SUMITON – Craig Bonta, had worked for nine years at UAB in maintenance when he was passed over for a promotion. He wasn’t looking for another job, but when a coworker showed him an ad for a position with Walker Tech in Sumiton, he applied.
Dr. Harold Wade interviewed Bonta and hired him on the spot. For the next 28 years, he helped Bevill State Community College grow. Bonta retires on October 31.
Bonta’s first position was in the maintenance department. In this role, he helped them develop maintenance and safety plans for the college. “We were one campus at the time, and we were not accredited,” Bonta said.
As the college began to grow in the late 1990s, new campuses were added in Fayette, Jasper, Hamilton, and Pickens County. The college needed a method of linking the campuses with an interactive television system. This allowed a professor at one campus to teach classes to students on another campus.
One of Bonta’s responsibilities in maintenance was opening the buildings at night to allow contractors to install the high-tech equipment. Bonta was fascinated by the technology.
“I asked a lot of questions and had them show me how to work the devices because I knew somebody was going to ask me how to work it,” Bonta said. He quickly became the subject matter expert on the system used to connected the campuses.
It was his curiosity and work ethic that made him a natural to become the director over the budding distance learning program at Bevill State.
The technology was wonky at first, but as the equipment improved and communications got faster, distance learning became a way of life at Bevill, according to Bonta.
Now media rooms at each campus have multiple cameras, communications equipment, projectors, digital document projectors, and other equipment to link the various campuses together.
He started having problems with his throat in the fall of 2016. He thought it was strep, but it got worse. The following year, his primary doctor sent him to a specialist.
“When he looked down my throat, the doc said this is troubling,” Bonta remembered. “Those are words that you never want to hear from your mechanic or your doctor," he said. It turned out to be cancer in one of his tonsils. He wasn’t sure what caused cancer because he doesn’t smoke or drink.
Through it all Bonta kept a positive attitude. He told Kaye, his wife of 36 years, that no matter what it was, they would get through it one way or the other.
He came through surgery and radiation treatments. “I didn’t have to have chemo,” Bonta said.
He came back to work in his job at Bevill State after he recovered.
Bonta has been thinking about retirement for a while. Education funding has always been an issue in the state, and that figured into his decision to retire.
In his letter of resignation, he told Dr. Kim Ennis, the president of Bevill State that this job has been his life for the past 28 years. He’s worked with a lot of great people. Bevill is not letting a good man get away because they’ve asked him to come back to a part-time position after the first of the year.
What will Bonta do when he retires? He said his wife has a long to-do list that will take some time to complete.