Dave Bonsall celebrates his 40 years as a Wildcat

Sam Banks

Director of the Center for Student Enrichment Dave Bonsall spoke about his nearly 40 years as a Wildcat to around 100 students, staff and faculty members.

The lecture was a part of the Last Lecture series hosted by the Mortar Board National Honor Society.

Bonsall will be retiring in May after spending four decades as a member of the NMU community, which he discussed as part of his “Last Lecture” on Thursday, April 9 in Jamrich 103.

During the discussion, Bonsall reminisced about his years at NMU, detailing everything from his undergraduate years to his time as director. He gave an inspiring speech peppered with lessons to live by and telling jokes about the people he’s met along the way and the stories he couldn’t elaborate on.

“College is the time to develop lifelong friends,”  Bonsall said. “They are people you’re going to know forever. When you get back with them and you’re telling these old war stories — including the ones I can’t tell you tonight — it’s like you just saw them an hour ago, you just pick up where you were.”

Bonsall also spoke of his college years and resident hall life with stories about the rules the school had in the 70’s that differed greatly from current rules, as well as the lifelong bonds and friendships he made with his dorm mates while playing intramurals and participating in house events.

“We really emphasized athletics as a way of drawing people together. We were very competitive,” Bonsall said. “The goal was always to get everybody playing.”

Bonsall also told the audience about his family. He spoke of his wife of 38 years, who was in the audience, and his three children.

He talked about his father who died in a car accident and his mother who died of cancer and spoke of the lessons he learned from it.

“I think you all know how important family is,” he said. “Cherish the time you have with them, they’re the people who always have your back. When things are not going well, they’re the people looking out for you. Your family’s always there. You can never ever spend too much time with family members so do it while you can.”

Bonsall said he was a student affairs professional before becoming hall director of Gries Hall. He then “dabbled” in insurance before moving to take a job in Lansing.

Four months after taking the job in Lansing, he got a call to become the director of the Student Activity Office, one of the precursors to the Center for Student Enrichment. While Bonsall was director, the office began Fall Fest, Platform Personalities, Northern Arts & Entertainment, Campus Cinema and the Student Leader Fellowship Program (SLFP).

Bonsall said one of the most remarkable committees he’s ever worked on was the 25-person committee of faculty, staff and students that put together the Superior Edge program, which he said grew out of SLFP.

“What I remember most are the thousands of students that I had the privilege to work with over the years,” Bonsall said. “It’s so rewarding to hear where they’re at, what they’re doing and through them, reflect back on my time here at Northern.”

Lenny Shible, who is the health promotion specialist in the Center for Student Enrichment, began working with and for Bonsall in 2001 when the Health Promotions Office was moved to the University Center.

Shible said that Bonsall is a great role model for the hundreds of student leaders that he’s mentored over the years, as well as the thousands of students that he has inspired to be involved members of our NMU community and their own future communities after graduation.

“Dave is one of most ‘dedicated to college students’ people that I have ever had the opportunity to work with,” Shible said. “His number one priority is to provide students quality services that will enhance their experiences while a college student and carry over into each student’s professional life after graduation.”

Shible also said that though Bonsall is retiring at the end of May he fully expects that he will continue to share some of his wisdom and vision.

“It’s such a blessing when you’re surrounded by good mentors and forward thinking people,” Bonsall said. “When you’re working with a committed group of people who believe in what they’re doing, you can accomplish great things.”