The University of Arizona

Travel, Research Award Honors Memory of Michael E. Bonine

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, University Communications | February 2, 2012

The fund will provide summer travel and research awards to undergraduates in any major and graduate students in Middle Eastern and North African studies.

Michael E. Bonine, founding director of the School of Middle Eastern & North African Studies and professor of Near Eastern studies and geography, died on Dec. 21 of complications from intestinal cancer. He will be remembered for his expansive spirit and endless curiosity - a source of encouragement and inspiration to all who knew him.
Michael E. Bonine, founding director of the School of Middle Eastern & North African Studies and professor of Near Eastern studies and geography, died on Dec. 21 of complications from intestinal cancer. He will be remembered for his expansive spirit and endless curiosity - a source of encouragement and inspiration to all who knew him.
An intrepid traveler, Bonine explored more than 120 countries, taking incredible photos along the way. A selection of his photos will be on display later this month on the west side of campus, at Caffé Lucé. Proceeds from sales of the photos will help fund the Michael Bonine Memorial Travel & Research Award.
An intrepid traveler, Bonine explored more than 120 countries, taking incredible photos along the way. A selection of his photos will be on display later this month on the west side of campus, at Caffé Lucé. Proceeds from sales of the photos will help fund the Michael Bonine Memorial Travel & Research Award.
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Michael E. Bonine, founding director of the School of Middle Eastern & North African Studies and professor of Near Eastern studies and geography, died on Dec. 21 of complications from intestinal cancer.

The Michael Bonine Memorial Travel and Research Award has been established in his honor by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences through the University of Arizona Foundation.

The fund will provide summer travel and research awards for undergraduates in any major and graduate students in Middle Eastern and North African studies.

It is intended to support adventurous undergraduates who wish to travel to a country or region that sees relatively few American college students and graduate students who conduct research in the Middle East and North Africa, said Scott Lucas, acting director of the School of Middle Eastern & North African Studies. 

"As Dr. Bonine was deeply committed to undergraduate study abroad and graduate student support, this endowment in his name will reflect his commitments for generations to come," Lucas said.

A memorial was held Jan. 30 to remember the brilliant and compassionate scholar, teacher, colleague, mentor, friend, photographer, husband, father and intrepid traveler. Speakers at the event, held at the UA Honors College, included John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Donna Swaim, with whom he led students many summers to faraway locales; Dale Eickelman, an esteemed colleague that flew in from Dartmouth to attend; and his children, Kevin and Kim Bonine.  

Professor Bonine joined the university in 1975 as a geographer whose initial interest was Iran. He subsequently expanded to cover most of the Middle East and North Africa. During his distinguished career, he served as executive director of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (1981-89) and head of the department of near Eastern studies from 2001-11.

Under Bonine's leadership, the department of near East studies was transformed into the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies in July 2011.  

His dedication to mentoring students and junior faculty members was extraordinary. He hired seven of the current 11 professors in MENAS and guided four of them through the tenure process. Under his leadership, both the master's and doctoral programs grew, and he constantly sought ways to offer funding to as many graduate students as possible.

In addition to being a wonderful teacher in the classroom, he truly knew all of the graduate students in the department personally, and many of them sought out his advice and wisdom.

Bonine described himself as "a human geographer with special interests in the Middle East and issues related to arid lands." He also examined the ideas of the Islamic City and Islamic urbanism in general, as well as urbanization and its consequences in the 20th century. 

In the fall, Stanford University Press published a book for which he was the first editor. The book, "Is There a Middle East?: The Evolution of a Geopolitical Concept," offers a diverse set of voices to debate the possible manifestations and meanings of the Middle East.

Bonine contributed to the volume, "Of Maps and Regions: Where Is the Geographer's Middle East?" analyzing the conflicting names and countries modern geographers have employed for this part of the world, before coming to the conclusion that the expression, Middle East and North Africa was the best term. 

Born in 1942, he grew up in Abilene, Texas; his father, Paul, a building contractor, and his mother, Billie, a schoolteacher. Heavily involved in Boy Scouts as a youth, he later attended the University of Texas, Austin, where he played handball, earned his doctorate and met his wife, Marilyn.

His doctoral research took Bonine and his wife to Iran via a Land Rover driven from England in the late 1960s. In 1975, he moved from the University of California, Davis to Tucson with his wife and two small children to join the UA faculty as a human geographer. 

He followed UA sports avidly, played racquetball for decades and loved hiking in Sabino Canyon.

An intrepid traveler, he explored more than 120 countries, taking incredible photos along the way. A selection of his photos will be on display later this month on the west side of campus, at Caffé Lucé. Proceeds from sales of the photos will help fund the Michael Bonine Memorial Travel & Research Award.

He will be remembered for his expansive spirit and endless curiosity – a source of encouragement and inspiration to all who knew him. Throughout his illness he maintained his characteristic sharp wit and optimism, coupled with stoic determination.

Bonine is survived by: Marilyn, son Kevin (also a faculty member at the UA, in ecology and evolutionary biology), daughter Kim, brother Gary, sister Brenda, nephews Kuzi and Tiisai, and grandchildren Molly, Piper, Summer and Fisher.