Graduating in Degrees
Edited by WJO
14344 Bruce Poulin entered Le Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean (CMR) in 1979 when he was all of 16 years of age.
Bruce graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston in 1992 at the age of 29.
Unofficially (who are we kidding, its official!), Bruce’s 13-year interval may be the record for length of time to complete a degree from the Canadian military colleges. (I say ‘may’ because we are aware of at lest two others who received their RMC Degree under similar circumstances. This article will only focus on Bruce.)
But how did a process that takes most people 4 or 5 years to complete turn into 13? Did Bruce take one class a year? Did he miss curfew and received double-secret probation? Did he disappear into an Alberta-based commune or, as some have rumoured, become a Sherpa?
No, nothing like that, but it’s a winding series of events just the same.
Graduating high school at 16, Bruce had his sights set on becoming the fourth generation in his family to join the military. “I wasn’t sure if I’d be accepted at a Canadian military college, but my modest upbringing made going to university an uncertain next step as well,” Bruce recalls.
Fate was kind to Bruce as he was accepted into the preparatory year at RMC St. Jean in 1979. He only stayed a year before leaving to join the Reserve Force and later becoming a Regular Force Officer in the Royal Canadian Artillery. “After a while it became too much for me to handle. I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose.” Time to move on.
In 1988, Bruce was posted to RMC as a squadron commander. While there, he took courses at RMC and Queens University and was later granted the opportunity to complete a two-year honours program at RMC.
Turns out he was our next door neighbour in the college PMQs at Rideout Row!
With a full life of military experiences behind him, graduation day finally arrived in 1992 and he received First Class honours in history and political science. But more military milestones were to come. He was awarded a prestigious scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advance International Studies and he is the only Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) active duty officer to have completed a master’s program at that institution.
In all, Bruce served 22 years in the CAF as a trooper; a Reserve Entry Scheme Officer in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps; an Artillery Regular Force Officer; and later as a Public Affairs Officer. “The highlight of my career came when I worked as a speechwriter for some outstanding general officers such as 7860 Romeo Dallaire and 12320 Walter Natynczyk. Their respective leadership skills made a huge impression on my life.”
Bruce went on to serve as the manager of communications as well as a Service Officer at The Royal Canadian Legion where he represented veterans’ disabilities cases in front of Veterans Affairs Canada and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. He now works for Lockheed Martin Canada where he puts his military background to use every day. He is also the CEO for a marketing firm called Arcs of Fire, dedicated to raise funds through investment to help veteran organizations.
“I have worked for government, Canada’s largest not-for-profit veterans’ organization in and the world’s largest defence industry contractor,” says Bruce. “But it was in military college that I enjoyed the most, learned the most and met people like 16911 BGen Virginia Tattersall, Canadian triathlete medalist 17324 Sharon Donnelly, and fellow Lockheed Martin Canada employees 14338 Stephen Peters, and 18344 Andrew Hawrylak with whom I have remained in contact for more than 30 years.”
The former artillery officer recognized for his strong principles and conviction added, “It may have taken me a little longer than most to get that piece of parchment, but it was well worth the time.”