Dishing Out History

July 14, 2016

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.”

To read Bonan’s post on the Gutenberg press and other features go to