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Memorial

Campbell Bonner
LSA Minutes

Memorial to
Campbell Bonner
1876-1954

Campbell Bonner died on July 11, 1954. In his death we lost a distinguished colleague who fully deserved the admiration and respect which we all felt for him. He was born January 30, 1876, in Nashville, Tennessee, and there attended the University School to whose head master, a Mr. Wallace, he was always grateful for wakening his interest in scholarly pursuits. Vanderbilt University conferred upon him the degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts (1896, 1897) and Harvard University awarded him the Master of Arts degree (in 1898) and in 1900 the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. After a year of study at the University of Berlin and in Greece and Italy, he returned to Nashville as professor of Greek in Peabody College, and in 1903 married Ethel Howell. In 1907 he came to Michigan as junior professor of Greek and five years later was made professor of Greek and succeeded Martin L. D'Ooge as head of the department, whose affairs he administered ably until his resignation from the chairmanship in June of 1944. His retirement furlough began in February of the following year.

An active member of various professional associations, he was president of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (1918-19) and of the American Philological Association (1933). He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, corresponding fellow of the British Academy, and a member of the American Philosophical Society. The American School of Classical Studies at Athens chose him as its annual professor in 1927-28. He was president of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters in 1923-24, of the Faculty Research Club in 1917-18, and was chosen to give the Henry Russel lecture in 1939.

In the classroom Bonner was rigorous and exacting. Although sometimes irritated by carelessness or indolence, he was friendly and sympathetic to earnest students, to whom the breadth and accuracy of his scholarship gave inspiration and his avoidance of dogmatism an invitation to independent thinking.

To evaluate in a few words a mants professional output for more than fifty years is a hazardous undertaking. Yet in the long list of Bonner's articles, as in his four major works, there are certain qualities which may be called characteristic. From his first youthful publications to his last masterwork it is evident that his interest lay almost wholly in the realm of pure scholarship. There is little in his writings which is pedagogic or routine or popular. It was always some new and specific point needing interpretation or some older ill-founded interpretation needing correction which attracted him. In his early studies of the literary relationships of minor Greek authors and in the lucid and ingenious rehandling of difficult passages, there are already present the same predilection for the unusual, the same sensitiveness to cultural and literary implications, and the same cautiousness and accuracy of statement which are the marks of the work of his maturity. The only change came with the channeling and deepening of his interests.

When in the 1920's the University acquired one of the largest collections of papyri in the world, Bonner discovered in the new Greek texts and fragments a potent stimulus to his long-standing interest in the religious and philosophical aspects of the late pagan and early Christian world. With able coworkers, he acquired a mastery of the technique of restoring and editing papyri and after preliminary studies he produced a series of three important texts: "The Papyrus Codex of the Shepherd of Hermas" in 1933; "The Last Chapters of Enoch in Greek" in 1937; and "The Homily on the Passion by Melito, Bishop of Sardis," in 1940. These were welcomed and highly praised in the journals on theology and the history of religions both here and abroad for that same meticulous accuracy and fine judgment in the balancing of minutiae which Bonner now manifested in the field of textual criticism.

The crowning work of his brilliant career is his "Studies in Magical Amulets, chiefly Greco-Egyptian," which appeared in 1950. Under this modest title he published the fruits of nearly a lifetime of study of ancient popular religion and superstition. Characteristically he chose to base his work upon a direct painstaking examination of hundreds of engraved gems from antiquity. Then with a consummate mastery of the details of this difficult and esoteric field he synthesized his interpretation into a series of integrated monographs which will remain for many years to come an authoritative presentation of an important and hitherto largely neglected phase in the history of human thought. As a memorial to Bonner a collection of medical amulets made by Dr. Walter Koelz in Persia and India has been presented to the medical historical museum which is being developed for the School of Medicine by Dr. Frederick A. Coller.

Bonner's interests were not confined to his professional work. His discussions of University problems with colleagues of other departments who were members of the Pleasant Lake Club resulted in the formulation of an unofficial committee to promote the study of anthropology at the University. The subject was then not in the curriculum. The first official recognition of the committee, consisting of Bonner, Case, Pillsbury, and Bartlett, came from Librarian Bishop, another member of the Club, who arranged for an annual appropriation to the committee for the purchase of anthropological books for the University Library. Later the committee succeeded in obtaining the first academic appointment in anthropology, the temporary lectureship held by Col. Thomas C. Hodson of London, England, in 1924, the permanent appointment of Leslie White to the teaching staff, and of Carl Guthe and former Dean Hinsdale as Curators of Anthropology and of American Archaeology in the University Museum, Bonner was the leading spirit in this successful endeavor.

