Gaius and Ira Mae Bruce, individually impactful in their long and fruitful careers, together have left an indelible mark on Northwest Florida from Santa Rosa to Walton County.
Gaius has the distinction of being one of the longest serving instructors in the history of Northwest Florida State College. In 1966, just two years after the college first opened its doors as Okaloosa-Walton Junior College, Gaius came to work as a physical education instructor. Over the next fifty years, he would add track, golf and cross-country coach, intramural coordinator, director of student activities and coordinator of athletics to his resume. He was a champion for the Association of Florida Colleges (formerly Florida Association of Community Colleges) serving many roles within the NWFSC chapter Region 1 as well as AFC State President. Although he has proud moments from every role he played at the college, his proudest came from being a coach. Inspired by a childhood coach, Gaius still finds it particularly rewarding when a former student calls out to him and comments on the impression he made on their life. Colleagues remember him as instantly likeable and genuinely friendly. His voice and ready smile preceded him wherever he went. He enjoyed his job and it came through in every activity. Not many people can say they have enjoyed a job for 50 years, but Gaius will tell you it was the best decision he ever made. At 78 years young, he still practices what he preached for so many years. He is an avid golfer and attends most NWF Basketball games – and on rare occasions can be heard coaching from the sidelines.
Ira Mae, a Santa Rosa County native, witnessed incredible changes in the county during her lifetime and played an instrumental role in much of that progress as a business and community leader. Continuing the work of her family, she helped transform Navarre from a barren island to a popular travel destination. She was co-owner of Century 21 Island View Realty in Navarre. She also served as Santa Rosa County’s first female County Commissioner. Remembered as a visionary and trailblazer for Navarre, no one had more influence or the ability to get things done in the 80s and 90s than Ira Mae. An active member and past President of the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, she was recognized for her many contributions to Santa Rosa County by the Chamber on January 31, 2020 with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Gaius having served as a coach, teacher and administrator, he knows first-hand the value of education. He also knows that quality programs require extraordinary resources. For this reason, he has chosen to create an endowment, which will name two wellness classrooms in the Northwest Florida State College Arena. Earnings from the endowment will support the athletic and wellness activities of the college.Tags: Athletic Support, Raider Scholars, TeamNWF, Wellness Classroom