Life of a Brave: Alumni Spotlight with Veteran Bruce Horvat
by Eric Torres, Editor-in-Chief
From St. John Bosco High School to the United States Air Force to the Middle East, nobody knows more than alumnus Bruce Horvat, ‘59, about what it means to be a Brave.
Mr. Horvat was born just prior to World War II in Ohio. Being the oldest child in a lower to middle-class family with four siblings, his family moved out to California due to the better opportunities that the war industry presented. Although his family settled down in Long Beach, Mr. Horvat did not go to school there. Like many students find today, public school just wasn’t the right fit, which is why he ended up at St. John Bosco.
“Public school was extremely easy for me, and so I would get into trouble. For example, I would create my own hall passes,” said Mr. Horvat.
The St. John Bosco campus that Mr. Horvat attended is drastically different from what is known to the Braves’ students today. At that time, the only resemblance to today’s campus was the football field and the pool.
At St. John Bosco, Mr. Horvat found people who were just like him. He fit in well to the Bosco community, as he played football, involved himself with the library and was even a member of the student newspaper. This allowed Mr. Horvat to take a lot away from his experience at St. John Bosco.
“When I left, I didn’t realize how much I took away from Bosco. I was taking away getting over the fear of making mistakes, which took me some time to get over. Also, I had problems getting along with people originally, but at Bosco, everybody was my peer, and I didn’t have any problems,” said Mr. Horvat.
Following high school, Mr. Horvat did not go straight into the military. Rather, he wanted to get a degree in retail sales. However, Mr. Horvat found that the courses did not interest him and the college route was not for him.
Following his dissatisfaction with college, Mr. Horvat enlisted in the military. With the knowledge that a draft was looming, Mr. Horvat decided that he wanted a larger say in his military involvement, so as to avoid being drafted into ground troops in the Army.
Mr. Horvat finally found what he was looking for in the United States Air Force. The regimentation and focus demanded in the military is what Mr. Horvat needed.
Although he went through the same required basic training as everyone else, due to his high test scores, he served in the IT department and worked with the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE), a project that was a turning point in the use of computers and IT for warfare and defense. He also obtained the opportunity to study at the IBM School in Kingston, New York.
In his first assignment, Mr. Horvat worked in the Chicago Air Defense Sector, and he was stationed at Truax Field, on the edge of Madison, Wisconsin. Working with Air Defense Command, the primary purpose was the protection of Chicago and the surrounding areas. Within the military’s IT department, this meant tracking on some days over 350 aircraft at a time.
Mr. Horvat’s service as a U.S. Air Force SAGE Digital Computer Repairman allowed him to work on many different projects. Of chief interest was his work repairing what is considered the first digital computer ever created, which was manufactured by IBM for the military.
From Wisconsin, Mr. Horvat moved on to become an advisor for the Air Force’s SAGE department in Portland, Oregon. This was a similar working environment, this time with the Air Defense Command in Oregon. However, another twist of fate in Mr. Horvat’s life came as the Air Force closed down the SAGE project in 1968, causing him to leave the military for the rest of his life.
“I am grateful for my time with the military. It made me a better person, and I came out with something positive. I recommend the military to all young men, because you learn to become self-sufficient,” said Mr. Horvat.
The next chapter in Mr. Horvat’s life came in Pocatello, Idaho, as he worked in the computer center at Idaho State University as a Senior Program Developer. Due to his strong military background and education, Mr. Horvat found that although his work kept him busy, it was quite easy.
As a result of his fluency in multiple computer programs, he was given “special projects.” He later served as Acting Computer Department Director at Idaho State University.
Following his time at Idaho State University, Mr. Horvat transitioned to being a Computer Manager for a State Auditor’s Office in Boise, Idaho. However, this would only last for a short while.
At this point, Mr. Horvat made a pivotal decision, one that began his life in work abroad. After discovering that Lockheed Martin, an aircraft industry projects company in California, was working on a project in Iran, Mr. Horvat became a Systems Designer. At the time, Lockheed Martin was working on a maintenance facility for jumbo jets.
Although his home base was located just outside of Ontario, California, Mr. Horvat spent a lot of time in Iran, foreshadowing future work in the Middle East, giving presentations. In what seemed to be destiny, Mr. Horvat also met his wife, Guity, in Iran.
“When I went to Iran, it was lovely. The people were very nice; I tried to follow the customs as much as I could. I tried to learn as much as possible about their customs,” said Mr. Horvat.
However, Mr. Horvat’s time in Iran was short lived, as Lockheed Martin’s project was canceled in Iran due to the change in regimes, with Ayatollah Khomeini establishing an anti-Western Islamic republic in the country.
The change in Iran’s government forced yet another transition of jobs for Mr. Horvat. This time, for a short period, he worked as Computer Manager for a film development company.
After receiving a job offer in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Horvat, who now had a family to take care of, came to the decision to move the family out to Saudi Arabia. He now had a son, Christopher, and a daughter, Dena.
Mr. Horvat cited valuable lessons he learned from Bosco that aided him during fatherhood.
“I learned to be honest with my kids, especially my son, and to always try to be understanding, but firm,” said Mr. Horvat.
Prior to the move abroad, Mr. Horvat worked with the local soccer association due to his son’s interest in playing soccer. However, with the move to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Horvat’s children went to an American school in Saudi Arabia.
In Saudi Arabia, Mr. Horvat again observed the customs and culture of the people, even drawing some insight into the Islamic world.
“People, deep down inside, are mostly the same. Their customs may vary, but a lot of people have the same beliefs that we do. The religion of Islam worships the same God that Catholics and Christians do,” said Mr. Horvat.
In Saudi Arabia, where he spent about the next 30 years of his life, Mr. Horvat again transitioned between a few jobs. He first worked as a Database Manager for a Saudi customs agency. His first job was in the port city of Jeddah, as well as the capital city Riyadh, where he helped collect taxes on imports and made sure no undesired people entered the country.
Mr. Horvat then went on to work at a Saudi bank, which was the last place that he worked. There, he served as a Software Business Analyst and Developer. Basically, he wrote programs to help the new machines to be as efficient as possible. At the same Saudi bank, he became the Project Manager. In this job, he had to convince management of the importance of security, which at the time was a relatively new idea.
Finally, Mr. Horvat worked as the Head of Information Security for the Saudi bank up until his eventual retirement in 2011. Since then, he has gotten back into some old hobbies that he had as a child, such as building model airplanes, trains and boats.
But Mr. Horvat most enjoys traveling with his wife. They have a summer home on the Mediterranean coast in Turkey and have been lucky to travel all over the world.
“Be polite and respectful, do not compare everything to the U.S. because it is not respectful. Try and speak the local language if you can, most people will be happy you tried, so do your best,” said Mr. Horvat.
Throughout his life, Mr. Horvat held many different memberships and was a part of many associations. Chief among those was the Certified Information Systems Security Professionals, which was the toughest one to obtain. In order to become a member, Mr. Horvat had to demonstrate a wide knowledge of the potential threats to a computer’s integrity.
Nowadays, Mr. Horvat resides in Arizona with his wife, and is actually writing about his experiences in the United States Air Force. Through his lessons, experiences and personality Mr. Horvat demonstrates the gold standard for all Bosco Braves.