University of Arizona

Mary Jeffries Bruce and the Sunday Evening Forum collection

Mary Jeffries Bruce and the Sunday Evening Forum collection

Mary Jeffries Bruce attended Peabody College in Nashville where she majored in Art and then Voice. Ms. Bruce taught school in Paris, Tennessee. She moved to Tucson in 1930. In 1942 she was appointed program chairman for a small Young Adult Discussion Group which became The Sunday Night Forum and one of the nation’s largest nonprofit community forums under her leadership. At first the guest speakers were famous people wintering in Tucson or local notables, especially members of the University of Arizona faculty Auditorium. By 1945 the guest speakers included political leaders and some world renowned persons. Besides famous speakers, the forum also presented travel films, nationally known dance groups, theatrical groups, and musical groups. After 42 years as a Tucson institution the Sunday Evening Forum gave its final performance on April 8, 1984. The board of the Catalina United Methodist Church decided to discontinue the Forum at the end of 1983/84 season. The closure was attributed to high speaker fees, lack of interest by the public, and finally the announcement by the University of Arizona that the Main Auditorium would not be available for the next season of the forum while it underwent renovation.

In 1952 Mary Jefferies Bruce was named Tucson’s 1st "Woman of the Year" for her work as director of the Sunday Night Forum. In 1969 she received the "Program Chairman of the Year" award, presented by the International Platform Association. Ms. Bruce was responsible for bringing many of the most prominent political and cultural figures of the time to Tucson. Ms. Bruce directed the Sunday Night Forum for 34 years before retiring in 1976. In her lifetime, Mary Jeffries Bruce was very active in the National Association for Mental Health and was voted a regional vice president serving on the National Executive Committee in 1954. She was also a past president of the Tucson’s Boys Choir ,1949-1950, and arranged for the Chorus to sing at the New York Town Hall. Ms. Bruce was also the volunteer Executive Secretary for The Pima County Mental Health Association. She passed away on February 7, 1993 at the age of 89.

The collection consists of personal scrapbooks created by Mary Jeffries Bruce who was the director of the Sunday Evening Forum in Tucson, Arizona from 1942-1976. The 21 scrapbooks contain photographs, correspondence and newspaper articles chronicling the national and international prominent people who spoke at the Forum. They also contain personal correspondence and information regarding Ms. Bruce’s longtime work with the National Association for Mental Health, and a bound collection of letters written by previous guests of the Forum given to Ms. Bruce upon her retirement.