A familiar face in the Three Village area is receiving a special honor from his college alma mater.
On May 4, East Setauket’s D. Bruce Lockerbie will be inducted into the New York University Department of Athletics, Intramurals and Recreation Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a member of its men’s cross country and track and field teams, during a reception at NYU’s Kimmel Center. Lockerbie majored in English and religion at NYU and graduated in 1956.
“Bruce Lockerbie’s accomplishments as a member of the NYU cross country and track teams have stood the test of time and rank him among the greats to ever don the NYU violet,” said Christopher Bledsoe, NYU assistant vice president for student affairs and director of athletics. “We celebrate Dr. Lockerbie’s achievements and look forward to a special afternoon in May.”
Lockerbie, 83, said he was surprised and humbled when he heard about the induction, especially since the university counts numerous world record holders in track and field.
“I thought it was an April Fools joke in September,” he said, adding he had good teammates with him during his stint in track and field.
Among his college successes were his team being named the Penn Relays Distance Medley Relay and Spring Medley Relay champions and winning the bronze medal at an NCAA cross country event, both in 1955. He was also the Canadian Indoor Track and Field 1,000 yards champion in 1956 and missed qualifying for Canada’s Olympic team the same year due to illness on the day of the trials.
Lockerbie was born in Canada and moved to the U.S. as a junior in high school when his father accepted a position as pastor at Bay Ridge Baptist Church in Brooklyn. He soon found himself running for Fort Hamilton High School’s team.
“This is a key time in my life,” he said.
Lockerbie said he almost didn’t attend NYU after high school. The son of Depression-era parents who dropped out of school to work, the former runner said he had no college expectations and didn’t apply to any schools. It was his high school coach who gave him advice at a New York City championship race that changed his life.
“He said, ‘Run the race of your life kid, and maybe God has a surprise for you,’” Lockerbie said.
It was apparent that the surprise was in store, as an NYU coach discovered him, and he received a four-year scholarship.
“It absolutely changed and shaped my life,” he said.
Lockerbie said he doesn’t believe he would have attended college if it wasn’t for that fateful day. After graduation, he would go on to teach and coach at Wheaton College in Illinois and then at The Stony Brook School for 34 years. He was recruited by the headmaster at the time, Frank E. Gaebelein, who had the same coach as him at NYU.
Jane Taylor, former assistant head of The Stony Brook School, who has known Lockerbie since 1973, described the ex-track star as an Energizer bunny. Through the years, she said, he took on many administration roles at the school including chair of the English department, dean of faculty and being involved in various committees.
“He said, ‘Run the race of your life kid, and maybe God has a surprise for you.'”
— D. Bruce Lockerbie
As head of the international consulting team Paideia, Inc. since 1991, she said Lockerbie is well-respected for his educational consultations and workshops she described as thought-provoking.
Taylor added she also remembered him as the kind of coach who actively engaged and ran with his students, and he would carefully look at the running times he felt each student was capable of running.
“His athletes rose to the occasion,” she said.
As for running, it’s something Lockerbie had to give up after a heart attack in 1982, he said, when his doctor told him he would miss his son’s wedding that was scheduled a few days after but would be around for his grandchildren’s.
Despite the setback, Lockerbie said he kept his competitive edge and took up golfing, even winning a car in the past for getting a hole-in-one.
“I just had to replace it,” he said. “Chinese checkers wouldn’t have been as challenging.”
Lockerbie and his wife Lory, who have been married since 1956, have lived in the Three Village area for 62 years where they raised three children. In addition to his successes in track and field and cross country, Lockerbie is the author, co-author and editor of 40 books, and he and his wife are active parishioners in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven.
When it comes to the May 4 induction ceremony at NYU’s Kimmel Center, Lockerbie said he is looking forward to it, and he is still grateful for his time at the university.
“It’s a case of a university having expressed its faith in me, when I was utterly a nobody, and giving me the opportunity to affect other people’s lives all these years in the profession of education,” he said. “The appropriate sentiment is humbling, and I’m grateful.”