A great promoter of youth sports and art, Bruce Hopping was born in 1921 in Vietnam. He grew up in Asia and the islands of the South Pacific, where his parents had business interests. When he was ready for high school, his family relocated to the United States, and then, like the rest of his graduating class in high school, he volunteered for the Army at the outbreak of World War II. He became a pilot and while searching for a missing plane, he was forced to ditch his plane into the Pacific. Battling storms, waves, sharks, sunburn and salt sores in a leaky raft, he survived on seagulls that roosted there and washed ashore in the Philippines two weeks later. It was a prime example of Hopping’s perseverance, tenacity and desire to live.
After the war, and after college, he read a study by the Society of University Physical Education Directors that determined swimming, above all the sports and exercises taught in college, to be the most useful and beneficial of all and that it should be a required subject taught in every school. This report convinced him to get involved in swimming as a volunteer with the Amateur Athletic Union. Shortly after serving a second stint in the military during the Korean War, his parents were killed in an accident, leaving him heir to the family fortune. He plowed his money into an endowment to promote swimming.
In 1953, Yale’s famed coach, Bob Kiphuth introduced Hopping to Joe Brown, a sculptor in residence at Princeton University, with the idea of creating an award to be given by the AAU. The result was a sculpture of the Greek god Poseidon calming the seas with outstretched arms for two swimmers. The first recipient of this award was FINA in 1954. It was to be the first of many specially commissioned sculpted awards to follow, many of which are housed in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
In 1966, Hopping was introduced to Professor Ted Brunner, Chairman of the Classics Department at the newly-formed University of California at Irvine. Brunner introduced Hopping to the ancient Greek ideal of education of youth, which was perfection of Kalos Kagathos, the combination of physical distinction and nobility of mind and he started evangelizing for aqua-athletics.
Hopping placed great social value upon bodily development of youth and imprinting boys and girls alike with the importance of regarding the human body as the most beautiful of creations. He believes aquatic sports and art can help inspire young people to not only gain exemplary self esteem and good citizenship, but also by extension, to love and respect other persons and resources, including man’s ecological treasurers, like our land, sea and air.
Since 1953, Bruce Hopping and the Kalos Kagathos Foundation have given much to the world of aquatics through the creation of art, awards and the hundreds of youth sports exchanges he has organized and administered for the benefit of thousands of youth worldwide. At the age of 93, his is still a lighthouse of ideas and every day he never fails to walk down to the beach and feed the seagulls in repayment for saving his live so many years ago.