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Farewell to My Colleague Bruce Wade

Farewell to My Colleague Bruce Wade
Memorial Service - October 1, 2018
By Cynthia Neal Spence

Greetings to Elaine, Sahira, Tamir and Nadire and the beautiful grandchildren whom Bruce adored. This celebration of Bruce’s life is a tribute to him, but also a tribute to you. Learning more about Bruce’s activities with you as a husband of 40 years, father and grandfather, convince me that your family was indeed the wind beneath his wings. Bruce could not have given as much to Spelman, the department of Sociology and Anthropology and our students, if he did not have the very strong family life that you all created. Sociologists and Anthropologists examine material artifacts to make assumptions about people’s behaviors and their likes and dislikes. A visit to Bruce’s office provides a window into his heart and his passions. Among the many books and stacks of papers, there are photos capturing so many special images and moments with you. Each of you was very special to him and your husband, father and grandfather was special to the Spelman College community and more specifically to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

As the longest serving member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, I stand before you to represent my long-term relationship with Dr. Bruce Wade. Bruce, Mona and I all share a history of being Atlanta University Center graduates- Bruce graduated from Morris Brown and both Mona and I graduated from Spelman College. Bruce and I were students of Harry Lefever at the same time. It was during his tenure as chair that Harry Lefever hired each of us. Bruce became part of the connecting thread for generations of students who have entered our department and subsequently moved on to attend graduate and professional schools and to become active community members using their sociological and anthropological lenses.

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology is housed in Giles Hall. The third floor of Giles Hall has been Bruce’s home away from home for over 30 years. Giles is not just a building on campus, it is a space that has been given special meaning because of the people, like Bruce who teach and learn there on a daily basis. Our Department is a special place, because we have in many ways come to represent a complicated and dynamic quilt of many ideas, areas of specialization, passions and projects. It was through our everyday engagements with ideas, books, academic courses and most importantly, our students, that we built community with Bruce. There is no question that our Department was strengthened and fortified by his presence. Like a quilt, our Department is multi-textured without any perfect pieces, but together we have been able to create vibrant teaching and learning spaces, interesting research and scholarship and programmatic initiatives that impact the entire College community. Woven together like a quilt we have all been able to provide cover for our students and Spelman College in numerous ways.

Bruce was a master teacher, mentor and scholar. He loved being in the classroom with his students. He believed in tough love and compassionate listening. Yes, students visited his office often to discuss coursework and their thesis research, but they also visited him to discuss life. Bruce continued to mentor and work with students throughout the graduate school process and beyond. As the video has so aptly shared, Sociology department alumnae throughout the country are sharing stories and their appreciation for all the time and attention Bruce unconditionally shared with them.

His interest in transnational research led him to even agree to travel abroad with students numerous times. That was something that Mona and I commented on often because as much as we love our students, after one trip abroad with them, at least for me, we have pretty much decided that all parties concerned are better off interacting with us stateside. Bruce would be proud to know, however, that the study abroad tradition will continue to be vibrant through the work of our younger colleagues like Erica, Ashante, Shanya and Stevie.

As this program attests Bruce was not just a member of the Sociology Department; he was a fully engaged member of the Spelman College community. Colleagues across the campus and the AUC who are present here today provide a visual testimony to the family- that Bruce was loved and respected, but also that we represent his family away from home. They are here to share their memories of his impact upon their work and lives.

As I have reflected over the past week about my relationship with Bruce for over 40 years, I am reminded of many pivotal points in my own development. In a few moments you will hear from Spelman Alumna, Dr. Karolyn Tyson. My relationship with Karolyn is inextricably linked with my relationship with Bruce. I completed by dissertation while I was the Associate Academic Dean here at Spelman. Overwhelmed by my professional and personal commitments, the then Provost, Ruth Simmons threw me a life line and provided funding for me to hire a student research assistant to help with my data analysis. I went directly to Bruce to help me identify a student. Bruce identified Karolyn Tyson who he believed had exceptional gifts as a future researcher. It was because of Karolyn’s developing expertise under the mentorship of Bruce that I was able to complete the data analysis section of my dissertation. Bruce’s investment in Karolyn’s development as a scholar paid off tor her and for me. Bruce had both of us covered.

Over the years, my personal interactions with Bruce were usually early in the morning. We are the two in the Department who are early risers. Driving up on campus in the mornings, I often parked next to Bruce’s car and sometimes just popped into his office before class if his door was open. This is the week in the semester that I would have him deliver an annual lecture on research methods or more specifically how to use census data to inform students’ research interests. I will share PowerPoints that he always created for my class with the class this semester. Sometimes I would just run across the hall when the equipment in my classroom did not work. It was usually something simple that I had not thought to do, but he would come in make the necessary adjustments, smile, and sometimes shake his head and leave.

My last interaction with Bruce was through a text message on Monday, September 17th. It stated, “Praying for you- take time and get stronger- we got you covered.” He did not respond. I hope that he smiled when he saw the message. I know that he knew that, I, along with many, were praying for him and that we wanted the best for him and that we would cover for him, as he has done for me and so many others. I will miss Bruce. While he will not be physically present, the threads connecting the quilt of our Department will remain intact and will honor the many years he devoted to students as a teacher, mentor and scholar. Our memories of his voice and laughter will continue to enrich the fabric of the special place we call the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

We will not sing the Spelman hymn today, but as I think of Bruce, I think of the last stanza- And when life’s race is won, thy noble work is done, O God forever bind our hearts to thine.