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Dr. Bruce Wade: A Tribute

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College
September 27, 2018

Gloria Gayle’s email was the first trickle, like the first tear that rolls down your face, before you even know that you are crying. Then came the other faculty tributes, one email after another, emotions crescendoing as the day went by, sending waves of shock and grief throughout the Spelman community. Shocking though the news may have been, Dr. Bruce Wade’s death awakened us to each other and awakened us to some beautiful truths about a beautiful colleague, researcher, teacher, father and friend.

One truth is Dr. Wade’s impressive work as a scholar. He was a member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology for 31 years. Spelman is proud of of his much-cited research on public health issues. Spelman is proud that his scholarship included a concern for student wellness and health disparities in the U.S. and internationally. We are proud that Dr. Wade was often part of collaborations with colleagues on the Spelman campus and throughout the Atlanta University Center. His expertise on surveys and quantitative data collection was much sought after in the community and throughout the state of Georgia.

As accomplished as he was as a scholar, he was able to transfer his research expertise seamlessly to the classroom where he was committed to developing the mindset and methods of the discipline of sociology for literally hundreds of Spelman sociology majors. No wonder social media was lit with the testaments of alumnae who remembered his high expectations and abiding faith in them. Bruce had both in abundance.

Bruce’s death awakened in me the biblical truth of first Corinthians chapter 13, verses 1-3.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Bruce had love for Spelman, and for his students, and his fellow faculty and for everyone who worked at Spelman. His steady presence felt as integral to Spelman College as Sisters Chapel or the arch. Like the arch or the Chapel we expected him to be there for us, every day.

In fact, the more I learned of Bruce’ activities I came to suspect that there could not have been just one Bruce Wade. By my count there must have been at least a dozen Bruce Wades.

He was ubiquitous.

  • There was the Bruce Wade who used to read freshman writing portfolios.
  • There was the Bruce Wade who taught First Year Experience and African Diaspora in the World, the cornerstone of the Spelman curriculum.
  • There was Bruce Wade, the faculty trustee Bruce Wade, member of faculty council.
  • There was Bruce Wade the scholar and researcher and member of collaborations with other Spelman Scholars.
  • There was Bruce the member of the First in the World Grant faculty advisory group.
  • There was Bruce Wade, the thoughtful member of the T&P committee,
  • We can’t forget the Bruce Wade, member of the ed tech committee.
  • His family knows of Bruce Wade the loving spouse, father, grandfather, avid coach of youth baseball and devoted member of his church.
  • And, all of us know Bruce Wade, as predictable as the sun rising in the east, census reporter.

Bruce was an avid swimmer and on the mornings when my husband and I managed to make it to the pool in the wellness center, we would always see him there and we would try to pace ourselves against his sure, steady and consistent strokes.

In truth, Bruce was the Olympic swimmer in the waters of the Spelman community, traversing the length of the campus with steady strokes of kindness, faith and love, recognizing no boundaries of discipline, or department or ideology, he set a pace for all of us. Again, I turn to First Corinthians, this time chapter 13 verses 4-8 to articulate what he awakened in us.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Dr. Bruce Wade. He never failed us. He never failed Spelman College. He never failed his family and friends.

Elaine you have our deepest sympathy. Tamir, Sahira and Nadir, your father was like a father to us. We extend our condolences and to all of Dr. Wade’s grandchildren, you had the blessing of having had a great man as a grandfather.

Bruce you never failed us and we will never forget you.