to an undefeated streak of 51 games during Dr. Puryear’s five years with the team.

Following his graduation from Yale University in 1960, Dr. Puryear attended the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University, where he earned MBA and PhD degrees in Finance and was a Samuel Bronfman Fellow and a John Hay Whitney Fellow.

In 1962, while attaining his PhD degree at Columbia, Dr. Puryear married Catherine Wiggins and they had three daughters, Pamela (1963), Susan (1971) and Karen (1975). Along with his wife, he took an active role in their education and was proud when they attended Yale University and obtained advanced degrees from Harvard and Stanford Universities. He was equally devoted to his two granddaughters, Mykah and Tyla. He would travel to Massachusetts for their dance recitals and school Grandparents Day, and was able to attend both of their high school graduations. He was filled with pride and joy to see them matriculate at Yale University and Wellesley College.

After completing his education, Dr. Puryear spent three years in the private sector at Mobil Corporation (now Exxon Mobil) and Allied Chemical Corporation. He then transitioned to academia and joined the faculty of the Graduate Business School at Rutgers University, later moving to the Business School of Bernard Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY), where he spent the remainder of his academic career until his retirement in 2006.

In 1972, at age 35, Dr. Puryear became a tenured full-professor at Baruch College, one of the youngest persons to achieve this status at CUNY. He was the initial recipient of the Lawrence N. Field Professorship in Entrepreneurship, and served as a College Dean, Chair of the Department of Management, and Founding Co-Director of the Baruch College/Cornell University Master of Science in Industrial & Labor Relations Program. He was also the Founding Director of the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship. During leaves-of-absence from Baruch College in the 1980s, he served as Vice President for Management Organization at The Ford Foundation and First Deputy Comptroller for the City of New York.

During his years at Baruch College and following his retirement in 2006, Dr. Puryear was an angel investor, providing financial, management and technical assistance to start-up and mature businesses, many of which were minority-owned.

In addition to his commitment to education, entrepreneurship, and business, Dr. Puryear was devoted to the Presbyterian Church, where he held several leadership roles: Chairman of the Program Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church (USA); Chairman of the Central Treasury Corporation; and Chairman of the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Corporation. He also served two terms as a Trustee of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and three terms as a Trustee of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA.

One of Dr. Puryear’s proudest accomplishments during his term as Chairman of the Program Agency Board was leading a team of church officials and other religious leaders to gain the release of the Rev. Benjamin Weir, a Presbyterian Missionary, and four other American men held hostage in Lebanon. Rev. Weir was released in September 1985, and the others in subsequent months.

Dr. Puryear maintained a life-long association with his Alma Mater, Yale University, where he served as a Member of the Yale Corporation (Trustee); Chaired the Association of Yale Alumni; was a Board Member, Yale Alumni Fund; and was awarded the Yale Medal for outstanding service to the University.

In addition to his service to the Presbyterian Church and Yale University, Dr. Puryear served as a Trustee at Loyola College in Maryland, Barber-Scotia College, Riverdale Country School, the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University,

Dr. Puryear served on the Board of Directors at the Smithsonian National Board; American Capital Ltd; Bank of Tokyo-Mitshubishi UFJ Trust Company; American Capital Agency Corporation; CIBT Travel Solutions; the GreenPoint Financial Corporation; the North Fork Bank Corporation; Ranpak Corporation; Interracial Council for Business Opportunity; and the Broadcast Capital Fund.

In more recent years, after retiring to Williamsburg, VA and Marco Island, FL, Dr. Puryear was elected a Trustee of the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra, and was an active member of the Epsilon Delta Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, serving on the Audit and Strategic Planning Committees, the Membership Council, and was the Founder and Coordinator of the Life Quarters Program.

Dr. Puryear is survived by his three daughters, Pamela Puryear of Stamford, CT, Susan Puryear of Worcester, MA, and Karen Puryear Morgan of Houston, TX; and two granddaughters, Mykah Puryear DeMeulenaere and Tyla Puryear DeMeulenaere.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to either of the following organizations:

1) “The Catherine Puryear Fund for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Research” established in honor of his late wife. Online donations can be made by going to: Please indicate that the donation is made in memory of Alvin Puryear. Or checks can be made payable to The Mayo Clinic indicating “Puryear Family” in the memo line and mailed to: The Mayo Clinic Department of Development, Attn: Amanda Martin, 200 First Street, SW, Rochester, MN 55905.

2) The Hospice House of Williamsburg by going to: Please indicate that your donation is in memory of Alvin Puryear. Or checks can be made payable to The Hospice House of Williamsburg indicating “Puryear Family” in the memo line and mailed to: Hospice House of Williamsburg, Attn: Ellen Bushman, 4445 Powhatan Pkwy, Williamsburg, VA 23188.

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