Going the distance

Bruce Kidd to be honored at Dal's convocation

- October 17, 2007


Special event:

WHAT: Panelists Bruce Kidd (University of Toronto), Phyllis Berck (City of Toronto) and Susan Tirone (Dalhousie University) discuss “Physical Activity, Health Promotion and Changing Social Norms.”
WHEN: Friday, Oct. 19, 3:30 to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Scotiabank Auditorium, Marion McCain Bldg

On the eve of his 20th birthday, Bruce Kidd ran the race of his life: he clocked the fastest time for a 5,000-metre race in Los Angeles, Cal., beat the Olympic champ and set the Canadian junior men’s record.

That record of 13 minutes, 43.8 seconds has yet to be broken. And 45 years later, Dr. Bruce Kidd — now dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health at the University of Toronto — feels a little bit badly about it.

“On the one hand, it’s nice to know an old guy like me had a fast childhood,” says the 64-year-old university professor who cycled the Cabot Trail this summer. (He loves hills —“gravity goodies, I call ‘em.”) “But it doesn’t say much about the level of distance running in Canada. It shows Canada has stood still, if not fallen behind.”

That’s not to say Dr. Kidd hasn’t taken advantage of the record when he’s needed to: “I say to my students, ‘If you want an extension on that assignment, you’ll have to run 10,000 metres with me and ask me again during the last 1,000 metres,” he says with a laugh.  “It’s been really effective in getting students to hand their essays in on time.”

While the record has stayed fixed, Dr. Kidd has kept moving. He’s built a career promoting the benefits of physical fitness, as an educator, an Olympic athlete and a social scientist who’s written extensively about the history and political economy of Canadian and international sport. This Saturday, he’ll be awarded an honorary degree for his accomplishments at Dalhousie’s convocation ceremonies. On Friday, he’ll participate in a panel discussion, one of many events marking the 40th anniversary of Dalhousie’s School of Health and Human Performance.

A point of pride has been the work Dr. Kidd’s done to eradicate sexism and racism in sporting communities throughout the world. Through the 1980s until the fall of apartheid, Dr. Kidd was “the screamer” who pressed for a boycott against South Africa’s participation in world sporting events.

“I was the one who pushed the federal ministers to make the changes. I’d see Joe Clark in an airport and badger him about not answering my letters,” he recalls. “In the end, it was a very difficult campaign because it goes against the grain of reaching out through sports, but at the time South Africa was a country where the futures of people were based on pigmentation. I couldn’t abide by that.”
Dr. Kidd’s involvement in international sport starting in the 1960s has given him life-long joy and revealed that his world extends far beyond his hometown.

“When I was a kid growing up in the east-end of Toronto, there was one black family and one Jewish family. But now one of our big challenges is dealing with a rapidly changing population, where the pinkies like me will be the minority. The Olympics prepared me for a world of complexities and let me view diversity as an opportunity and an enrichment.”

Also see: The golden Kidd in Express News, University of Alberta


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