Bruce Gawtry received the 2019 KC ISSS Award of Excellence.
Gawtry began working at the University of Minnesota and Macalester College in 2007, shortly after retiring from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). At the University of Minnesota, he worked in International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), and at Macalester served as International Student Programs (ISP) Immigration Specialist. Bruce was supervisor at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for CBP and INS for many years. Three times Bruce wrote drafts for F-1 student visa regulations for the Federal Register. At the 2013 NAFSA Annual Conference in St. Louis, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Director Louis Farrell started his speech, then looked down to the audience, saw Bruce, and remarked, "The Godfather of student visas is in the house - Bruce Gawtry."
In a profession that prides itself on building bridges across cultural divides, Bruce Gawtry walked the walk as few others could. Bruce was one of the most approachable Customs and Border Patrol Supervisors. After 26 years as an immigration inspector, he was the only inspector invited to be part of the CIPRIS and SEVIS design team from 1995 to 1998. His role as a school duty officer eventually became a model of the SEVP Field Representative Unit. It was so crucial to have “one of us” on that team, and his tireless championing the importance, and the humanity, of international students coming to the U.S. Countless students and scholars have gotten out of perilous and frightening situations thanks to Bruce’s intervention. And countless more have benefited from federal policy and procedures informed and created though his persistence and integrity. For nearly 40 years, Bruce Gawtry helped many people realize their American dream. Bruce mentored and worked with people who occupy some of the highest leadership positions spread throughout DHS. His work with international students and universities was unparalleled. While there is a loss of expertise that cannot be replaced with Bruce’s passing, many of his good qualities will be carried forward by those he mentored. The authentic and informed advocacy work that Bruce did with DHS on behalf of international students, scholars, and US institutions was hard-won. Bruce was the reason the professional group Minnesota International Educators (MIE) was initiated and continues to this day. When he spoke at MIE, you could see the 50 members taking notes from every word he stated. Bruce shared his cell phone number with any institutions’ members, and helped resolve issues regionally and developed critical relationships and resources nationally. He was an asset to our field in every way and inspired a great deal of mutual respect among those who often feel at cross-purposes.
Bruce was beloved nationally for his knowledge and care. NAFSA honored him twice with lifetime achievement awards; once for his work with the INS and once as an international student adviser. Bruce passed away in March, 2019. He was 76.