black and white photo of William A Bonsall

William A. Bonsall

Associate Professor Emeritus

Biographical Sketch

William A. Bonsall was born in Philadelphia December 31, 1923, and grew up in the "Turnverein" in Philly. He attended Philadelphia's Bartram High School and was a member of the school's first gymnastics team in 1939. It was there he developed gymnastics skills that influenced the rest of his life choices.

In 1942, Bonsall enrolled at Penn State University and was a member of the 1942 NCAA championship team. Unfortunately, the war interrupted his stay, and he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was among the forces that landed at Normandy on D-Day. While in battle, he was captured by the Germans and was held as a prisoner of war. Fortunately, his ingenuity enabled him to escape into Poland where he was protected by the underground until the end of the war.

Following the war, Bonsall returned to Penn State to complete his bachelor degree and to continue his gymnastics career. In 1946, he won the NCAA rings gold medal and the NCAA vaulting gold medal in 1948. He captured a silver medal for all-around in 1948, as well. The highlights of his athletic career were a silver medal in the 1948 Olympic Games, three years as an All-American, and team captain during his senior year.

In 1950, Bonsall and his wife moved to Morgantown where he became an instructor in the School of Physical Education and the University's first gymnastics coach. During his thirty-year career, he distinguished himself as an educator as well as a coach. As a gymnastics coach, he had few, if any, equals. His teams were extremely competitive, and his athletes were students first, gymnasts second. Bonsall led the Mountaineers to three Southern Conference championships and a fifth-place national finish in 1963. Additionally, he started the Special Olympics program of West Virginia in 1963, served as director of the WVU all-campus intramural sports program for seven years, and taught several classes at the University. Bonsall retired from coaching in 1980.

In recognition of his contribution to teaching and service, his state professional organization honored him with its highest award, the Ray O. Duncan Award. This was particularly fitting in as much as Bonsall had worked for Dean Duncan for many years. Additionally, for his coaching accomplishments, he was selected as Coach of the Year in 1980 by the United States Gymnastics Federation, inducted into the United States Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1983, and inducted into the West Virginia All-Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

Bonsall was an outstanding teacher and coach. He and his wife are co-owners of Paige Creations, the largest post card distributor in the state of West Virginia.

Bonsall and his wife Jean reside in Morgantown and have three children, Barbara, Janet, and Paul, and grandchildren.