Charles Bonjean began his career at The University of Texas in 1963 as an assistant professor with the Department of Sociology. He chaired the department from 1972 to 1974 and was the Hogg Professor of Sociology until he retired in 2002.
Dr. Bonjean was a prolific researcher, writer, and editor who authored, co-authored, and contributed to more than 65 books, articles, chapters, and book reviews in journals such as the American Sociological Review, the American Journal of Sociology, and the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. He served on and chaired many American Sociological Association committees including the Committee on Nominations, the Executive Office and Budget Committee, the Council Subcommittee on Sociological Practice, and the Minority Fellowship Committee. He became editor of the Social Science Quarterly in 1966, a position he held until 1993.
Dr. Bonjean joined the Hogg Foundation in 1974 as executive associate and was promoted to vice president in 1979. In 1993 he took over from Wayne Holtzman as executive director.
Under Bonjean’s direction, the foundation continued along the course mapped out by Holtzman, focusing on its evaluation research program. Bonjean’s term ended abruptly in 2002 when he became seriously ill. The foundation’s direction under Holtzman and Bonjean continued the “circuit riding” approach of earlier eras, distributing information to the public about mental health and dispatching consultants across Texas to assist with innovative mental health programs.
The effect of these activities, however, was limited by the predominance of the major mental health institutions and agencies that the foundation had done so much to foster in previous eras. No longer was the Hogg Foundation the sole or even the leading source of information about a cutting-edge concept of which most people knew little. By the end of the 20th century, state agencies such as the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, private-sector service providers, and academic training and research programs occupied spaces that once had been inhabited largely by the foundation. They provided public information on mental health, discussed issues relevant to mental health, and generally seized some degree of leadership in the larger field as well as various subfields.
Mental health had become a crowded field, as Holtzman would observe: "It’s a totally different game now than the way it was back in the ’50s and even the ’60s. You’ve got a number of medical schools. And you’ve got a whole lot of Ph.D. programs in psychology. You’ve got social work all over the place. If you look in the directory in Austin — there were two psychologists practicing psychology, psychological services, back in the ’50s, only two. There are well over 200 now. It’s more like 1,000 if you count the psychologists and related people. It takes pages and pages in the Yellow Pages of the phone book. It has changed."
In a 2001 letter, Bonjean described the foundation’s changing role in latter decades as “a convener — bringing together experts from a number of philanthropic and mental health-related organizations to share information and to collaborate on worthy projects.”
Bonjean died in 2008. In his obituary for his colleague, UT President Bill Powers wrote that Dr. Bonjean had the unique ability to make and keep friends, and he always found time for his passions: piano, jazz, and traveling the world.
His successor, Dr. King Davis, remembered his contributions to the field of mental health, writing: "People in the mental health community throughout Texas share wonderful stories about his kindness, concern, contributions and support. He was a dear friend to so many people throughout the state and the nation."