Donor Sharon Bonk '65 leaves a legacy to support students and the College. She has followed her passion for libraries and liberal arts throughout her career.
Sharon Bonk ‘65, who earned bachelor’s degrees in library science and elementary education at SUNY Geneseo, has more than 40 years of experience in the many facets of librarianship, including managing libraries and book collections for researchers and leading change in libraries. Now retired, Sharon was most recently chief librarian at Queens College, CUNY, from 1993 to 2006.
“I got my start at Geneseo, and it was the stepping stone for everything that I did,” says Sharon, the first generation in her family to go to college. She went on to earn master’s degrees in American studies and library science at the University of Minnesota.
Sharon is also a longstanding donor to Geneseo and has supported library initiatives, students and general needs. Recently, she made a significant gift through a bequest that will support Geneseo’s greatest needs.
“We are so pleased that Ms. Bonk has made this generous gift to the College,” says Ellen Leverich, vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the Geneseo Foundation. “Giving to Geneseo’s greatest needs allows us to pivot quickly to support our most critical priorities and fund new initiatives.”
Sharon recognizes the need for support at state institutions. When she fundraised for libraries, she realized there were many people who didn’t understand state institutions’ funding needs. “I want to help support academic and program opportunities for students at Geneseo,” says Sharon.
Sharon’s Career Path
Sharon’s affinity for books and learning new subjects began early on. In high school, she worked in a public library. “While reshelving books returned to the library, I discovered so many interesting books on topics that I had not before encountered,” says Bonk. She thought she wanted to be an elementary school teacher, but a Geneseo graduate encouraged her to look into the library science program at the College, an area of study that resonated for her.
“I was happy to be at Geneseo, made many friends, and was exposed to new cultural experiences,” says Sharon. “I went to my first opera and ballet there. It opened up interests in the arts that I had never had.”
Sharon especially loved the liberal arts courses she took at Geneseo. “I had good teachers like Katherine Beck, professor of history, Wendell Rhodes, professor of anthropology, and Charles Mahoney, professor of biology,” says Sharon.
After graduating, Sharon took a position as a high school librarian but wanted to expand her opportunities and began pursuing master's degrees at the University of Minnesota. “The combination of liberal arts and library science,” Sharon says, “allowed me to enter academic librarianship, which I really enjoyed.”
Upon graduation, Sharon took a position at Northeastern University in Boston, working in collection development. There, she worked with faculty members in the social sciences, learning about the courses they taught and their research—thereby, the types of publications the library needed to add to its collections. Identifying and selecting books in foreign languages piqued her interest in the book industry, publishers, and international booksellers who aided libraries in identifying and purchasing foreign publications. Later in her career, she would have the opportunity to attend book expositions and meet with publishers and booksellers in The Netherlands, Germany, and the United Kingdom, countries with major academic publishers.
Sharon went on to work at SUNY Albany, where she worked in collections and public service for 14 years, before joining Queens College, CUNY. “I was able to get a good education at Geneseo,” says Sharon. “I wanted to work at state university systems and give back something that I first experienced at Geneseo.”
Sharon says she’s done a little bit of everything throughout her librarianship career, including teaching graduate courses in library science, but about half of her time was in library management. When she joined Queens College as head librarian, the college had just opened a new library. She worked with staff to build document delivery services, new technology to scan books and articles, began web-based services, and fundraised to support initiatives. “I enjoyed working in a state-of-the-art library and moving things along,” says Sharon.
Looking back at her time as a student at Geneseo, Sharon remembers going to the movie theater in town to see Ingmar Bergman films with her friends and then going to the Big Tree Inn to discuss their meaning. She remembers wine spritzers, 15 cent beers, and caroling at the Wadsworth estates.
“I loved the town,” says Sharon. “I lived off-campus for two of the four years — though everything was regulated then, including the length of the shorts you could wear on campus and into the library.” It had to be knee-length.
(Inset photo of Sharon Bonk from 1965 Oh-Ha-Daih yearbook.)
You can support Geneseo students as they pursue their passions and discover their career paths by making a gift today.