St. Bonaventure University is a small school. It’s located in Olean, New York, a small city in the Southern Tier. When you look at St. Bonaventure, none of the buildings are incredibly large. They’re quaint and, like many things related to the University, small.
Though our size is one of our characteristics, one that is certainly a piece of our identity, it does not define us. The size of St. Bonaventure is not St. Bonaventure. The location of St. Bonaventure is not St. Bonaventure. Not even the appearance, which is, to be sure, breathtaking, defines what St. Bonaventure University is.
There is only one thing that rests at the soul of St. Bonaventure. There is one thing that the spirit of the University depends on. There is one thing that persists after size, location and appearance are looked past.
Where some schools have animals or objects associated with their names, we have something much different. Some schools rely on an image or a logo to represent them. We do not. Some schools are the Lions or the Rockets. We are something else.
We are the St. Bonaventure Bonnies.
So, what’s a Bonnie? That question gets asked a lot. Understandably. A Bonnie is nothing like a lion or a rocket. You can’t picture it or put a face to it. To an outsider, the word is empty. It’s just a something that sounds nice when it comes after “St. Bonaventure.” For many, a Bonnie is meaningless.
With that, the question seems difficult to answer. How do you describe something that has no tangible characteristics? How do you put a face to the faceless?
The question challenging. But, despite that difficulty, the response is very simple.
If someone were to come up to me and say, “Please, tell me, what exactly is a Bonnie?” I would look them straight in the eyes, my chest bursting with pride, and say “I am. We are.”
It is us. Those of us who walk the grounds and go to class. Those of us who work there. Those of us who live there. We are Bonnies.
To pinpoint the exact identity impossible. It can’t be drawn or pictured. It can’t be printed on t-shirts or represented on banners. There isn’t a face that can be put to the definition of a Bonnie. But therein lies the very function of the word: to truly, in the most genuine sense, connect all those who identify with it.
A Bonnie transcends the lions and the rockets. A Bonnie transcends anything that can be visually nailed down or determined. Being a Bonnie is a concept. Being a Bonnie is a connection. It’s like a blood type. It’s like last name. It is so deeply ingrained in every member of the St. Bonaventure community that to be anything else is inconceivable. A Bonnie isn’t part of a logo or an emblem. It is who we are. It does run through our veins. It is a part of our names. It’s so intimately entwined with the fibers of our selves that it will never leave us, and it will always bring us back to people and places that represent the greatest things in life. It’s a bond so strong and so close that one word immediately comes to mind when I think of it:
No matter how much I write, people will always wonder what exactly a Bonnie is. Unfortunately, some will never understand. To be fair, the idea isn’t an easy one to affirm. The connection I’ve described runs very deep, and it’s difficult to grasp. People will always ask, and that’s something that I’ve come to accept.
But despite the number of times I’ll hear that question (many more than several I’m sure), my answer will never change.
What’s a Bonnie?
It doesn’t matter that our student body is small. It doesn’t matter that Olean, New York is small. It doesn’t matter that our buildings are small. Because the pride we have in being Bonnies is so enormous that no city, space or structure can hold it. Nothing can keep that pride from flooding out into the world. Nothing. And if I have to answer that question a thousand more times, it’ll be worth it. Because every time I answer, I try to convey the same, important thing:
We are the Bonnies. The might, mighty Bonnies.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, I go to college at St. Bonaventure University. I can say with 100% certainty that St. Bonaventure is the greatest place I’ve ever known, and it’s taught me a lot about myself and even more about life. I had the great privilege of being able to work there this summer with some of the best Bonnies the school has ever seen. Since people do seem to wonder what a Bonnie is, I thought I’d offer my take. This is by no means a precise definition as you’d absolutely get a different one from every Bonnie you asked. But, if you ask me, this gets to the heart of it.
If you haven’t heard of St. Bonaventure, you can click here to see what it’s all about. It really is an amazing place, and I’m incredibly thankful for all it’s done for me.