(February 4, 1999, Gazette)
The staff and faculty of Memorial have a wealth of creative and talented people who direct their energies into a vast variety of activities and interests. Bruce Burton has worked with Memorial University since 1973 as an instructional assistant in science education in the Faculty of Education. Currently, he is a lab instructor in the areas of science education and technology education. Throughout his career, he has been involved in an activity that has occupied a great deal of his spare time and has taken him to many parts of the world. His passion is table tennis.
Mr. Burton was born and raised in the community of Twillingate. In this scenic and prosperous fishing village on the north east coast of the province, he attended high school. It was there that Mr. Burton first learned to play table tennis. In 1969 he came to Memorial University to begin his post secondary education. By the time he left he had a great deal more than a B.Sc.
"The level of play at Memorial was much higher than what I was used to," Mr. Burton reminisced. "Here I was playing against most of the best players in the province. My game improved steadily and by 1975 I qualified for the Newfoundland team that was to represent the province at the Canada Games in Lethbridge, Alberta."
In 1975, Mr. Burton was named president of the Newfoundland Table Tennis Association. He held that office for the next 10 years as he played and helped improve coaching in the province. Over that time the game grew and the competitive level of the game in the province improved as well.
As president of the provincial association, Mr. Burton was also designated as a member of the national board of directors. There he gained valuable experience dealing with the management of the sport at the national level. In 1979 he joined the executive of the national governing body as treasurer. He held that position until 1983. An important highlight of his career as one of the sport's administrators was the 1989 National Junior Championship that was held in St. John's at Memorial University. Mr. Burton remembers that championship fondly and remarked that players, coaches and officials still comment on the event.
In 1989 Mr. Burton's investment in the sport increased as he became National Chair of the Board of Directors. He held that position until 1994 when he became President of the Canadian Table Tennis Association. He is currently in the middle of his third term in that office. Mr. Burton's involvement with the international body has been extensive. He has been a council member of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) since 1995 and since 1997 has been that organization's vice president for continental North America as well as a member of the ITTF Olympic Commission.
Mr. Burton's involvement with the sport has taken him to many parts of the world. He has attended competitions and administrative meetings in Sweden, India, Singapore, China, Malaysia, England, Hong Kong, South Africa and France. His passion for the sport is obvious.
"It was amazing to be at the 1993 World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden," he said. "We were in a packed stadium that held 10,000 spectators. The Swedish team were playing the Chinese in the finals. The excitement and noise as the Swedes cheered their team was phenomenal. The Swedish team won that year. Two years latter we were in China for the world championships. The Swedes and the Chinese were finalists again. In front of 10,000 roaring fans and the whole nation via television, the Chinese won it back."
Table tennis has not gained the status in Canada that the sport enjoys in other parts of the world but Mr. Burton still believes it is an exciting sport that has a great deal of potential in Canada. "The strength of table tennis is that the game can be played anywhere," he said. "There are a large number of players in small towns all across the country. The challenge the organization faces is to get these recreational players into competitions and help them improve."
Mr. Burton's involvement in the sport will give him a busy schedule for the next two years. He will attend meetings of the ITTF in the Czech Republic, and Portugal. He will also be present at the Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook; the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg; the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia; and the 2001 World Championships in Osaka, Japan.