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English Department - Tom Bonner Award

English Department - Tom Bonner Award


In Memoriam: Tom Bonner

Tom was born and raised in Georgetown, SC.  His undergraduate degree was at the College of Charleston; his masters was at USC. He came to Midlands Technical College in 1971 and taught in the English Department until his death in December 2005.  Although he taught a wide variety of courses in our department, Tom was particularly devoted to his American Literature classes for many years. The Tom Bonner Memorial Award seeks to perpetuate his devotion to literary study by awarding to a Midlands Technical College student a scholarship for a research paper completed as part of a 200-level literature class each year.

Tom always had a sense of humor about his teaching and a good story to tell, sometimes on his students and sometimes on himself. He was remarkable for being our most seasoned instructor, and  yet he could still be surprised (and amused!) by his students.


Elegy for Tom Bonner
Les Turner

Tom had Low Country grace. He was really finer
Than he needed to be. He endured –
He was sweet (he’d ripened kind of like a persimmon –
Which deer prefer to any other treat).
But he always knew the distinction between fellow and fool.
He had taste – in language, in fine spirits, textures and tomes;
But he was ever understated. He kept and loved a basset hound, after all.

Tom wasn’t a man of shared destinations.
He preferred being an eddy in the river of academic progress –
A quiet, dignified, unpresupposing traveler.
He’d retreated, his voice stilled. Actually he was endangered. 
He taught English because he loved to read.
He was the way we’d want our English professor to be:
No self-certainty, no imposition –
Finding technology suspect, cherishing eccentricity,
Hearing music in poetry.  

He was a quill kind of guy in the midst of mouse nudgers.
He had a life – aged values and a sense that their time
Had been better – more noble, more honorable.
He provided respite. He wasn’t about processing and computing.
Tom doubted, recognized incongruity,
Was irreverent and funny as hell – if you listened.
He was busy making his way and didn’t need to prescribe yours.  

It’s very telling that he treasured a field grade L.C. Smith shotgun.
It was fine. It fit him. It was almost as if he felt he didn’t really deserve it.
He did, of course. But the Elsie was his style.
Can’t say for certain what gauge it was.
Like to think it was .28 gauge, specimens of which are rare
In most great American doubles – actually rarest of all
As an L.C. Smith – rather “the” L.C. Smith (built about 1910).
They only made one.


The Award

The Tom Bonner Memorial award is given to a student in a 200 level literature class who has produced an outstanding research essay on a work of literature.  Instructors will be looking for high quality essays that demonstrate students’ ability to analyze works of literature and support their analysis with a substantial number of secondary sources.

A cash award will be given to the student whose essay is deemed best by the Tom Bonner Memorial Award Committee.  The student will also be recognized at the Midlands Technical College Awards Ceremony.


The student must be a non-transient student, must have received an “A” or “A-” on the paper, and must be nominated by his or her instructor in the course.  The work must be entirely the student’s own, except for advice received from the instructor, ASC tutors or other appropriate mentors.  The paper must have been written for a 200 level course in the preceding spring, summer, or fall terms, with the award presented in the following April.  A student who has won the award may not apply a second time.


The essay must be an in-depth analysis of one or more pieces of literature, written for a 200 level English course. 

The essay must contain a substantial number of secondary sources, supportive of the student’s analysis.

The essay must adhere to MLA format:

A folder must be submitted containing the following:

Award Recipients:

2006: Abe Layman, "An Analysis of Selected Dream Sequences in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime
 and Punishment

2007: John Leninger, "Unfair Accusations of Racism Regarding Joseph Conrad’s
Heart of Darkness"

2008: Eric Bell, "Ancient Inequality and the Development of Our Sexual Caste System"

2009: Ansley Gasque-Carter, "Character Development and Subjectivity in
The Color Purple"

2010: Mikaela Campbell, "Wu Ch'eng-en's Monkey as an Allegory for Buddhism"

2011: Phyleicia Dais, "The Incorporation of Identity, Performance, and Disquise in Sixteenth Century English Literature"


© 2012 Midlands Technical College
Photos of works in Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, SC, courtesy of Les Turner.
Site maintained by Travis Gordon, Instructor, English Department

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