Professor Emeritus Dr. Mary Bonner honored by alma mater

May 17, 2011

Dr. Mary Winstead Bonner, whose association with Emporia State University has spread across four decades, will be honored by her alma mater next month.

Bonner, the second African-American faculty member at ESU, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame of Oklahoma State University’s College of Education on June 3 in Stillwater. Bonner joins OSU wrestling coach John Smith of Stillwater, Okla.; and Dr. William “Bill” White of Edmond, Okla., in the 2011 induction class. Dr. Thomas Smith, a two-time OSU graduate and former director of education extension, will receive the honor posthumously.

“The OSU College of Education is extremely proud of these four individuals. All have made a lasting difference in their respective fields and have represented the values of OSU and the College of Education to the highest degree,” Interim Dean Robert Davis said.

Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed by the College. Inductees are chosen by a committee of representatives of the College’s Alumni Association, Associates, faculty and administration. This is the College of Education’s 13th Hall of Fame class.

Tom and Mary BonnerBonner has made Emporia home since 1960 when her husband, Dr. Thomas Bonner, was hired as the first African-American faculty member at Emporia State. He taught mathematics. Mary Bonner earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Paul’s College, a master’s degree from Virginia State University and a doctorate of education in elementary education with specialization in reading from OSU in 1968. She joined the ESU faculty in 1964 teaching in the department of administration, curriculum and instruction.

During her tenure, Mary Bonner served as a faculty senator, was president of Emporia’s chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and helped establish the first chartered sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho, to welcome African-American women at ESU.

Both of the Bonners retired from ESU in 1986, but their support of the university and its students continued.

The couple established the Bonner-Bonner Mathematics Scholarship, the first of which was awarded just days before Tom Bonner’s death in April 2004. In 1992, they established the Bonner & Bonner Lecture Series, which brought prominent African-Americans to ESU to speak. In 2002, thanks to a grant from Pepsi, the series’ mission expanded and was renamed the Bonner & Bonner Diversity Lecture Series. Speakers have included former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, Olympic champion and Native Ameican Billy Mills and football coach Herman Boone, whose story was told in the movie “Remember the Titans.”

In 1998, Mary Bonner was the third person to receive the Ruth Schillinger Award, presented annually by ESU’s Ethnic/Gender Studies Program to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the women of ESU over a sustained period. The award was established in 1996 when it was presented to Schillinger, the university’s last dean of women.

In 2000, Tom and Mary Bonner, both emeritus professors, received the ESU Presidential Award for Distinguished Service to Diversity.

To purchase tickets or for more information about attending the June 3 Hall of Fame Induction event in Stillwater, Okla., contact Holly Blakey at (405) 744-8933 or



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