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James Frederick Bonk (February 6, 1931 – March 15, 2013) was an American universityprofessor noted for eschewing research for the teaching of introductory chemistrycourses for over 50 years [1] primarily at Duke University. He did, however, teach advanced and graduate course and write his own textbooks and laboratory manuals. His students fondly labeled his chemistry classBonkistry.[2][3]

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Education and career Edit

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

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]

Bonk was known for his sense of humor. A group of students went out of town for a party and got back late saying they were delayed by a flat tire. He said they could take a makeup exam the next day. When they came the students were each put in a different room. The first question on the exam was a straightforward question worth 5 points. The second question on the next page was worth 95 points and said "Which Tire?".[5] He is listed on snopes.com as a verified story.[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 the 1970s. 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.[8] 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.[citation needed]

Personal life and death Edit

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.[9] Also on March 21, 2013, his ashes were interred in the Sarah P. Duke Memorial Gardens on the Duke campus.[10]

Awards Edit

Bonk received numerous awards:

  • The David and Janet Brooks Teaching Award at Duke University in 2001.[11]
  • Dean's Distinguished Service Award at Duke University in 2010 [12]
  • The University Medal at Duke University in 2011 [13]

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