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Groundbreaking professor pushed for teacher support, development

  |   Kristen B. Morales   |   Permalink

Ray E. Bruce, professor emeritus specializing in curriculum and supervision at the University of Georgia College of Education, has died. He was 87.

Bruce was instrumental in the creation of the college's department of curriculum and instruction, which merged with another department in 1991 to become today's department of leadership, education and policy. He retired from the College of Education in 1993. Over the years, he advised many students at the specialist and doctoral levels who went on to become school and district leaders, and leaders in state professional associations.

He joined the college in 1968 after decades teaching and leading schools in Arkansas. He was known for his expertise in the field of educational supervision, working with his colleagues at UGA to improve schools through research and policy initiatives. Bruce was heavily involved in developing policies for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and was also immersed in the Council of Professors of Instructional Supervision, a society is limited to less than 100 professors who specialize in supervision.

Bruce published articles that were groundbreaking for their time, in the early 1980s, addressing the changing face of public education. He is also known for developing "Seminars for Principals," a yearlong program for school leaders that was implemented in 13 school systems across Northeast Georgia between 1979 and 1982. In recognition of his work, the Northeast Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency dedicated a room in Bruce's honor.

Following his retirement, Bruce established the College's Ray E. Bruce Academic Support Award, which is given each year to practitioner-scholars studying the theory and application of supervision in schools and school systems. This award is one way Bruce's legacy continues, said Sally Zepeda, professor in the department of lifelong education, administration and policy who has overseen the nomination process for the award. "It is through his students past and present that Bruce's legacy of instructional leadership continues in this state and beyond" she said.

In a 2005 doctoral dissertation interview with Mel Hunt, who is also a recipient of the award, Bruce explained he was initially reluctant to come to the University of Georgia. He was happy with his position as superintendent of schools in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and said he was "initially not particularly impressed with the opportunities," associated with a burgeoning department at the College of Education.

But he also described himself as "the point man" in the desegregation process of his hometown's public schools, and the stress felt by him and his family ultimately influenced his final decision.

When asked how he became interested in the field of supervision, Bruce told Hunt he would always recall his first day as a high school teacher with four courses on his schedule: Chemistry, Latin, mathematics and physics. He arrived at school and reported to the principal's office. "She had a neat stack of books for me and handed me those and a key to the classroom, which was a lab on the second floor, and very tersely said, 'I'll see you at Thanksgiving,'" he recalled. "That was my introduction to teaching, and I thought, 'Hum. Surely there's a better way.'"

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