We were saddened in Special Collections to hear of the passing last week of both Dr. Lee Morrison and Dr. Pat Bruce. These two friends and colleagues helped to direct the development of women’s athletics at JMU and had a tremendous influence on the growth of college sports across the country. Over the length of their careers in college athletics, both women fought for female athletes to have the opportunities to excel at sports.
Dr. Morrison started as a professor and coach at Madison College in 1954, having earned a Master of Arts in Education from George Peabody College. She continued her studies after starting her teaching career to gain a doctorate in physical education from Indiana University in 1964. She became the Coordinator for Women’s Sports at Madison three years later and then the Associate Director for Athletics at James Madison University from 1972 until her retirement in 1989.
Having earned a PhD from Indiana University in 1961, Dr. Bruce joined the faculty of Madison College that same year, teaching physical and health education. Pat served as the president of the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Fitness and Recreation, as well as the vice president of the Southern Association of Physical Education for College Women. Along with her service to the national promotion of women in collegiate sports, she also remained a popular teacher and colleague on campus. Dr. Bruce served on University Council, the Commissions on Graduate and Undergraduate Studies, and the Graduate Academic Review Board. She helped to found the Faculty Women’s Caucus and served as its president, promoting equity for the female faculty at JMU. After her retirement in 1989, Pat continued to work for equality of female faculty and athletes, while maintaining close relationships with many of the students for whom she did so much.
Dr. Morrison was a founding board member of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), later becoming president, and also worked on many committees at local and national levels for the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport. Her important work brought her recognition from the Faculty Women’s Caucus, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, and AIAW. JMU awarded her an honorary doctorate of humanities in 1990, at that year’s graduation, where she also served as the commencement speaker.The prominence of her work in sports brought her international influence as well. Dr. Morrison served as the AIAW representative to the United States Olympic Committee and was a delegate to the second UNESCO conference on Physical Education and Sport. Through all of this, she maintained her interest in teaching and mentoring, helping to engage students in the JMU community and prepare them for future careers. She remained in contact with many colleagues and students during the years of her retirement.Over the length of their careers in college athletics, both women fought for female athletes to have the opportunities to excel at sports, no matter what their abilities might be. The two of them started the Morrison-Bruce Center for the Promotion of Physical Activity for Girls & Women on the JMU campus in 2006. The center promotes the research efforts of faculty and students, while offering educational and training programs to the JMU community and the people of Virginia. As Dr. Morrison said, “My message to girls and women is this: Include some physical activity in your lifestyle as young as you can and find groups (co-ed and female) for participation. And if you don’t know the sport or skill, don’t be bashful. More than likely the others are also. Be brave.”
Special Collections staff first met Lee and Pat when they approached the university about donating material for the Lee Morrison Collection in 2012. It was always a joy to talk with the two professors and hear about their interesting work. These papers will form an important resource for researchers studying the development of JMU and the history of American athletics. We join the many people around the country who will saddened by this news. Two separate services for Dr. Lee Morrison and Dr. Pat Bruce will be held next week.