Sports Hall of Fame recipient found open doors at the U of A | Work of Arts
Sports Hall of Fame recipient found open doors at the U of A | Work of Arts

Sports Hall of Fame recipient found open doors at the U of A

by | September 16, 2015
Photography by Akemi Matsubuchi
A chance meeting and a psychology education guided Arts alumnus Douglas Bruce through successful athletic and engineering careers

As we look forward to Alumni Weekend (Sept 24-27, 2015), the Faculty of Arts is proud to share the stories of our inspiring alumni. The Faculty of Arts hits a key milestone this year with 50,000 alumni contributing in all areas of life worldwide. Watch for more in the coming days. 

We encourage all Arts grads to proudly identify as #1of50K on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all year long! 


A natural athlete, Doug Bruce (’01 BA) played any sport he could and dreamed of going pro. In high school, he set his sights on a career in volleyball, but wasn’t sure how to make it happen.

His future came into focus in grade 12 after a chance meeting with the head coach of the U of A Golden Bears at a local volleyball tournament. “Terry Danyluk was an Olympian. He’d played at the U of A. I think he commanded a lot of respect right out of the gate because of what he’d already accomplished at a high level,” says Bruce. “He’s a pretty good role model if you want to be an elite volleyball player.”

“I needed to know how to motivate myself and the team, so we could perform well.”

The next year, Bruce enrolled in the Faculty of Arts, majoring in psychology. He was considering becoming a sports psychologist, but discovered the course material could be applied to his current athletic career. “I was a setter on the team, which is a lot like a coach on the floor,” he says. “I needed to know how to motivate myself and the team, so we could perform well.”

It must have worked. During his time with the Bears, the team competed in two national championships — winning one of them — and made it to the Universiade Games in Japan (“kind of an Olympics for university students,” he says). Bruce was named player of the year, national tournament MVP and outstanding male athlete of the year. While his career after university had once seemed uncertain, “doors started opening up,” he says.Credit Akemi Matsubuchi SWoF_Bruce_Faculty Photo_2015_063

After convocating in 2001, he went on to play volleyball professionally, first for Team Canada (which brought him to the World Cup and Pan American Games), and then for professional leagues in Germany, Sweden, France, Portugal, Switzerland and Qatar.

And now, for his contributions to the sport, Bruce will be inducted into the University of Alberta Sports Hall of Fame at the upcoming Alumni Awards Ceremony.

A decade later, Bruce and his wife returned home to be close to family and friends. Realizing that sports psychology wasn’t for him, he explored other career options and chose geomatics engineering (also known as land surveying). It appealed to his interests in math and technology, and a love of the great outdoors. By earning a diploma at a technical college and challenging professional exams, he fast-tracked his education.

It was an unusual career trajectory for an arts alumnus, but Bruce relied upon the research and writing skills he learned as an arts student. He’s also grateful for the discipline and time management skills he learned while juggling psychology classes and volleyball.

Decades after it all began, Bruce sees careers as winding roads with uncertain destinations: “But when doors open, you go through them.”

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