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Vale Bruce and Jenny Pryor

by Sydney University Hockey Club | July 27, 2017
Vale Bruce and Jenny Pryor

With enormous sadness and disbelief, Sydney University Hockey Club sends its heartfelt wishes to the family and friends of Bruce and Jenny Pryor, who died in Canberra last week.

Bruce was a life-long supporter of Sydney Uni Hockey Club, and possibly the club’s greatest ever champion. He supported SUHC as a player, captain, selector, administrator, president, patron, mentor, spectator and financial benefactor. Bruce and Jenny were the catalysts and strongest proponents for the process that saw the University finally design and build a home turf for his beloved club, and he was instrumental in its funding.

The new Cumberland field was named in his honour, but only after protracted arm-twisting. Bruce did not want the limelight, and was deeply concerned that any focus on him meant that the enormous efforts and contributions of others might somehow be overshadowed. Modesty was one of his many great traits.

Just three months ago Bruce and Jenny drove from Canberra for the first games played on our new field. They described it as one of their most rewarding and satisfying days. They were delighted with the field, but what they liked even more was the joy amongst the players and spectators. Bruce and Jenny pored over the minutiae of the finished design, checked every meter and connection in the pump-house, scrutinised the scoreboard, admired the sandstone blocks and lawn and stood in awe of the field’s marvellously open aspect.  He was already wondering how quickly a second stage might be done to make it the best hockey centre in the State, and the best club facility in Australia.  Bruce was an architect, businessman and company director, and always strived for perfection.

The field was the culmination of years of wanting SUHC to have the best.

Bruce played with SUHC from 1956 to 1972. He played in 1st grade from 1956 to 1964, and was Vice-captain from 1959 to 1964.  He was awarded a Blue in 1959. When he started working as an architect in 1964 he played with the 2nd grade team and captained the team from 1968 to 1972. He represented SU at Intervarsity competitions (now AUG) from 1957 to 1961, winning the Syme Cup in 1959 in Melbourne and again in 1961 in Hobart.  It would be 50 years before Sydney University won it again. Bruce was selected for the Combined Universities Team in 1959, the Combined Sydney 1sts in the NSW State Championships in 1961 and 1962, and played against Pakistan, New Zealand, and Japan.

 

Professionally, Bruce earned a Bachelor of Architecture in 1961 at SU and a Masters in 1963. He lived at Wesley College while studying, and became a life-long supporter of that College as well, and dedicated himself to ensuring its buildings were updated and expanded to the highest standard, and always under budget and ahead of schedule After finishing his Masters he worked in London and Toronto before joining a small Sydney practice, Devine, Erby & Mazlin, that soon became one of Australia’s best-known and largest firms. He was a director of the firm when it became the first listed architecture firm in Australia, and remained there until he retired in 1993. None of this, he said, would have been possible without Jenny.

They did not have children, which only allowed more time to devote themselves to their families and to their pet loves: Wesley and SUHC.  Regardless of where he was in the world, Bruce would scour the papers and later the websites for weekly updates on SUHC’s games. They frequently came to Sydney simply to sit quietly on the hill and watch the men and women in Blue and Gold and lend their continued support. Captains and Presidents inevitably recognised him, and he was frequently asked to talk with the players before and after games. A player once likened it to having Rod Laver drop in on the suburban tennis club for a pre-match chat.

A careful observer at the 22nd April Field Opening would have noticed that Bruce needed to lean on our Club Treasurer to make it up the small grass slopes. He was frustrated by that, and checked with his doctor when he was back in Canberra. Within a few weeks of watching his cherished field being christened he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, a debilitating and incurable condition. MND’s progress can vary, and with Bruce it progressed even faster than his medical professionals’ worst fears.  Within weeks he was housebound, increasingly reliant on Jenny and others for absolutely everything. Although our attention was on Bruce, he had no interest in complaining and was always concerned for Jenny, who for years had stoically – and equally uncomplainingly - endured her own poor health.

Bruce and Jenny died together on 19 July 2017.  They are survived by Bruce’s older brother, two sisters and by Jenny’s nephew as well as by Buildings of Stone which will carry his name for centuries.

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