In Memoriam: Dr. Iain Bruce
A Tribute by Dr. John Widdowson
We are here today to celebrate the life of Iain Bruce—a full life, and a life fulfilled, a life of dedication to his academic profession, of which he and his family can certainly be justly proud.
Born 70 years ago in Edinburgh, he moved with his family to my home town of Sheffield, where in 1947 his father was appointed Lecturer in Charge of the new department of Biblical History and Literature, and became the first Professor of the subject there in 1955. Following his education at King Edward VII Grammar School in the city, Iain went up to Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, graduating with a BA with Honours in Classics in 1958, and an MA in 1962. He then moved on to the University of Sheffield, completing his Diploma in Education in 1959, and his Ph.D. in 1963.
It so happened that his future wife, Pam, was also completing her Diploma in Education in 1959. They met, and moved to the south coast where Iain was appointed an Assistant Master at Worthing High School for Boys. They were married in 1960, and Iain continued with his Ph.D. research while working full time as a teacher.
In 1963 they came to Newfoundland when Iain was appointed Assistant Professor of Classics. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1968, a post crosslisted with History in 1969, becoming Professor in 1974, and ultimately Head of the Department of Classics from 2000 until his retirement in 2002.
I first came to know Iain when he was the Secretary of the Senate at Memorial University—an unenviable responsibility which he shouldered with typical calmness, efficiency, and a due sense of propriety, having taken over the position from the former Head of the Department of Classics, Jack Ashley.
His experience of university affairs and administration during his Secretaryship—at a time when the number of teaching staff in the University and the Senate was so small that everyone knew each other, whatever department they were in—proved to be an excellent grounding for his later administrative work in the Faculty of Arts, the University, and the wider community.
He was appointed Assistant Dean of Arts in 1971, and as Acting Dean in 1972. He became Dean of Arts in 1974 and served in that onerous position until 1983. Although he never actually sought this appointment, it was one in which he excelled, bringing to bear all his knowledge, skills, and experience in facing up to the formidable challenges of this demanding post. His balanced and objective approach in weighing opposing views in difficult situations was allied with a strong ethical stance, an unswerving sense of fairness and justice in decision making, an essential humanity, and quietly persuasive diplomacy in the negotiation process.
Iain Bruce dedicated most of his working life to the service of Memorial University, both as a respected teacher and an exceptional administrator.
Over the years his many colleagues and countless students have benefitted from his advice, encouragement and support. His many publications, and the remarkable variety of courses he taught, span an extraordinarily wide range of classical and historical topics. He was a member of the Classical Association, the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, the Cambridge Philological Society, and the Classical Association of Canada, serving for several years on the Association’s Council.
He was elected to the Senate in 1969 and remained a member for some 14 years. During his long career at Memorial he served on some 40 committees, around half of which he chaired.
His administrative experience and his renowned talents as a
negotiator led to a parallel career path in the public sphere in
the field of arbitration. From 1977 he was a member of the
Newfoundland and Labrador Panel of Labour Arbitration Board
Chairmen, and presided over no fewer than 168 arbitrations across
But there is of course another Iain, the devoted husband, father, and grandfather, the man his family know and love. The man, too, whose dry sense of humour was matched by his warm and ready smile and the infectious laugh which lit up the room and put everyone at ease.
And how he loved sport, and especially soccer. He enjoyed playing football himself in his younger days—just imagine for a moment Iain as a goalkeeper! He was a keen Manchester United supporter, and still a fan, like me, of Sheffield United. And of course he enjoyed watching the teams in the Scottish Cup and following their progress each season. He liked baseball too, and, as his grandson Stuart knows, there is still a cricket bat in the house from the days when they played cricket together.
But one of Iain’s best kept secrets is that he was a Cambridge Blue in the sport of water polo. When he was younger he spent many enjoyable days at his grandfather’s farm in Scotland and, after he came to Newfoundland, one of his hobbies was his interest in aeroplanes and aviation—a relaxing contrast to the pressures of his everyday work.
Iain will be remembered by all who knew him as a quiet, somewhat reserved, and modest man, scrupulously fair and honest in his dealings with others—a man of great personal integrity, clearsightedness, and sound judgement. Throughout his long career at Memorial, he always had the best interests of his department, the faculty and the university at heart—all of which he served so faithfully for so many years.
Thanks to the medical assistance he received, and to the unfailing support of his wife and family, Iain was able to be with us for six whole years after the onset of his illness—an illness which he faced with characteristic calm and fortitude —determined to make the most of each day as it came in spite of the inevitable reduction in his quality of life, especially during recent months.
We shall all remember him as a man of principle, of patience, and understanding—a congenial colleague who was always ready to help and advise. We shall think of him with both admiration and affection, and for me he will be, as he always was, a true friend.
I am sure that I speak for all who knew him, in saying that our
thoughts and prayers are with Pam, with Helen and Peter and their
families, and with each and every member of Iain’s family,
including his sister, Sheila in Australia, and others who are
unable to be with us, in the hope that, with the support of their
friends and colleagues gathered here today, they will draw strength
from Iain’s life and achievements, and from the assurance
that he will live on in his children and grandchildren, and in the
memories of all who were privileged to know him.