James T. Bonnen

Posted: Mon 1:12 PM, Aug 19, 2013
March 11, 1926 - July 28, 2013

James T. Bonnen, 87, died peacefully on Sunday, July 28, 2013, surrounded by family. A memorial service will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church, East Lansing, Mich. on Thursday, August 22 at 3:30 p.m., followed by a reception at Kellogg Center, Red Cedar Room, at 5 to 7 p.m.

He was born in South Dakota to Alice and Clarence Bonnen and raised in College Station, Texas. While attending Harvard for his Ph.D., he met fellow student Sarah Smythe. They married in 1954 and moved to East Lansing where he took a position at Michigan State University. They raised a family of five children, and Jim pursued a distinguished career as Professor of Agricultural Economics, intertwined with community service locally and public service nationally. Always interested in spirited discussions of politics, history, foreign affairs or the arts, Jim's intellectual curiosity and full speed ahead, attitude propelled him into a lifetime of accomplishments.

Throughout his career of teaching and research Jim focused on issues of public policy for rural development and agriculture. While he received many awards during his career, the crowning achievement was to deliver the opening lecture at the International Conference of Agricultural Economists, in Berlin, Germany, in 2000. An extended survey of Jim's career is at

Jim was associated with Christo Rey Community Center in Lansing for several decades, where he helped further the mission of the Center to deliver health, educational, and counseling services to the community. Bonnen served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946 and continued in the U.S. Navy Reserve until he retired in 1988 with the rank of Commander.

Jim is survived by his wife, Sarah, five children and 10 grandchildren, Edwin (Kim Kauffman), Alice (Rich Glick; Lucille, Sarah), Clarence (Susan; Kathryn, Benjamin), Charles (Patricia; Alexander, Christopher, Joseph), John (Cynthia; David, Paul, Thomas); best friend and protegé, David Schweikhardt. Also surviving are his siblings, Jerry Bonnen, Marty Dixon, Mary O'Mara, Patsy Boughton and David Bonnen.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Greater Lansing Food Bank or a charity of your choice.

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