Olympic Gymnast, War Hero, and Hall of Fame Coach, Bill Bonsall is the past become the future and the future that is the past.
OlympicGames: Team member, London, England, (1948). Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Bonsall attended Philadelphia’s Bartram High School and was a member of that school’s inaugural men’s gymnastics team in 1939. Bonsall was and may still be the only Olympian to have graduated from Bartram High. He then attended Penn State, where he was a member of the 1942-‘43 NCAA championship teams. Following his freshman campaign, Bonsall enlisted in the U.S. Army and was among the forces that landed at Normandy on D-Day. German forces captured Bonsall on September 5, 1944, at Dinant, Belgium. Bonsall was held until he made a daring escape to Warsaw, Poland, via Russia, on January 31, 1945. He returned to the United States later that year and, after his discharge, re-enrolled at Penn State U. picking up his career where he left off. NationalAAUChampionships: Gold-R, (1946); Silver-AA, Bronze-V, 4th-FX, (1948); Silver-AA, (1949). NCAA: Silver-AA & FR, Bronze-HB, 4th– FX, (1948). Overall, Bonsall’s Penn State career included two NCAA championships, two All-America awards and two second-place finishes in the NCAA all-around competition. Education: After graduating from Penn State in 1949, the Olympian went to West Virginia U. where he earned his master’s degree in 1950. Coaching: Bonsall was the first coach of the West Virginia University men’s gymnastics program and served 31 years as the Mountaineer mentor. WVU gymnastics was a club sport when Bonsall began, and he became the university’s first men’s Head Gymnastics Coach when the program was elevated to varsity status in 1952. During his career, Bonsall led the Mountaineers to three Southern Conference championships and a fifth-place national finish in 1963. He retired from coaching in 1980. Honors/Awards: Bonsall was named to the United States Gymnastics Hall of Fame, (1983); the West Virginia Sports Writers’ Hall of Fame, (1991); and the WVU School of Physical Education Hall of Fame, (1991).
Sources: Courtesy of major contributions by A. Bruce Frederick, author of Who’s Who and Was Who in American Gymnastics, Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005, and the editing services of Abie Grossfeld, 1979 Hall of Fame Honoree. Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Larry Banner, Web Manager