By Jen Warner
Professor Bonnie McMeans will retire this May after teaching English and journalism courses for more than 30 years at Delaware County Community College.
DCCC’s website lists McMeans’ lengthy academic biography, including a Master of Arts degree in writing studies from St. Joseph’s University, a Master of Journalism degree from Temple University, a Teaching in Higher Education certificate from Temple University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology from West Chester University. She is also a fellow with the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project.
In addition to her academic achievements, McMeans freelanced for the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Chester County Neighbors section and wrote articles for the Catholic Standard and Times and the South Philly Review. She has also published works of poetry and short fiction.
McMeans started as an adjunct professor at DCCC in 1989. She shifted to a temporary full-time role in January of 2000 before being hired as a tenure track, full-time professor by fall of that same year.
In addition to teaching, McMeans is also the faculty advisor for the campus newspaper The Communitarian.
Off campus, McMeans helps to manage the Friends Community Garden, the first organic garden of its kind in Havertown, Pa.
Students and colleagues at DCCC agree that McMeans has left a lasting impression on them over the years. Some of them reflected on their time with her via an email survey conducted by this reporter.
Former Communitarian executive editor and journalism major Shannon Reardon remembers McMeans as thoughtful, supportive, and highly motivational.
“Professor McMeans has a thirst for knowledge and loves learning new things about the world around her,” Reardon wrote. “I appreciate everything she taught me and how much she helped me grow into the person I am today.”
DCCC’s director of Campus Life Allyson Gleason shared that she was regularly in awe of the care McMeans showed for her students and her colleagues alike. Gleason has worked closely with McMeans for the last six years on The Communitarian.
Associate professor of English Fernando Benavidez, who has worked with McMeans for more than 10 years, regarded her as a model professor who has influenced him in his own role.
“Every time the department has meetings about how to improve our curriculum or how to better serve our students, Professor McMeans always provides the group with insightful input into how we can do better for them,” Benavidez wrote. “I have always been impressed by how much she cares about her students.”
English and creative writing associate professor Paul Pat remembered meeting McMeans in his first year at DCCC.
“She randomly stopped me in the halls to tell me that she had heard good things about me from students and that encouragement meant a lot,” Pat wrote. “I happened to share an office with one of Bonnie’s mentors that year and could see firsthand that Bonnie cared deeply about nurturing not only her students but other faculty.”
Reading and English Professor Lisa Barnes currently shares an office with McMeans, a move that saved her from making frequent trip to McMeans’ office to eat lunch together. Barnes shared how the many conversations they’ve had over the years have positively influenced her.
“Her steadfast and no-nonsense approach to everything inspires me and keeps me grounded,” Barnes wrote. “Whether that approach applies to raising teenagers, dealing with any crisis that occurs, or just living life the best way possible each and every day.”
Barnes also reflected on the care and consideration that McMeans goes out of her way to show others.
“She always had a stash of stress-reducing chocolate for the early afternoon and frequently a piece would come flying across the office to my desk because she sensed that I needed it,” Barnes wrote. “She just took the time to check in on all of us and to make sure that we were well.”
English professor Liz Biebel-Stanley also recalled swapping stories over chocolate.
“I think my favorite memories of Bonnie will be ones of stolen moments of downtime, where we’d sit in the back of the office between classes or near the end of the day and talk about our joys and our challenges in life,” Biebel-Stanley wrote. “Bonnie always had good advice on hand, and her wisdom would usually come with offerings from the chocolate stash in her desk.”
Associate professor of English Liz Gray remembered feeling immediately welcomed by McMeans when she started on her tenure process in 2012.
In addition to feeling inspired by her inquisitive nature and consistent ambition, Gray shared that she loved hearing McMeans talk about her family the most, recalling a time when McMeans described a quilt she was making as a wedding gift for her future daughter-in-law, similar to a quilt McMeans had once made for her soon-to-be married son, from scraps of clothing he had worn when he was little.
“It is a wonderful idea in the first place, but it was truly Bonnie’s excitement about the project that was so infectious,” Gray wrote.
The memories shared by students and colleagues of their time spent with McMeans contained many of the same words: inspirational, caring, hardworking, steadfast, and supportive were recurring descriptors for the beloved professor.
In addition to sharing what inspired them most about McMeans and some of their favorite exchanges with her, her colleagues also shared well wishes for what they described as a well-earned retirement.
English professor Susan Ray encouraged McMeans to enjoy some deeply deserved down time filled with gardening and family, while communications professor Susan Ward expressed similar wishes for McMeans’ future.
These warm wishes were accompanied by messages of gratitude.
“Thank you, Bonnie, for being a great colleague, mentor, friend, and confidant,” said associate professor of English Tanya Franklin. “Though your presence will be missed, I wish you all the best and hope you enjoy your retirement with your family and working in your garden.”
And finally, communications professor Denise Danford, a colleague and longtime friend of McMeans, thanked her for uplifting others through both her work and her individuality.
“Thank you, Professor McMeans, for teaching with an open heart and mind, and for having the courage to be yourself. I will miss you,” Danford wrote. “When I’m in a quandary over how to handle a situation, I will ask myself what would Bonnie do?”
Contact Jen Warner at email@example.com.