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John Louis Bonn, SJ papers

Collection BC-1986-014: John Louis Bonn, SJ papers


  • Creation: 1892 - 1975
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930 - 1975

Scope and Content

These papers document the life and work of John Louis Bonn, a Jesuit priest, writer, and educator who taught English literature, classics, and drama at Boston College, Fairfield University, and Marycrest College. Most concern his time at Boston College and contain Bonn's extensive staging and lecture notes on plays that he taught and directed, primarily the works of Shakespeare. Also included are correspondence; ephemera; manuscripts; musical scores for dramatic performances; notes on the courses he taught and on his own research and writings; and photographs. Highlights include scrapbooks documenting theatrical performances at Boston College; his juvenile writings; a screenplay adaptation of his popular short stories about Sister Gervaise; a uniform shoulder board from his service in the US Navy; and meticulous day planners and agenda spanning his lifetime.


Language of Materials

English, Greek, and Latin

Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. Audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitally copied; all original media was retained, but may not be played due to format. Digital use copies can only be accessed in the Burns Library Reading Room.

Conditions Governing Use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

John Louis Bonn was born on October 23, 1906, in Waterbury, Connecticut, to John Louis Bonn and Katherine Somers Bonn. In 1923 he entered the Society of Jesus at the Shadowbrook novitiate and he earned a Bachelor's degree (1929) and a Master's degree (1930) from Boston College. He was ordained as a priest in 1935.

Between 1930 and 1949 Bonn taught classics and theater at Boston College intermittently. Between 1932-1936 he completed further studies at Weston College. He was the director of the School of Dramatic Arts at BC from 1937-1943. And during World War II he served in the US Navy as a chaplain (1943-1946).

After leaving BC permanently in 1949, Bonn served as Scriptor at St. Robert's Hall in Pomfret, Connecticut until 1953. He then taught English and Latin at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut until 1969. He next moved to Davenport, Iowa, where he taught English at Marycrest College until his retirement in 1973.

During his life Bonn wrote and published a number of works, including poetry (Simony Songs, 1923-1925), plays (The Joyful Mystery, 1947), novels (House on the Sand, 1950), and short stories (The Lively Arts of Sister Gervaise, 1957).

In retirement, Bonn performed missionary work in Franklin Park, Illinois, until his death from congestive heart failure in 1975.

Bonn's legacy as a proponent of drama at Boston College was honored in the naming of the Bonn Studio Theater, part of the Robsham Theater, in 1981. His influence had other lasting effects: in a convocation speech at Boston University in 2012, actor Leonard Nimoy described how Bonn helped him get his start by giving him a scholarship for a summer theater class at Boston College.

In 2011, a woman filed a suit which accused Bonn of sexually abusing her as a child in Davenport, Iowa between 1969-1973. Following a settlement, the Roman Catholic diocese of Davenport added Bonn to a list of credibly accused priests.


Schwinn, Bonaventure. "John Louis Bonn, S. J.," Box 11, Folder 22, John Louis Bonn papers, BC.1986.014, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Strauss, Valerie. "Nimoy to BU Arts students: Be persistent," Washington Post, February 25, 2015.

Wellner, Brian. "Judge grants Clear Lake's woman's request to add priest to abuse list," Globe Gazette, August 22, 2012.


22.25 Linear Feet (37 containers)

.3 Gigabytes ( 2 files with approximately .1 hours of audio)


The John Louis Bonn, SJ papers document the life of Bonn, a Jesuit priest, writer, and educator who attended Boston College and taught classics, English, and drama there from 1930-1949. It includes correspondence, ephemera, lecture and staging notes, manuscripts, and photographs.


The papers are arranged into nine series: I. Correspondence, II. Course material, III. Staging notes, IV. Ephemera, V. Religious material, VI. Photographs, VII. Scrapbooks, VIII. Writings, IX. Writings about Bonn. Series I is arranged into two subseries: A. Business and B. Personal. Series VIII is arranged nine subseries: A. Essays, B. Music, C. Notes, D. Novels, E. Plays, F. Poems, G. Short stories, H. Student works and juvenilia, and I. Textbooks.

Arranged alphabetically, except for Series I, subseries B: Personal correspondence, which is arranged chronologically.


Transferred by the Boston College Jesuit Community (1975), Robsham Theatre, Boston College (1987), and Francis W. Sweeney, SJ (1995). Gift of Stephen V. Kobasa (1993), Joseph M. Larkin (1995), and the Society of Jesus of New England (1999).

Additional material was received before January 1986. Because the current accessioning system was not used until then, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.

Related Materials

James H. Dolan, SJ papers, BC.2001.103, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Francis J. Dore, SJ papers, BC.2005.107, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

James F. Geary, SJ papers, BC.2000.010, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

William J. Kenealy, SJ papers, BC.2005.121, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

William J. Leonard, SJ papers, BC.2000.023, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

John E. Murphy, SJ papers, BC.2005.125, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Richard G. Shea, SJ papers, BC.2005.005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Francis W. Sweeney, SJ papers, MS.2002.003, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

John Louis Bonn, SJ Papers
1892-1975 (1930-1975)
Annalisa Moretti
September 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States