My Giving Story: James Bonk

A Duke legend, greatly missed

Much-loved Duke professor James F. Bonk was one of the longest-serving faculty members at Duke. He passed away in March 2013, but his love for his students lives on:

Bonk’s enduring legacy at Duke is as the founding father of “Bonkistry”—the introductory chemistry class that he taught for more than four decades.

During his long Duke career, Dr. Bonk taught more than 35,000 students and made numerous contributions to the growth and development of the sciences at Duke.

As director of undergraduate studies, he developed chemistry courses, advised students, and managed the department’s independent study program. He helped design the lecture hall and teaching laboratories in Gross Chemistry Lab as well as the teaching labs in the French Family Science Center.

His contributions as a teacher at Duke have been acknowledged with several awards, including the David and Janet Vaughn Brooks Distinguished Teaching Award, the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award, and last year, the university’s highest honor, the University Medal.

Tennis remained a passion of Dr. Bonk’s. Self-taught, he began playing tennis as an undergraduate and later competed on his college team. While on the faculty at Duke, he served as volunteer assistant coach for the men’s tennis team and as a trusted team advisor. In recognition of his role, Duke has named the trophy room in the Sheffield Tennis Center and a court in Ambler Tennis Stadium in Dr. Bonk’s honor.

A member of the Duke Heritage Society and the James B. Duke Society, Dr. Bonk established a bequest intention to fund the James F. Bonk Tennis Scholarship.

“Duke provided me with the opportunity to teach chemistry at one of the finest universities in the world,” he said. “This scholarship is my gift to future Duke students. I hope others will consider making a similar commitment through their estate plans.”

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TAGS: Giving and Impact Stories

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