Bruce Delmar Nesbitt
Born in Champaign, Illinois on November 14, 1932 to Herbert E. Nesbitt and Pauline Gillespie Nesbitt. Inspired, involved, committed are all accurate descriptions of Bruce, the oldest of nine children born to the couple. Bruce received his early years of education in the Champaign schools. He progressed on to Central High School, from which he graduated in 1951. Bruce honorably served our country as a member of the U.S. Army from 1953-1956. On March 30, 1957 Bruce Delmar Nesbitt was united in Holy Matrimony to Charlotte Neither of Danville, Illinois. Bruce had not decided on a career after leaving the service, but being very involved in his community, found several jobs and became a police officer in 1965. Bruce left the force to join the Housing Division at the University of Illinois. He was inherently focused on the betterment of black students and community involvement. In August 1974, Mr. Nesbitt became the fourth director of the Afro-American Cultural Program, where he proudly served 22 years until his retirement in April of 1996.
Under Bruce’s direction, the students, workshops and programs of the center flourished, including OMNIMOV Dance Troupe, the Moms Day Fashion Show, Black Congratulatory Ceremony, and the WBML Radio Station, which was created under his direction. Bruce was dedicated to his job, the students and his community. As a founding member of the Kappa Omega Chapter of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc., Bruce served locally as the Chapter Polaris, Secretary, and Historian; regionally as the Assistant Regional Director, and as the National Grand Vice Polaris for the fraternity from 1984-1987. His fraternity nickname “The Godfather” was well deserved, because he was a quiet-spoken gentleman who was stern and spoke with authority. He was known for keeping his word and was loved and respected as a husband, father, brother, role model, mentor, friend, community leader and so much more.
Bruce was instrumental in advancing a plethora of projects in the African-American community such as student tutoring, Thanksgiving turkey drive, holiday functions for local children through the Boys and Girls Club and the Douglass Community Center and the Douglass Senior Annex. He helped Mike White recruit for the Illini football team, helped acquire academic credit for the University of Illinois Black Chorus; served on numerous campus and community boards including in several capacities on the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club Board, the Association of Black Alumni, the Black Greek Council, the St. Luke CME Board of Trustees, Past Exalted Ruler of the University Elks, #619; Historian for the Local AMVETS, and proud member of the American Legion Post #559, and the Champaign County NAACP. He mentored thousands of students—even taking some of them into his own home. His love and dedication to students has created doctors, lawyers, athletes, professors, artists, and hundreds of other talented alumni, staff, and affiliates who credit The Godfather as part of the secret to their success.
Bruce received many awards including the Susan Freiburg Humanitarian Award, Honorary Commission for Champaign Park District, the Champaign Police Force Rookie of the year, and the University of Illinois Black Alumni Achievement Award. Bruce Delmar Nesbitt was well loved, and was summoned to eternal rest on Tuesday, June 20, 2000 at 5 a.m. at Manor Care Health Services in Urbana, Illinois; leaving a beautiful wife, three sons, two daughters and a host of family, friends, colleagues, mentees, alumni, fraternity brothers, associates and others to cherish his memory and carry on his legacy of service.