James Bonk

Last updated
James Bonk
BornFebruary 6, 1931
DiedMarch 15, 2013(2013-03-15) (aged 82)
Nationality American
Alma materB.S. Carroll College, Ph.D. Ohio State University
Known forDevotion to teaching of introductory college chemistry
AwardsDuke University Medal 2011
Scientific career
FieldsTeaching of chemistry at the university level
Institutions Duke University primarily
Website fds.duke.edu/db/aas/Chemistry/faculty/james.bonk

James Frederick Bonk (February 6, 1931 – March 15, 2013) was an American university professor noted for eschewing a research career in favor of teaching introductory chemistry courses for over 50 years, primarily at Duke University. [1] He did, however, also teach advanced and graduate courses, and wrote his own textbooks and laboratory manuals. His students fondly labeled his main chemistry class Bonkistry. [2] [3]

University Academic institution for further education

A university is an institution of higher education and research which awards academic degrees in various academic disciplines. Universities typically provide undergraduate education and postgraduate education.

Professor academic title at universities and other post-secondary education and research institutions in most countries

Professor is an academic rank at universities and other post-secondary education and research institutions in most countries. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences, a teacher of the highest rank.

Chemistry scientific discipline

Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with elements and compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other substances.


Education and career

Bonk obtained a B.S. in Chemistry in 1953 from Carroll College (Waukesha, Wisconsin). He obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1958 from Ohio State University.

A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years, or a person holding such a degree.

Carroll University university

Carroll University is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and located in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Established in 1846, Carroll was Wisconsin's first four-year institution of higher learning.

Waukesha, Wisconsin Place in Waukesha

Waukesha is a city in and the county seat of Waukesha County, Wisconsin, United States. It is part of the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Its population was 70,718 at the 2010 census. The city is adjacent to the Town of Waukesha.

While a graduate student at Ohio State University, he received a DuPont Lecturing Fellowship that enabled him to teach there and to coordinate the teaching of introductory chemistry classes at OSUs branch campuses. He also taught summers at Muskingum College.

In 1959 he joined the Department of Chemistry at Duke University as an assistant professor and rose to the rank of full professor for his teaching skills. [4]

Duke University Private university in Durham, North Carolina, United States

Duke University is a private research university in Durham, North Carolina. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco and electric power industrialist James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment and the institution changed its name to honor his deceased father, Washington Duke.

Bonk was known for his sense of humor. One oft-repeated story regarding him is that a group of students went out of town for a party and got back late, telling Bonk that they were delayed by a flat tire and thus missed an exam. Bonk reportedly told them they could take a makeup exam the next day. When they came for the makeup exam, the students were each put in a different room. The first question on the exam was reputedly a straightforward question worth 5 points. The story goes that the second question, on the next page, was worth 95 points and said "Which Tire?" [2] This version of events is listed on Snopes.com as an embellished and unproveable story possibly based on a real incident, and the Snopes entry includes a 1996 letter to Snopes from Bonk stating that the story had been embellished; [5] Bonk reiterated in 2001 that the story had been embellished, and added that he would never place that much emphasis on a trick question. [6]

Bonk was also known for his love of tennis, and he played the sport throughout his life. The Duke University tennis teams recognized his many years of service by officially naming Court Number 3 at Ambler Tennis Stadium as "Bonk Court" in 2011. [7] This interest in sports and fitness came in handy when a student tried to hit his face with a pie in 1975. Bonk frequently recounted the story of spryly leaping aside so that the pie got him in the shoulder, and then charging after the perpetrator, who ran out the classroom door and into the neighboring woods. [6] Bonk's fitness allowed him to keep pace with the much younger student as they ran around in the woods until, in Bonk's words, "the young man made a tactical error by jumping down into a stream." At that point he was no longer able to evade Bonk, who demanded his Duke University identification. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and garnered national attention. [6] [8] [9] [10] [11]

Pieing Act of throwing a pie at a person or people

A pieing or pie attack is the act of throwing a pie at a person. In pieing, the goal is usually to humiliate the victim while avoiding actual injury. For this reason the pie is traditionally of the cream variety without a top crust, and is rarely if ever a hot pie. In Britain, a pie in the context of throwing is traditionally referred to as a custard pie. An aluminium pie pan or paper plate filled with whipped cream can substitute for a real pie.

Personal life and death

Bonk was born February 6, 1931 in Menominee, Michigan, the son of Joseph Frank Bonk and Beatrice (Colburn) Bonk. He died March 15, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina. A memorial service was held at Duke Chapel on March 21, 2013. [12] Also on March 21, 2013, his ashes were interred in the Sarah P. Duke Memorial Gardens on the Duke campus.


Bonk received numerous awards:

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  1. News and Observer (2009-09-16). "Fifty years of chem at Duke". blogs.newsobserver.com. Archived from the original on 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  2. 1 2 Ashley Yeager (1931-02-06). "Duke Flags Lowered: Longtime Duke Chemistry Professor James Bonk Dies | Duke Today". Today.duke.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  3. Ferreri, Eric, Professor finds formula for satisfaction, Durham Sun, Oct 07, 2009 Archived 2013-04-12 at Archive.today accessed March 22, 2013
  4. "James Bonk obituary". The Herald-Sun. Archived from the original on 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  5. Snopes.com. "Tire Sum Excuse". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  6. 1 2 3 Greg Pessin (2001-04-24). "Bonk". The Chronicle . Retrieved 2013-04-15.Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  7. Duke Sports Information (2011-09-26). "Men's Tennis Hosts Alumni Weekend". www.goduke.edu. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  8. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/55335678/
  9. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/18848436/
  10. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/3338493/
  11. https://newspaperarchive.com/us/california/oakland/oakland-tribune/1975/05-18/page-352
  12. Duke University (2013-03-21). "Friends, Colleagues Remember Chemistry Professor James Bonk". today.duke.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-22.
  13. Duke University. "Duke University | Trinity College of Arts & Sciences : Teaching Awards Archive". Trinity.duke.edu. Archived from the original on 2013-03-10. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  14. Duke University. "Duke University | Trinity College of Arts & Sciences : Award Winning Faculty". Trinity.duke.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  15. "The University Medal". Library.duke.edu. 2012-11-12. Retrieved 2013-03-18.