Academics, Campus wide

CSU mourns beloved former provost, professor

By Jan Joslin | September 6, 2022

The CSU family is mourning the loss of former provost and professor Dr. A. Kennerley “Kenny” Bonnette Jr., who died Monday, Sept. 5 in Summerville. He was 77 years old.

Dr. Bonnette. File photo

Bonnette began his career at Charleston Southern University, then Baptist College at Charleston, in January 1971. He earned a PhD in nuclear chemistry at Clemson University where he taught while obtaining his doctorate. 

President Dr. Dondi Costin said, “Dr. Bonnette is a Charleston Southern legend who poured himself into the lives of faculty and students for decades. In so many ways he was the glue that held everything together, and his leadership set the stage for our success. He believed in the mission and ministry of Christian higher education so powerfully that he stayed engaged long after he retired. He was a great man who will be greatly missed. I join the CSU family in thanking God for his ministry and praying for Mrs. Bonnette and their family as together we celebrate his significant life.”

A chemistry professor, Bonnette was appointed assistant vice president for academic affairs in 1981 and became vice president for academic affairs in 1984. He was promoted to provost in 1990 when the college changed its name to Charleston Southern University.

“Dr. Bonnette and I enjoyed working side by side for many years facing unexpected challenges and unbelievable opportunities,” said Dr. Jairy Hunter, president emeritus. “He was always my trusted friend, colleague and mentor. Dr. Bonnette was chair of the Presidential Search Committee when I accepted the offer to become the second president of the college in 1984. He contacted us several times encouraging us to join the Baptist College family with his warm and genuine personality. Thanks to him, Sissy and I continue to enjoy being part of CSU.”

A chemistry professor, Bonnette was appointed as assistant vice president for academic affairs in 1981 and became vice president for academic affairs in 1984. He was promoted to provost in 1990 when the college changed its name to Charleston Southern University. File photo

One of the highlights of Bonnette’s career was the opening of the long-awaited Science building in 2005. He retired as provost in 2006 and taught part-time in the new building until he officially retired in 2011. He was named professor emeritus of chemistry and provost emeritus in 2012. A long-time colleague once said of him, “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t respect Dr. Bonnette.”

Always the educator, Bonnette said, “I have always wanted to conclude my career where it started, in the classroom.” He was able to do just that. As VPAA and provost, he presided over many commencements. Upon his retirement, he said, “With every one of the diplomas—a little piece of every professor goes with them. We are a part of them when they leave, and we will be forever. What we did mattered, and they are the proof that it matters.”

In addition to his contributions in the classroom and as a leader, Bonnette contributed to the university as a member of the Board of Visitors, the Buc Club, the Legacy Society, and was a life member of the President’s Club.

Dr. Bonnette (middle right) with Dr. Jairy Hunter, former president, (middle) and others at the Science building ribbon cutting in 2005. File photo

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