"We've Always Loved This Place"
William P. Bruce C'63 and Phyllis (Dahl) Bruce C'66
by Elizabeth Lamberti G'2012
When it came to making a decision for college, William Bruce’s father gave him two options: either stay in Minnesota or go to North Park in Chicago. He chose the latter and never looked back. Phyllis Dahl, his future wife, had not been thinking about college at all until a high school teacher told her she was “college material” and should consider furthering her education. Having been raised in the Covenant Church, North Park was a natural choice for Phyllis, and she came to Chicago with a friend, Lynn Rae Springer Peterson (C’66), with whom she roomed all the way through. After two years of studies at North Park College, she continued on at Swedish Covenant Hospital for three more years to complete her bachelor’s degree in nursing. “In those days,” recalls Phyllis, “you weren’t allowed to get married until you were done with the entire program because they wanted you to focus solely on nursing. But we got married just before graduation with only a short time to go.” This year, the Bruces will celebrate 46 years of marriage.
“For me,” says William, a human relations major and English minor, “coming to Chicago and being academically stimulated was huge. It opened up a whole new world and allowed me to see something beyond what I had known up until that point. The support and care from faculty and staff made it feel very comfortable—it was as if I inherited a whole new raft of parents!” The urban experience prepared him for his professional life as well, says Bruce, who taught in the Minneapolis Public School system for most of his career. “After working in Chicago Public Schools, I felt as if I could do anything!” He now is president of Family of Bruce International, the U.S. branch of one of the 120 Scottish Clans & Families recognized by the Lyon Court, and is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
For Phyllis, finding her calling was a result of faith. “Career paths for women were still limited at that time. I remember praying a lot for guidance from God. I struggled, initially, with the decision to go into medicine, but I never regretted it. I quickly learned that nursing was much more than just carrying bedpans!” She eventually caught the teaching bug as well, going on to become Assistant Professor of Nursing at the College of St. Catherine in the Twin Cities, in addition to working in hospitals and as a parish nurse.
For both William and Phyllis, what they cherish most from North Park are the friendships they formed on campus that have remained important throughout their lives. Phyllis is part of a group of girlfriends that call themselves “the Ziltches.” The five teachers and five nurses, all roommates from North Park, still get together every two years in some part of the country. As a spouse, William considers himself an honorary Ziltch, even though the club is officially open only to women.
When it comes to honoring the special place that brought William and Phyllis and their friends together, supporting North Park is a “no-brainer,” according to William. Long-time President’s Club contributors, the Bruces have established a scholarship fund at North Park Theological Seminary in honor of William’s late brother, Robert D. Bruce. Robert completed his BA and MDiv at North Park but passed away before he was able to fully realize his aspirations as a pastor and teacher. “My brother’s life was too short, but some of his happiest days were spent at North Park and we wanted to memorialize that. The scholarship is designed to help Seminary students follow their calling to serve.”
The Bruces have also given generously to support capital projects on campus, such as Brandel Library and the new Johnson Center for Science and Community Life. “I like the way that North Park has preserved and repurposed many of the old, historic buildings that we remember, while making way for the new ones. There is no question that we need to keep moving forward and provide technology and facilities to attract the best students. Tradition still lives here, and I know when I come to campus to celebrate my 100th birthday, I will still recognize it!” jokes Bruce. “We have always loved this place and still do. As long as I have the resources, North Park will get a substantial share.”