magazine-category: Featured Story

Call Me ‘Flossie’

Florence BonnerShe’s barely 5-feet tall, but one should not be fooled by her stature. Although she is as down-to-earth as they come, Florence “Flossie” Bonner, wife of Gardner-Webb University’s 12th president, Dr. Frank Bonner, is leaving her successor with some pretty big shoes to fill.

She was a force in the classroom, having taught complicated algebraic equations to Shelby (N.C.) High School students for nearly 20 years. Today, more than a decade after she retired from teaching, former students still call her “Mrs. Bonner.” Even though she repeatedly encouraged one young man, “Call me ‘Flossie,’” he just couldn’t bring himself to do so.

When Dr. Bonner became GWU president in 2005, his new role put her more in the spotlight at campus events, but she focused her energies on being his confidant and encourager.

“My role is to support Frank and be an ambassador in the community,” she explained. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of that.”

She has served on the GWU campus wherever needed, offering a smile and handshake to visitors and praising the exceptional work of students. Through the years, she’s made time for other important endeavors in Cleveland County, N.C. She has served as president of the Junior Charity League and on the boards of the YMCA and Eat Smart, Move More. She and Frank are members of First Baptist Church in Shelby, and she shares her talents on committees there as well.

“I’ve had a really good life,” she declared. “The people of Gardner-Webb and the greater Shelby area have been so good to us.”

In 2019, after more than three decades of work at Gardner-Webb and 13 years as president, Dr. Frank Bonner will retire. Next August, he and Flossie will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Reflecting on their lives together—the first time they met, their dating years, family vacations, camping and other adventures—Flossie smiled and stated, “We’ve had fun.”

Flossie is approachable and friendly. Her contagious energy and kindness are among her most endearing qualities. In fact, she became so popular among students that one Student Government Association (SGA) presidential candidate utilized her name in his campaign speech. After naming several of the reasons he felt students should vote for him, he spontaneously added, “And I’m endorsed by Flossie Bonner!” He won the election. “Frank and I thought that was so funny,” she related. “We will never forget him.”

In retirement, the Bonners are looking forward to traveling more, and visiting their grandchildren. She would like to visit Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Alaska and
some other locations, but the Bonner’s home base will be Shelby. “After 32 years here, this is our home,” Flossie asserted.

They also plan to continue the healthy habits started years ago: eating nutritious foods and exercising six days a week. She runs 1.5 miles in the morning before meeting a group of friends to walk another 5 miles. She also lifts weights, works out on the elliptical machine, and plays pickle ball. She and Frank often spend Sunday afternoons on the golf course. Her guilty pleasure is to skip a workout and indulge in a gooey dessert. “That rarely happens,” she acknowledged. “But if I had a chance to eat my mom’s homemade cobbler, that would definitely be hard to say no to.”

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