Akron native Bruce Allyn Ivory, 69, an educator, coach, mentor and administrator for more than 30 years died July 10, 2022, in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he resided the past year. A graduate of Garfield High School class of 1970. Bruce’s accomplishments in academics and football earned him full scholarships to the prestigious Northwestern University in Evansville, Illinois, where he majored in English. Upon graduation he returned to his native home of Akron to teach and coach at his alma mater, Garfield High School and Buchtel High School from 1975-1981. He met and married, Beverly Jackson and together they raised their two children, Ashley Ivory and Marcus Smith.
His wisdom was a virtue. Relatives described him as intelligent, witty, comical and someone who didn’t let anything get in the way of living, not even health issues. He accepted life’s challenges. He never complained about any of his ailments, his motto was always – “keep it moving.” Family members said he was very family oriented, always putting others ahead of his own needs. He was loved by colleagues and student athletes, who affectionately nicknamed him Coach Bruce, Big Bruce, Brucey and Brusky.
He was a sports enthusiast, loved a good movie and loved to travel and although plans for a family vacation to Hawaii were disrupted due to COVID it was back on his agenda as well as a trip to France, after a recent invitation to visit a former college classmate who now resides in Paris. As a father, brother, uncle, cousin and godfather, he was the family member you called if you needed advice. He was a peacemaker but could also play the devil’s advocate to get his points across.
“My dad changed lives for his family, friends and colleagues. He believed getting a college education was an experience everyone should have especially through the lens of playing sports. He said sports-built character, which would help you as you enter life after athletics. He was the reason I played sports,” said his daughter, Ashley Ivory. “He was always there for me, cheering me on. He always believed in me and wanted the best for me. He was an extraordinary man, a true girls’ dad.”
He cared about people.
“He always took care of his family, that was his No. 1 priority,” said his son, Marcus Smith of Cincinnati. “He made friends so easily. He was easy to talk to, open minded and nonjudgmental. He was a great problem-solver, he’d say we’ll work it out together and find some type of solution, ‘things have a way of working themselves out,’ that’s the father/son friendship I will miss. I was fortunate to have two fathers.”
His cousin, Marilyn Miller Paulk, said he had a good heart even though it was physically weak. “He was just a likable guy. He always made an impression on people. If you met him, you remembered him. We have always been there for each other through life’s journey, sharing much laughter and some tears,” she said. “He was more my brother than my first cousin. He was my confidante, always truthful, brutally honest at times. I admired his wisdom, gentleness, patience and fortitude. He was always positive. He was a doer.”
Bruce retired five years ago but it didn’t stop him from wanting to stay busy, so he took on a part time job grading standardized tests in Cincinnati. He enjoyed the work. “He had the option of working from home or working on site. He chose to go in person,” his son said. “It gave him an opportunity to get out of the house, interact with other retired teachers and establish a routine.”
He had officially retired from Seton Hill University, in Greensburg, Pa., as the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Internal Affairs, where he worked for 10 years. He also worked at the University of Cincinnati in the athletics department for 21 years. He was the Associate Athletic Director for Academics and prior to that was the assistant head football coach for the university. He was also an assistant football coach at Cal State Fullerton in California and Howard University in Washington D.C.
His daughter said being on the same campus with her dad at Seton Hill was one of her best experiences, because she got to see how involved he was with each and every sports team and delivering his message that “with hard work and a goal you could do anything.”
Lou West, who worked with him at the University of Cincinnati remained close friends. They enjoyed several family vacations together. West celebrated his retirement from Michigan’s Wayne State College the July 4th weekend in Warren, Ohio, and Bruce was there. “It was so good to see my friend. He always had so much inner strength,” West said. “Even when I called him after his leg amputation, he was upbeat, bubbly, you wouldn’t know anything was wrong. He was thankful for life. He was already moving on.” Nothing got in the way of Bruce getting around. He still drove, he customized his car so he could control the pedals from the steering wheel. He also used Uber if he needed it.
One of his college friends, Johnny Cooks of Georgia, who played football with him at Northwestern, said he tried to convince him to move to Georgia. He lived there for a year with his daughter and loved the climate. “We looked at several places and I thought I had him hooked, but he said he was going to move back to Cincinnati, that’s where his doctors were. I told him he needed to buy a fancy car and let me be his driver to travel all over.” High school friend, Reggie Parnell, of Akron described Bruce as very intelligent with a good sense of humor. “He was a character. He was so smart. He got straight A’s. He taught me how to have fun in school and still get good grades. He took over the English class one day and taught the class how to diagram a paragraph. He explained it better than the teacher.” Parnell said when they played football together the coach had to order Bruce a special helmet because they didn’t have one to fit his head. The helmet was white. “They were going to paint it, but Bruce wanted it to stay white. That was really smart because he stood out, recruiters always asked who’s the lineman in the white helmet. And the “judge” was printed on his helmet, so he earned a reputation, players would say ‘here come the judge’.”
His students at Garfield affectionally called him Mr. Kotter, a popular television show at the time, because like the TV show, Kotter, the main character, also went back to teach at his alma mater. “He was helpful in helping us get to the championship games in 1976 and 1977, ” said former Buchtel coach Mike Buckner. “He was also instrumental in helping Garfield win the city series title in 1968, when he played for Garfield.”
Bruce played in three championship games, then called Turkey Bowl games at the Rubber Bowl, when he played for Garfield in 1967, 1968 and 1969. They tied in 1967, won in 1968 and lost to Kenmore in 1969. He was a sports fan, especially football and basketball. He kept up with current events, documentaries and Netflix movies and could always make recommendations. He would often fall asleep watching ESPN and MSNBC and awakened to ESPN or MSNBC so he never missed the Sports Center highlights or the news of the day.
Family and friends said he lived life the way he wanted to live it – staying active. He was a good person and will always have a special place in their hearts.
Bruce Ivory was preceded in death by his mother, Evelyn Ivory; father, Arthur Ivory and brother, A. Robert Ivory III.
He is survived by his daughter, Ashley Ivory, of Atlanta, Ga; son, Marcus Smith of Cincinnati, Oh and sister, Marilyn Miller (Ralph) Paulk; aunts, Betty Strawbridge of Los Angeles, California, Mary Gould of Akron and Judith Williams of Akron. The Jackson family; Beverly Ivory, Jackie Jackson, Janice Jackson and Hakim Hashim; nieces, Mia Jackson, Aaliyah Hashim, Terra Roane and Amber Roane (goddaughter); nephews, Tony Elton, Myles Nared, Dion Jackson, Shawndale Jackson and Barack Hashim, and special cousins, Carol Miller, Todd Williams, Edmond Ivory.
(His celebration of life will be held Friday, June 22, at Sommerville Funeral Home, 1695 Diagonal Road. Visitation at 10 a.m. followed by funeral services at 11 a.m. Rev Dr. Curtis T. Walker Sr. officiating).