Partners for Educational Leadership has lost a visionary forefather. Dr. Gordon Bruno, the founding Executive Director of Partners, then the “Connecticut Center for School Change,” passed away on December 19, 2023. In his time at the Center, he brought gravitas to a small and fledgling non-profit, establishing it as a force for intellectual leadership, policy advocacy, and high-quality support for practitioners. Gordon’s vision of a more equitable state challenged the tight ties across land ownership, municipalities, and educational quality, and his advocacy for educational regionalization is still relevant in 2023. He was a leader ahead of his time.
David Nee, long-time Partners board of director and former Executive Director of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, which helped launch the Connecticut Center for School Change, recently reflected on Bruno’s legacy:
Gordon Bruno was the perfect leader to start up the Connecticut Center for School Change: daring and disciplined in intellect, totally empathetic in dealing with young people, and most alert to the challenges of inequity in Connecticut schools and communities.
Above all, Gordon was a visionary. To paraphrase Robert Kennedy, Gordon did not look at inequities and say “Why?”; he looked over the horizon and imagined Connecticut schools in their ideal equitable state and said “Why not?”
Gordon worked earnestly his whole life to make his ideals a reality. And the Center, now christened Partners for Educational Leadership, is the beneficiary.
We offer our sincere condolences to the Bruno family. May warm memories of Gordon be a healing balm.
Gordon Bruno’s Official Obituary
Gordon August Bruno died peacefully in his sleep on December 19, 2023. He was a loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, educator, and athlete.
Through his life Gordon was lovingly called Gordo, El Gordo, Gordy, Giordano, Daddio, Dad, Pop-Pop Grano, and Grandpa.
Gordon was born in Chicago in 1935 to Edward Kemer and Marie Pedersen. As teenagers, he and his brother Barry were adopted by their stepfather, Samuel Bruno, whom Gordon regarded as his true father and role model.
While attending Glenbrook North High School as part of the school’s first graduating class, Gordon played football and baseball and served as class president each year. He went on to study political science and competed in baseball and football at Earlham College in Indiana, after which he received a scholarship to law school but chose a career in education instead.
Gordon received a master’s degree in education from Johns Hopkins University and later earned a doctorate in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His career progressed from teacher to school principal to college dean to superintendent. A relentless advocate for students, Gordon led public school districts in Wellesley, MA; Ithaca, NY; Meriden, CT; and Yorktown, NY. Students, teachers, administrators, and staff admired his integrity, ability to mentor and develop other leaders, and tireless work ethic. A teacher and later administrator in Ithaca shared, “Gordon was firm, fair, and always wanted what was best for kids. He can rest easy, knowing that he did good work with a great many people for a long time.” One of the student members of his board of education in Meriden said, “He was always a class act who did his best for us as students. A very fair and honorable man.”
As the first Executive Director for the CT Center for School Change, Gordon impacted educational policy across the state with the innovative ideas needed to bring greater equity to all students across urban, suburban, and rural schools. His leadership and commitment to educational reform live on in Partners for Educational Leadership, an organization that has expanded its reach to schools across CT, NY, and RI.
In December 1968, Gordon married the love of his life, Beth Bruno (née Bauman) of Michigan, and 50+ years of adventures began. He and Lady Beth traveled the world, swimming with dolphins in New Zealand and touring in Germany. Stateside, they logged thousands of miles to Lake Michigan and Chicago for family reunions. They hosted wacky parties with friends, played many rounds of golf, enjoyed unforgettable symphony and theater performances, and attended hundreds of school events to support their kids and Gordon’s districts.
Family will remember his constant positivity, laugh-out-loud quirky habits and rituals, and willingness to always make fun of himself. We’ll miss him being first on the dance floor, and we’ll miss his raucous presence in the stands of any sporting event, particularly those involving one of his kids! We’ll (almost) miss his early Saturday morning banging on pots and pans and singing, “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the morning!” We’ll make toasts with diet root beer (perhaps even drink it with a spoon) and attempt to make Gordo’s famous spaghetti sauce. When we attend conventions at hotels, we’ll chuck dinner rolls at one another’s heads. We’ll keep up the tradition of Family Water Wars with buckets, cups, hoses, and anything else we can find. When we get our hands on a microphone, we’ll make fun of his interminable school award ceremony speeches. And every day at lunch we’ll go on a 10-mile run in searing heat. Mostly, we’ll never forget the way he made us feel and how he believed in us.
Gordon was preceded in death by his brother, Barry Bruno; former wife, Jean L. Hiatt; daughter, Terry Nelson; and dear friends, Dick and Bobbie Searles. He is survived by his wife, Beth Bruno; his children, Cindy Battaglia, Geoff Bruno (married to daughter-in-law Melissa Bruno), and Nikki Bruno; his 9 grandchildren, David Nelson, Dylan Nelson, Christopher Battaglia, Hallie Bruno, Sophie Bruno, Cassidy Bruno, Presley Bruno, Cairo Clapper, and Moxie Clapper; a bevy of nieces and nephews, to whom he was like a second dad; and many more extended family members and friends.
A celebration of life in Gordon’s honor will be held at a future date. Donations in his name to Partners for Educational Leadership, or another organization that impacts educational equity, would be most appreciated.
Donations by check to Partners for Educational Leadership can be mailed to 26 Caya Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06110. Alternatively, online donations via PayPal can be sent here: https://paypal.me/partnersforel
Partners for Educational Leadership