By Mike D’Abate
Bruce Ewart and the Legacy of a Well-Trodden Trail
There is an age-old sentiment that a person’s legacy will be defined neither by the abundance of their bank account or the lavish nature of their home. The fleeting feeling of a superficial moment of fame will soon fade, as will beauty that is merely skin-deep. Rather, the true heart takes solace in the fact that its legacy will be defined by the difference it makes in the life of others. For many teachers and youth coaches, the indelible impression they leave on children is a more-than-sufficient legacy. For Vincent J. Gallagher Middle School boys and girls cross country and track coach Bruce Ewart, no truer words have ever been spoken.
For over 48 years, Ewart has coached cross country and track in Smithfield. On the athletic field, his resume is second to none. He has coached more than 800 student athletes to national competitions in track and cross country. He has been at the helm of more than 60 state championships, won by the boys and girls cross country and track teams. His record speaks for itself. As a result, he has earned a well-deserved, legendary reputation.
However, Ewart will be the first to admit that his duty to prepare his athletes for lifelong success is his most cherished source of pride. Whether it be in the classrooms of Smithfield High School, or the athletic fields of Gallagher Middle School, Ewart has been an instrumental force behind the success of so many of Smithfield’s youth. His emits a style that has been praised as being both fair and “old school.” It is no secret that Ewart will ‘tell it like it is.’ If you are performing at a sub-par level, he will not shy from pointing out that fact. Conversely, his compliments should be taken as the highest level of praise. After all, they are truly given when truly earned.
As a result, Ewart’s student-athletes respond to him in a profound and unique way. Countless numbers of his pupils have gone on to great success at both the high school and collegiate levels. In so many instances, they describe him with a reverent respect that makes him such a beloved figure in Smithfield, as well as the State of Rhode Island. However, as he approaches the twilight of his amazing career, Ewart continues to deflect the praise he so richly deserves. Instead, he remains humble; choosing to define his career based on the competency of those he has coached.
Having begun his coaching career in the early 1970s, Ewart has coached more than 4000 young athletes over the years. At that time, Gallagher was known as Smithfield Junior High School. Soon after his arrival, he became instrumental in forming the first middle school cross country program in Rhode Island. Within a year of the program’s inception, he initiated steps that would lead to a formal track program for middle-schoolers. In 1980, Ewart founded the Smithfield Striders Running Club, which is a team of elite area runners from northern Rhode Island. The program is now run by Joe Bennett and Jeff Kurbec, both of whom currently coach at Smithfield High School. Each list Ewart among the most influential people in each of their lives.
In addition to winning numerous team awards, Ewart is no stranger to individual honors. In 2013 the walking trails at Deerfield Park (currently the site for Smithfield’s high school and middle school cross country tracks) were named in his honor as the “R. Bruce Ewart Cross Country and Walking Trails.” On September 8, 2018, Ewart was inducted into the Smithfield High School (SHS) Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement. He shared this honor with fellow Sentinels’ legends such as businessman John Fogarty, SHS teacher, coach and administrator James Dunn, and former Senator (and The Smithfield Times publisher) John J. Tassoni, Jr. among others. Not one for individual accolades, however, he continues to confirm that greatest honor he can receive is when his pupils perpetually remain hard-working, respectful, disciplined.
With retirement approaching on the autumn 2019 horizon, Ewart remains intently dedicated to the Gallagher middle school track and cross-country programs. Despite the great responsibility that comes with being a coach, Ewart is confident that his values and commitment have served him well throughout his impressive career. He has always maintained an enthusiastic dedication to the highest level of student-athlete development. As such, he remains steadfast in his desire to ensure that each of his players is able to excel both in the classroom and on the athletic field. Whether it be athletically, academically or socially, Bruce Ewart takes his greatest pride in making sure that those he has coached and taught are able to enjoy ongoing success in all aspects of their life. In that fact, his legacy remains secure. As he sets out to embark on life’s newest trail, he may take great pride in the uniquely successful journey he has taken down his lifelong, well-trodden path.