Yesterday I received a university wide email letting us know that Dr. Bruce Kramer, formerly the Dean of the School of Education here at UST, had died. As the title of his forthcoming book correctly states, "We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying." From the moment I learned that my energetic colleague and collaborator, who frequently biked the long distance from his home to campus, was diagnosed with ALS, I knew this email would almost certainly eventually arrive, though there's always a part of you that hopes that this will be the person who gets a different ending. (Bruce's diagnosis came towards the end of my friend Scott Stafne's own ALS story.)
I met Bruce shortly after coming to UST. I began collaborating with Dr. Jan Hansen, from the School of Education, early in my UST career and when Jan and I decided to propose a joint program in Engineering Education, Bruce was among our earliest supporters. Without his support, it is unlikely that the UST Center for Engineering Education would exist.
photo credit: Mike Ekern/UST
In terms of my own research and the development of my views on education, Bruce was instrumental. Upon hearing of my interest and work in the Maker Movement, he introduced me to the work of John Dewey. (At an early meeting with me he showed me a book on Dewey's laboratory school and insisted I read it. What I never told him was that as soon as I got back to my office, I requested every book by John Dewey that our university had, and spent a semester reading them. One of the prized possessions in my office is a bound copy of original printings of the full series of the Elementary School Record, that I managed to track down when a library was selling it.) I will forever consider myself incredibly fortunate that I met Bruce so early in my career, and can only hope that he knew of my gratitude to him.
The legacy that Bruce left at UST is huge, but only a small part of a long life of amazing things. Bruce was a teacher, a principal, a musician, a traveler, a parent, a spouse, and a truly kind person in every interaction I ever had with him. True to a lifetime of teaching, Bruce shared his journey through ALS. From diagnosis through a few weeks ago, Bruce recorded regular interviews with MRP's Cathy Wurzer. These interviews give an intimate look at how he and his family met the challenges that ALS threw at them, and how he grappled with the end he knew was coming. The entire series can be heard here.
Bruce and Cathy Wurzer co-authored a book, "We Know How this Ends: Living While Dying." In a bittersweet twist of timing, the launch event complete with music and a celebration of the book will be taking place tomorrow, two days after his passing. I always assumed that I would read the book shortly after seeing an upbeat post on Facebook, posted by Bruce or his wife, announcing that the launch event had happened. I never imagined, even though we "know how this ends," that I'd be buying it after his passing.
Perhaps more than anything, I was always struck by Bruce's deep sense of gratitude. I urge you to watch this video, of his first sky dive!, that was taken after his diagnosis. Fitting that, at the end, Bruce can be heard thanking his instructor.
Thank you Bruce.