SBS Board Profile: Margy McGonagill and Garry Bryant

Sept. 2, 2021

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Margy McGonagill and Garry Bryant during Magellan Circle trip to Vietnam
Margy McGonagill and Garry Bryant during Magellan Circle trip to Vietnam

In 1974, Margy McGonagill drove to Washington, D.C., in her yellow VW convertible, with $20 and expired license plates. With a sociology degree from the University of Texas, Austin, and a few jobs under her belt, she found a position as a clerk typist for Congressman William D. Ford (D-MI), progressing to be his chief of staff.

It was during her time in D.C. that Margy met her future husband, Garry Bryant, who was litigating and lobbying on behalf of migrant farm workers. To talk to Congressman Ford, Garry had to “get through” Margy.

In 1983, Garry moved to Tucson to try cases in front of a jury, and Margy soon followed. She developed deep ties with UArizona and was the assistant vice president of federal relations for 16 years, a position that allowed her to use her political experience to support the university.

Once retired, Margy began volunteering with the Women’s Studies Advisory Council, or WOSAC, and was a member of the executive committee that created the Women’s Plaza of Honor. Margy says the experience of creating this meaningful and beautiful space on campus was a thrill.

“When we saw the design for the Plaza, we all stood up and just clapped, vigorously,” Margy said. 

Margy has also been involved in various political and women’s causes over the years, including Arizona Women’s Political Caucus, Planned Parenthood, and Parkinson’s Action Network.

Margy’s work with WOSAC led to her position on the SBS Advisory Board. Garry also joined the board after he discovered his own passion project in SBS.

Garry had been volunteering as a reading coach at Myers Ganoung Elementary School, as part of the Reading Seed Program run by Literacy Connects, a Tucson-based nonprofit organization. He offered to help revitalize the school’s dormant garden. During the process, he met Moses Thompson, who helped found the acclaimed Manzo Ecology Program and is now the director of the university’s Community and School Garden Program, or CSGP. Garry received a tour of the Manzo garden from a charming and knowledgeable fourth grader, and Garry was sold, making a generous donation with Margy to CSGP.

“The kids are just magnetic,” Garry said.  “They are excited about the garden, and it’s kind of an infectious thing.”

Margy and Garry also support the College of SBS and its students through the Magellan Circle. Lunch with their Magellan Circle scholar, Sterling, was one of their last outings before the pandemic hit. They also love Magellan Circle excursions and have been on trips to the Galapagos Islands, Turkey, Mexico City, and Vietnam.

“The trips are magnificent,” Garry said. “You get to know and bond with some of the other board and Magellan Circle members, many of whom have become dear friends of ours.”

Margy says their involvement with SBS has been a benefit and “is a tribute to JP [SBS’s Dean] – his leadership, dynamic personality, and the visibility he has brought to SBS. He just gathers people around him with such skill.”

“JP makes supporting the university easy and fun and rewarding,” Garry added.

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This story was included in the Fall 2021 Developments newsletter.