Remembering Bruce

Seattle Central Says Goodbye to Beloved Faculty

By Savannah Kennedy

Originally published in the November 2014 issue.

April 15, 1954 – October 08, 2014

Bruce McKenna, beloved English professor at Seattle Central College, passed away on October 8th, 2014 at the age of 60.

Savannah_Bruce McKenna Obituary_Bruce was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells in December 2010.  After receiving the diagnosis, Bruce began radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Many, when faced with such a devastating battle, might lose their lust for life. However, the horrible news couldn’t diminish his sense of awe and wonder. He continued his quest and desire to educate anyone who was enthusiastic to learn.

Bruce was raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Following his early education, he began his studies at Yale. Bruce is remembered for his inquisitive mind, quick wit, and of course his passion for basketball. He played on Yale’s basketball team during his college years; and a quick survey of his office would reveal basketball accolades next to the stacks of reading material for the week.

After receiving his BA at Yale, Bruce accepted a job with WGBH, a widely known public television station based in Boston. It was here that he was introduced to his co-worker (and wife to be) Janice Gomes. The two were married on August 21, 1983 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Shortly before their marriage Bruce decided to leave the station, and further his education by attending Brandeis University. In 1988 Bruce earned his Doctorate in English and American Literature and formed the foundation on which he taught many of his English and film classes.

Bruce was employed by distinguished colleges such as Brandeis and MIT as a part-time teacher. In 1993, he and Janice moved to Sacramento so that Bruce could accept a full time position at National University. It was there Bruce discovered his true passion for teaching. He appreciated teaching students who cherished and yearned for a quality education and respected those who put time and effort into learning.

In 2000, a job opportunity opened for Janice, and the couple moved to Seattle. Bruce spent the next four years on the faculty of Cascadia College and finally found his home when he was hired as a professor at Seattle Central College in 2004.

Throughout the next ten years, he cultivated teaching the intricacies of writing and film at Seattle Central College. He sought to interest and inspire students with a diverse array of literature.  Always willing to engage a debate, he encouraged students to ask  ‘why?’ insuring deep understanding. He often met students in his office with a smile and a passion for ‘making it work.’

His enthusiasm and vibrancy were a catalyst in the classroom. He was also Co-President of the Faculty Senate and Department Coordinator. When time permitted, he could be found working on additional school committees, listening to his collection of Jazz music, and discussing the upcoming basketball season with faculty and students alike. Bruce experienced life with a brilliant mind and a compassionate heart.

Bruce is remembered as a fighter. One colleague, English professor Steven Woods, stated,  “What you see is what you get with Bruce. He was the embodiment of what it means to be professional. I never heard him complain.”

Currently, Leonard Rifas and Fred Nollan have taken over Bruce’s Film and English classes. But students and staff are still connecting with their beloved teacher by adding notes, poetry, and pictures to Bruces’ office door. There is talk of a possible campus memorial which may be added at a later date to honor Bruce’s memory. Faculty suggested it be something “alive, with spirit.”

Bruce thrived on  positive energy and endeavored to create that same environment inside of his classroom. Described by students repeatedly as “a wonderful man, full of life and expression,” Bruce carried on with courage and no doubt would ask the same of those left behind.



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