Dishing Out History
Tom Bonan ’ 17 always had a hankering for the humanities, but when he arrived at Bucknell from Boulder, Colo., he decided to plot a different career path. “I’m more inclined to history
and writing, but math is a good skill to have in our economy,” he says.
The son of Gordon Bonan and Amie Elcan ’84 sought Bucknell
for the quality of its math and economics programs and soon settled
into a work/study job grading math papers. While admiring a library
exhibit last spring about Bucknellians who served in World War I
and the campus environment during that era, he introduced himself
to the exhibit’s organizer, Isabella O’Neill, head of Special Collections
and University archivist.
When O’Neill saw his keen interest in history and learned that he
had written for The Bucknellian, she made a quick assessment. Bonan
was just the student she’d been seeking to write blog posts highlighting
and promoting Special Collections/University Archives materials
that could be posted on the Library & Information Technology blog
and disseminated through social media.
Though abroad in Cork, Ireland, in the fall, Bonan was back to
blogging this spring, writing a 500-word piece most weeks on topics
that range from a Gutenberg press replica created by a mechanical
engineering senior design team 15 years ago to the University charter.
Bonan spends time every Monday working in the reading room of
Special Collections/University Archives uncovering interesting future
topics. He also consults a list of ideas that O’Neill had long been
compiling — waiting for the right student writer to come along.
One recent post that “got a lot of attention,” he says, was about
Philip Roth ’54 and the New Yorker-style literary magazine Roth
started on campus. Et Cetera “began as a humor magazine then
became a sardonic literary magazine,” he says.
Bonan, who may study economics in graduate school, says of his
work, “Getting to deal with University history in a tangible way has
been interesting. There are 3,600 kids on campus who haven’t seen
these things. I’ve been given free rein to do what I want.”
— Sherri Kimmel
To read Bonan’s post on the Gutenberg press and other features go to
It’s been a century since more than 650
Bucknell students, alumni and faculty
served the Allied cause in World War I. Special
Collections/University Archives commemorates
the University’s doughboys by displaying
several personal items. One is a croix de
guerre, a French military decoration awarded
to Harold Thomas ’ 21. A citation depicting
Thomas’ actions in war-torn France reads
that he “displayed an absolute zeal under
all circumstances. During the period from
Aug. 1–6, he kept up a service of evacuation
in a zone subject to violent bombardment.”
Thomas also contributed another interesting
World War I relic: a gold cigarette lighter with
an engraved image of a French soldier on
one side and an American one on the other.
It’s an intriguing example of trench art,
crafted by soldiers while they passed the
time between battles.
8WORLD WAR I Memorabilia
In the LaFayette Butler Reading Room,
Tom Bonan does research for a blog post.