By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

Other winners

Small Business of the Year: Express Employment Professionals

Large Business of the Year: Newport Avenue Market

Nonprofit Organization of the Year: Bend Spay and Neuter Project

New Business of the Year: Volcanic Theatre Pub

Healthy Workplace of the Year: St. Charles Health System

Entrepreneur of the Year: Bonta

Bend Chamber Board Award of Distinction and Excellence: Taylor Northwest LLC

People’s Choice Award: Twist Cocktail Catering Co.

Emerging Leader: Stephanie Senner, BendBroadband director of business-to-business marketing

Neil and Mary Bryant were honored as the Bend Chamber of Commerce citizens of the year Friday night at the annual SAGE Awards Dinner.

Neil Bryant, an attorney, and Mary Bryant, an educator, were honored for more than 40 years of community involvement in Central Oregon and beyond.

The Bryants were unable to attend Friday’s award dinner, but their daughter, Amy Fraley, was expected to accept the award on behalf of her parents from Oran Teater, former mayor of Bend and a past winner of the award. Teater, a friend of the Bryants who’s often joined them on ski trips to Sun Valley over the last 30 years and was once jokingly billed $10 for blocking Neil Bryant’s shot in a city league basketball game — he paid it — said the couple has been active helping make Bend a better place since they first arrived.

“Like a lot of people in Bend, they have a hard time saying no,” Teater said Friday afternoon. “They’ve been on a lot of boards, they’ve formed a lot of organizations and nonprofits, and they’ve been doing this since they arrived in 1973.”

After meeting and marrying at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., the couple headed to Salem, Neil Bryant’s hometown. Mary Bryant worked as a teacher, while Neil Bryant attended Willamette University law school.

Upon arriving in Bend, Neil Bryant joined the law firm now known as Bryant, Lovlien & Jarvis, PC, while Mary Bryant taught at Jewell Elementary School, then later at Cascade and Pilot Butte middle schools.

Neil Bryant was part of the group that founded the Rotary Club of Greater Bend, Teater said, and has served on the boards of the High Desert Museum, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and as chairman of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition of Oregon, a lobby group that works to increase public investment in nonprofit arts and education programs.

In 1992, Neil Bryant was elected to the state Senate, and represented Central Oregon in Salem for two terms.

In 2001, Mary Bryant founded a charter school, Rimrock Expeditionary Alternative Learning Middle School, the first charter school for middle school students east of the Cascades.

Roger White, director of the school, said Mary Bryant spent two years as principal of the school, and another several years on its board of directors. Creating the school was a “humongous undertaking,” he said, and though it’s changed some in the last 13 years, it’s still true to the vision Mary Bryant set out of building a school for kids who were at risk or failing to thrive in a traditional school environment.

“I think when she was getting the school started, she had a huge amount of heart and care and vision for kids, that was really clear,” he said.

Mary Bryant has for many years been an active member of P.E.O. International, a philanthropic organization promoting educational opportunities for women, and has served as the chairwoman of United Way, Backpacks in Bend, and on the board of Oregon Public Broadcasting.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,