Special Edition: Remembering one of our own, Sean Bonner ‘20

We lost Sean last Wednesday (November 7, 2019), but for many he will live on in memory. The community gathered for Sean, and the result was beautiful words shared. Below are three testimonies. Two are from people who really knew Sean and were willing to share words in his honor. The other is an address from President Weinberg to the community. The deepest memories of Sean will live with his family and friends, but in this edition to memorialize his life, here is how the community can remember Sean.

Sean Paul Bonner will be in our memories for the rest of time, striking up smiles as we recount our happiest moments with him. Sean never failed to make your day and was constantly looking for a way to make you feel safe and cared for. His voice was as soft as his temperament, and you could tell when you talked with him how much he truly cared about those he loved. As a baseball player, he excelled as a pitcher. He also excelled as a human being, a friend to everyone, a calming shoulder to laugh and cry on. He will be remembered as the kindest and most honest of people, enjoying the most important moments of his life, and bringing us all along for the ride. Sean was everyone’s friend, and there is not a person in this world who could match his level of love and care for those around him. There is a reason that the entire Denison community can rally around Sean. His presence had a profound effect on everyone on Denison’s campus. Whether it was a friendly nod walking to class, the constant support for his teammates, or hours spent with the ones he loved, Sean was truly a one of a kind friend. Although he’s gone from this world, he will never leave this campus or our hearts. May he rest, forever, in paradise.

We love you so much, Sean.

Katie & EB

I was an old roommate of Sean’s, a teammate of his and a great friend of his. As I sat down at my computer today thinking of what to type for this speech, I couldn’t put anything on the paper. I couldn’t translate how I felt and the words. The disbelief I felt when I got the news. The shock and the guilt. I’m sure many of you felt it as well.

But I choose not to remember these feelings. I choose to remember how great of a friend Bonner was. How genuine he was. How loyal he was. I remember I became friends with Bonner immediately. I was a sophomore and he was a freshman. We talked about how we were both colorblind, and how we were both extremely heavy sleepers. This was the basis of our friendship. It grew so much from there.

I remember I discovered that we were truly friends my sophomore year when I was suspended from the baseball team. I had still not been that close with Bonner at the time, and he texted me out of the blue asking me how I was doing. That was a dark time for me. I felt alienated from the baseball team and he reached out and it really meant a lot.

I remember always talking about how much we hated econ class. And how he would always say how he wanted to be a pilot. So when he visited me in D.C. over Fall Break last year, we went to the Air and Space Museum. And the look on his face was insane. That big, dumb smile of his. It was like a kid in a candy shop. I’ll never forget it. I’ll never forget that look. I’ll never forget how he made me feel. And I hope none of you do either.

Thank you. I love you Sean.

-Grady Paine

Last night, I had the privilege of being with Sean’s family and some of his closest friends. Their grief was a immense, but I was also struck by how much love there was in the room. The words and phrases used to describe Shawn were bright, active, athletic, fun, caring, compassionate. The words went on and on. As I listened to his friends talk about him, I was struck by how much joy he had brought into their lives. I was struck by his spirit. I was struck by his compassion. I was struck by how much he embodied the wonderful sense of friendship that is used to describe  a Denisonian. He was clearly somebody that was beloved by his friends, faculty, staff, coaches and many many others. Sean was a wonderful Denisonian and I’m proud to be the president of a college that has people like Sean as its students.

There’s nothing harder than losing a member of one’s community and it’s hardest in places where community is strong, where it is valued and most importantly where this practice is made even harder when death comes too young. These last two days have been devastating for our community. I’m grieving. I’m grieving a lot. I’m hurting like many of you, but I’ve also been inspired over the last 36 hours, as I often am, by our students and by this community. In our moment of greatest sorrow and need, our community, this community, has come together in ways large and small/ You’ve been there for each other in ways that speak volumes about who you are as human beings, and what Denison stands for as a community. You continue this by your very presence in this room right now, exhibiting strength and courage.

I know Denison students are asking “What can I do? What can I do to help right now?” There are three things you can do. First, please take care of yourself. If you need help, ask for it. This is a community that has lots of resources available for students and others if you need it. Second, be there for each other. We are Denisonians, and Denisonians are there for each other. We will get through this tragedy. We will heal but first we need to grieve. We will go through all the stages and we will do them together. We’ve been there for each other in extraordinary ways in the last few days, and you need to keep being there for each other. Look after each other as Denisonians. Practice the friendship and community that is Denison at its best. And third, we need to live our lives we move forward, not without Sean but with him. For those who knew Sean best, take the friendships and take what you learned from him, what he means to you, and live your life to its fullest. In doing so, you will allow Sean to live within you. You honor Sean and his memory.

I’m proud to be a Denisonian and I’m hurting right now. I’m struggling as many of you are. I’m grieving, and I’m also finding hope and strength in this community, and quite frankly, finding hope in you. Tonight, and in the days ahead, we need to give ourselves permission to grieve, and then we need to give ourselves permission to heal. We will do this work together as a Denison community.

I want to end by repeating what I said to Sean’s family last night: Our thoughts and our prayers are with you. As a president, as a human being, my heart breaks for you. I want you to know that your son matters to this community. Your son was an important part of this community. He was admired, respected, liked, appreciated and loved. We grieve with you and want you to know that Denison, and every Denisonian who knew him, are better having been a part of Sean’s life.

There are many things that we do as a community that I love doing. This [speaking on the loss of a student] is not one of them. But there are also things that over the last 6 years I have come to really appreciate about this community and this [gathering as a community over this loss] is one of them. I would ask you just to look around right now and notice how many students faculty, staff and community members are in this room. This speaks volumes about this community. It speaks volumes about Sean and it speaks volumes about the way this community deals with tragedy. Tonight, we grieve. Tomorrow we start the process of healing and we will do it together we will do it as Denisonians. Thank you.

– President Weinberg

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