Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Joseph Bondi, former Temple Terrace mayor, father of state attorney general, dies

TEMPLE TERRACE — Joseph Bondi was a busy guy. Through most of the 1970s, he taught at the University of South Florida while also leading a city.

He served as a Temple Terrace city councilman and mayor while also writing books that reshaped public education for adolescents. It was a pace he kept for most of his life.

Dr. Bondi authored more than 25 textbooks, including a standard setter in its ninth edition, and was one of a handful of educators who created the modern middle school.

He juggled a half-dozen interests simultaneously to the end, firing off e-mails about downtown redevelopment to city officials, starting a charter school for children with disabilities and campaigning with his daughter, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Dr. Bondi, a dynamo whose risks in civic and academic life usually paid off, died Tuesday of leukemia. He was 76.

"He worked his entire life to provide us with an education," said Pam Bondi. "I would never have gone to law school had he not pushed me."

He was neither glib nor afraid to express himself.

"If you knew Joe, you knew he was very capable of getting anything done," said Temple Terrace Mayor Frank Chillura, who grew up with the Bondi children and mowed their lawn as a teen. "He was no-nonsense, very focused and dedicated and factual, and always looked for a way of getting it done and moving it forward."

As the city's mayor from 1974 to 1978, Dr. Bondi oversaw a new City Hall, library, recreation center and police department — all without raising taxes.

Joseph Bondi grew up in Tampa, where his mother taught school. He graduated from Hillsborough High and was a Navy veteran. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Florida, where he earned a doctorate, and married Patsy Hammer 52 years ago.

Starting in 1960, Dr. Bondi taught at Wilson Junior High and Greco Junior High, and served as dean of boys at Franklin Junior High. He started teaching at the University of South Florida in 1965.

"He was the kind of guy who seemed grumpy, but he never was," said Steve Permuth, a former dean of education at USF. Of his teaching style, Permuth said, "He brought a lot of street sense in addition to a lot of academic sense. The students used to laugh at his stories, touched with a tinge of what the real world was about."

Dr. Bondi made his biggest mark in early adolescent education, authoring numerous books with former USF education professor Jon Wiles, his partner in an international consulting firm. Several of those titles, especially Curriculum Development — A Guide to Practice, have made required reading lists worldwide.

A key premise of his work: 11- to 14-year-olds are nothing like high school students and need a learning environment designed for them.

"You have the widest range of achievement, with students reading at a third-grade to a 10th-grade level in the same room," Wiles said.

Their proposed solution — the middle school — took root in Michigan, New York and Florida.

"They published some of the most widely used and widely known books on curriculum, especially on middle school education, and really were tremendously influential in that field," said USF education professor Howard Johnston.

Dr. Bondi retired from USF in 2003. Along the way, he gave his daughter a nudge that would shape her own career.

"I didn't want to be a prosecutor," Pam Bondi said. "But he conspired with (former Hillsborough State Attorney) Bill James and talked me into an internship in the state attorney's office."

He relaxed in a summer house at Longboat Key, reading history and other nonfiction books, and writing. He also stayed abreast of local politics, said former Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti, who finished his second term in 2012.

"Joe had very high standards, and he was strong in stating his feelings about it," Affronti said.

He passed those standards to his children. Pam Bondi became the state's attorney general; her sister, Beth, once one of Hillsborough County's youngest principals; and son, Brad, a lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Bondi was diagnosed with leukemia in July. He died at Melech Hospice House with his family beside him.

"I promised him we would all live our lives the way he did, with dignity and respect for others," Pam Bondi said. "That's one of the last things I told him."

Times Researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

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