Bruner arrived at Tennessee Tech in 1935, when the university was still known as Tennessee Polytechnic Institute. He served as chair of the social science department beginning in 1935, then as dean of faculty from 1961-63, and retired in 1964. He also supervised the first self-study for accreditation by the Southern Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges.
Horace Raper, history professor at Tennessee Tech from 1956 to 1985, recalls Bruner: "He was considered an outstanding teacher of English history. He was well liked by many -- a quiet, unassuming individual. However, he may be better known in the community for his flowers, especially his irises."
Christine Jones of Tennessee Tech's library, a friend and neighbor of Bruner's, also recalls his gardening skills. "He grew mums for the local florist," she said. "They were works of art!
"He was very intelligent," she continued. "People really liked his courses -- he was so interesting. He had impeccable grammar and his delivery was something to hear."
"He was a good man," said C.P. Snelgrove, Tennessee Tech's librarian from 1936 until 1974. "He influenced lots of people in addition to his students. I count myself lucky to have known him all these years."
"Dr. Bruner was always kind, understanding, friendly, courteous -- a very scholarly man," said Mattie Sue Cooper, associate librarian at Tennessee Tech from 1945 to 1979. Cooper earned a bachelor's degree in history and English from Tennessee Tech in 1938, and so studied with Bruner from his first days at the university. "He was devoted not only to his profession but to his church, he was an outstanding Rotarian -- he was an all-around genteel person."
Bruner authored several textbooks, including A History of the U.S. by The Unit Plan in 1924, A History of the U.S. for High School in 1942 and Fundamentals of Citizenship in 1952. In 1964, Bruner was included in Who's Who in America. During his career, he also served as a high school teacher, principal and city school superintendent for schools in Tennessee and Georgia. In 1971, Tennessee Tech named Bruner Hall, which now houses the physics and math departments, in his honor.
A native of Decherd, Tenn., Bruner attended elementary and high school in Franklin County. He holds degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and a doctorate from George Peabody College, now the education arm of Vanderbilt University.
Bruner served in the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army during World War I and was a life member of the American Legion. He married Ethel Overall in December 1917 in Murfreesboro, Tenn.; she died in 1953.
He demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the First Presbyterian Church, teaching Sunday School at the Cookeville church for 58 years and continuing as a member of the congregation after moving to Hays in 1983. Likewise, he was District Governor of the Cookeville Rotary Club and continued as a member of the Hays Rotary Club.
Bruner is survived by one daughter -- Claire Dreiling of Hays, two grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren.
Bruner died on Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Hays Medical Center. His body was cremated, and services took place at the First Presbyterian Church in Hays on Thursday, Dec. 12. His remains will be inurned in Cookeville, Tenn.