18 Jun 2019

Vale Bruce Hovey

We mourn the passing of one of our project management community leaders, a man whose life cannot be measured merely through his achievements, but through his significant impact on the way we approach our project work today.  Patrick (known as Bruce) Hovey, founder in 1976 of the Project Managers Forum, then its State and National President and Life Fellow of the Australian Institute of Project Management died on 1 June.  He was 94.

Bruce was born on the 25th of March 1925 in Hamilton, New Zealand, and gained a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from the University of New Zealand in 1951.  He then went on to complete a Diploma in Management Studies at the British Institute of Management in 1959, and a Master of Project Management at the University of New South Wales in 1989.

Bruce’s professional career started in 1948 when he worked (while studying) in the Hydro-Electric Department in Christchurch, Wellington and Invercargill in New Zealand until 1952.  He then moved to the UK and worked from 1953 to 1956 with Donkin & Kennedy Consultants in Westminster and then on electrical design in Scotland.  A move across to Peace River, British Columbia, in Canada as the Design Engineer for BTH Export followed from 1957 to 1962.  Bruce then became a management consultant for Production Ltd back in the UK from 1963 to 1966 and subsequently became an independent management consultant until 1970 before bringing his skills to Australia where he joined the Commonwealth Department of Construction as a Design Engineer, Construction Planner and CPM Analyst from 1971 to 1990.

During his career Bruce played an active role in several professional associations: New Zealand Institution of Engineers; British Institute of Management; Australian Institute of Management; Institution of Electrical Engineers; Institution of Mechanical Engineers; and most notably, with the Australian Institute of Project Management where he was made a Life Fellow in 1996 in recognition of his “exceptional and conspicuous service to the Institute and the project management profession”.

The support of Bruce’s family was essential throughout his career and the many relocations, right up to his last move to live in the rugged countryside of Cooma in NSW.  Bruce was the dearly loved father of Roger and Claire (dec), father-in-law of Elizabeth, grandpa of Graham and Jenevieve and great grandpa of Miah and Deklan.

Bruce had a significant impact on project management in Australia as Founding Chair of the Project Managers Forum (PMF) from 1976 to 1977, a pre-cursor to the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), then as National President from 1977 to 1978, and the first NSW Chapter President in 1978.

He wrote a seminal paper in 2010 on the “History of the Project Managers Forum, leading to the formation of the Australian Institute of Project Management” which details the challenges and highlights of creating a truly Australian representative professional association with symbiotic international linkages.  In this paper Bruce reflects on setting up this Australian initiative, the organisation of such a venture, the reactions from established institutions and the involvement of academia and overseas visitors.  He includes factual notes on membership (16 from the first meeting on 7 September 1976, where they agreed to seven recommendations including a $10 annual membership fee!); administration; finances; publications and qualifications.  There is a section on “The Ladies”, “Light Relief” and a reflection titled “Apologia”.

Bruce’s idea for the PMF evolved from a discussion with a colleague, Brian Doyle, on how to “become a focal point for organisations interested in advancing project management; serve those working in the field of project management; and provide stimulus for project managers to develop their skills” (Hovey, 2010, p.4).
At the time of the formation of the PMF, Bruce notes that “the pioneers of Australian project management embarked upon their self-imposed task” (Hovey, 2010, p.5) when hard-wired phones sat on desks and faxes took half an hour to send, one page at a time! He stated that “those present [at the first meeting] shared a vision of the potential of project management and its significance in a world that was embarking on a period of rapid change. That vision did not once falter in the years of hard work that followed” (Hovey, 2010, p.7).  And hard work it was, with the early executive meetings held in the dining room of the Sydney Central Station, starting well before the breakfast commuter rush!

Bruce provided guidance to many on his journey, and would often give sage advice on key matters that he believed would set the scene for future improvements.  During the changeover of various AIPM committee and chapter roles Bruce would outline a plan for various initiatives by sharing deep insights on how to be successful, drawn from his local, national and international experiences.  He would then make sure he was available to support the process, “Please feel free to phone, Email or whatever for further information”, and continue to ensure appropriate outcomes were delivered, especially when facts were not clear or correct.

In Bruce’s particular style, he commented on the career of a project manager having the virtue of “the opportunity to learn and grow without ever reaching a barrier.  The range of skills needed is so great that one can go on learning without pause for a lifetime….  However it is widely accepted that most of us have the capability to complete just so many projects so there is need to be prepared to bail out at a time and place which suits you” (Hovey, 2010, p.25).

Bruce died after a short illness on 1st June in Cooma where he had been living independently for some years.  Bruce will be long remembered for his grit and determination; his dry sense of humour; but above all for his deep passion for persistently pursuing excellence in all he did, and expecting the same in all those he guided along the way.
Dr Chivonne Algeo LFAIPM FALARA MPMI – an admirer of Bruce’s over several decades.