Campus Closeup: Dave Bonsall

During his 35-year career at NMU, Dave Bonsall (Center for Student Enrichment) has played an integral role in promoting extracurricular and co-curricular programs on campus. He is the director of the Center for Student Enrichment, previously known as Student Activities and Leadership Programs, and prior to that, the Student Activities Office. Bonsall works with programs such as student organizations, student activities, the Superior Edge, the Student Leader Fellowship Program, academic service learning, the NMU Volunteer Center, and Health Promotions.

“I love my job; it’s 99 percent positive,” Bonsall said. “We get to work with hundreds of great students—motivated people who are interested in bettering themselves and making a difference in the community and the world.”

Bonsall not only enjoys interacting with students his center serves on a daily basis, but also with his staff of seven full-time employees, two graduate assistants and 16 student employees. Apparently the staff has mutual appreciation for him because they recently gave the avid Packers fan a football signed by the team for his 60th birthday. 

The main challenge he faces, Bonsall said, is occasionally finding enough time for and being able to devote enough attention to new projects that surface in the midst of an especially busy stretch. “Sometimes it’s a matter of balancing all the balls that are in the air.”

President Obama’s visit to campus was a recent highlight. “It happened so quickly. Several of us in the Center for Student Enrichment were asked to start identifying leaders of student organizations, Superior Edge and SLFP—basically student leaders and students active in the community. It was nice to see students who contribute so much to the campus and the community acknowledged.”  

Bonsall knows a thing or two about student leadership. As an undergraduate at NMU, he was house president and eventually the resident adviser of Dakota House in Halverson Hall, resident director of Payne Hall and then Gries Hall. In fact, he met his wife of 37 years, Sandy, when they were both summer orientation staff assistants.

Bonsall still coordinates reunions for former Dakota House residents. The reunions, which usually attract 35-40 alumni, used to take place every 10-12 years. They’ve become more frequent lately, with the most recent held last summer.

“I think the most interesting thing is that we always take a little tour up in Dakota House,” Bonsall said. “The first time I did it, I thought, ‘This is going to take 20 minutes,’ and it ended up taking a couple of hours. We were reliving it like we were all of a sudden back there.”

In his free time, Bonsall is a sports fan. Aside from Packers football, he enjoys watching Red Wings hockey and is a fan of both the Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers. He and Sandy also visit their three children: Brian in Detroit, Scott in Marquette and Leigh in Chicago. He also has a granddaughter who joins the long line of Bonsalls who can be traced back to some of the first settlers of Pennsylvania. They came to America to settle on land near Philadelphia that was given to them by William Penn in lieu of money that he owed.

After graduating from NMU, Bonsall worked briefly at a company that published college textbooks before returning to his alma mater. And 35 years later, it’s probably safe to say that Northern will be his final career destination. 



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Updated: April 29, 2011

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