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Celebrated MU Honors professors share friendship, loyalty to students

Thursday, May 5, 2011 | 7:58 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Two MU professors will be celebrated Saturday afternoon for their contributions to the university's Honors College.

Professor Stuart Palonsky will be stepping down from his role as Honors College director after 20 years in the position, and he will be joined by friend and philosophy professor Bill Bondeson, who is retiring after working at MU since 1964.

The event will consist of a luncheon, which will be held at noon at the Reynolds Alumni Center, followed by a special event, a "Last Lecture," by Bondeson at 2 p.m. in Bush Auditorium. 

"I am flattered that they wanted to honor me in this way," Palonsky said. "When you've enjoyed a job as much as I have enjoyed this one, that really is sufficient. I take with me lots of pleasant memories and good experiences with faculty and students."

Bondeson echoed Palonsky's appreciation for the honor, saying in his time at Missouri he's had a wide variety of things to do that have made it a great experience. "It's been a very enjoyable career, I must say," Bondeson said.

The two men formed a special bond over the years as professors in the Honors College's humanities sequence, a four-semester collection of courses on philosophy, literature, art and music, all taught by professors of various disciplines.

"We've been teaching in the humanities sequence together for a zillion years, so it's a nice way to go out," Bondeson said.

The sequence offers the professors the chance to interact with each other and harness a positive teaching environment.

"Most of the time as faculty members, you don't have this collegial atmosphere," Palonsky said. "We sit in on one another's lectures, we talk about the best ways to go over certain texts, pieces of music and works of art."

Palonsky also sees this as another chance to give Bondeson another dose of their friendly banter when he introduces him for the lecture.

"I get to have my last dibs and take a shot at him and know that he can't get me back," Palonsky said, smiling.

Beyond the camaraderie the men share, they have enjoyed the interactions with the university's honors students.

"Honors students are fun to teach. They are bright and talented, and usually respond well to challenges," Bondeson said.

"I am really interested in what students have to say," Palonsky said. "I enjoy classes where I learn what students think about the text, more than the classes where I tell them what to write down about the texts."

Julie Melnyk, the associate director of the Honors College, created the event because she wanted to "honor these men who have contributed so much to the Honors College."

Melnyk spoke in glowing terms about the character of both men.

"Dr. Palonsky is utterly committed to undergraduate education," Melnyk said. "The students come first with him always."

Melnyk also praised Palonsky's administrative skills.

"Not only is he a fantastic teacher, but he has set up systems and processes in the Honors College that make it possible for other people to do fantastic teaching," she said.

Melnyk called Bondeson "charismatic" and "engaging."

"He works to make philosophy accessible and he is very good at motivating students to be interested in philosophy and ask their own questions," she said.

Not only will the academic community be out in force to wish these two men well, but various state dignitaries will be in attendance. Missouri's first lady Georgeanne Nixon will be attending to celebrate Bondeson's retirement as a former student of the professor.

Missouri state representatives Mary Still, Chris Kelly and Stephen Webber will also be in attendance to present the two men with a legislative resolution honoring their accomplishments at MU.

Palonsky expects to take a year off after he officially steps down from his position, then returning to the humanities sequence, while Bondeson expects to do some traveling with his wife.

The lecture is free and open to the public, while the luncheon is $25 and requires registration to attend.


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