He was also one of the two or three founders of the University Club, about 1910, His motive was to bring faculty members of all ages into informal friendly contact. He retained an interest in this organization as long as he lived, and through it he developed an unusually wide acquaintance.

He was an amateur violinist and made many close friends among musicians, to whose informal rehearsal and reading groups he and Mrs. Bonner were generally invited. His most absorbing diversion throughout his life was the building of his personal library. He was a discriminating collector in several fields, for his interests were broad, but mere rarities made no appeal to him. His library contained many association books, and his charming essay, "Thoughts About Old Books" (1945), reveals his sentimental attachment to volumes that had belonged to scholarly predecessors.

In some situations Bonner tended to be reserved, but his home, always the focus of his deepest devotion, was pervaded by the genial warmth of his personality. To have known the friendliness and gracious courtesy of that home is a pleasure which many of us share texts: "The Papyrus Codex of the Shephard of Hernias" in 1933; "The Last Chapters of Enoch in Greek" in 1937; and "The Homily on the Passion by Melito, Bishop of Sardis," in 1940. These were welcomed and highly praised in the journals of theology and the history of religions both here and abroad for that same meticulous accuracy and fine judgment in the balancing of minutiae which Bonner now manifested in the field of textual criticism.

The crowning work of his brilliant career is his "Studies in Magical Amulets, chiefly Greco-Egyptian," which appeared in 1950. Under this modest title he published the fruits of nearly a lifetime of study of ancient popular religion and superstition. Characteristically he chose to base his work upon a direct painstaking examination of hundreds of engraved gems from antiquity. Then with a consummate mastery of the details of this difficult and esoteric field he synthesized his interpretation into a series of integrated monographs which will remain for many years to come an authoritative presentation of an important and hitherto largely neglected phase in the history of human thought. As a memorial to Bonner a collection of medical amulets made by Dr. Walter Koelz in Persia and India has been presented to the medical-historical museum which is being developed for the School of Medicine by Dr. Frederick A. Coller.

Bonnerls interests were not confined to his professional work. His discussions of University problems with colleagues of other departments who were members of the Pleasant Lake Club resulted in the formation of an unofficial committee to promote the study of anthropology at the University. The subject was then not in the curriculum. The first official recognition of the committee, consisting of Bonner, Case, Pillsbury, and Bartlett, came from Librarian Bishop, another member of the Club, who arranged for an annual appropriation to the committee for the purchase of anthropological books for the University Library. Later the committee was instrumental in obtaining the first academic appointment in anthropology, a temporary lectureship held by Colonel Thomas C. Hodson of London, England, in 1924, the appointment of Carl E. Guthe as Associate Director of the Museum of Anthropology, of former Dean Hinsdale as its Custodian of Michigan Archaeology, and of Leslie A. White as a permanent member of the teaching staff. Bonner was a leading spirit in this successful endeavor.

He was also one of the two or three founders of the University Club, about 1910. His motive was to bring faculty members of all ages into informal friendly contact. He retained an interest in this organization as long as he lived, and through it he developed an unusually wide acquaintance.

He was an amateur violinist and made many close friends among musicians, to whose informal rehearsal and reading groups he and Mrs. Bonner were generally invited. His most absorbing diversion throughout his life was the building of his personal library. He was a discriminating collector in several fields, for his interests were broad, but mere rarities made no appeal to him. His library contained many association books, and his charming essay, "Thoughts About Old Books" (1945), reveals his sentimental attachment to volumes that had belonged to scholarly predecessors.

In some situations Bonner tended to be reserved, but his home, always the focus of his deepest devotion, was pervaded by the genial warmth of his personality. To have known the friendliness and gracious courtesy of that home is a pleasure which many of us share.

To Mrs. Bonner and to the two daughters, Frances Campbell Titchener and Sue Grundy Walcutt, we extend our sincere sympathy.

H. H. Bartlett
W. E. Blake
J. E. Dunlap, Chairman