Author William Styron, best known for his novel Sophie’s Choice, was a student of Cone’s when she taught for the Duke V-12 program. In response to seeing Cone’s profile in Time, Styron wrote to congratulate her in 1965. In the letter, he recalled a day that Cone called him out in class as he was engrossed in a novel instead of paying attention. Styron wrote, “I said I was going to be a writer come hell or high water and I remember you said with great good humor that you hoped I would succeed in my ambition, adding that when my first novel came out you hoped I would send you a copy to your home. . .” He enclosed a copy of his first book, Lie Down in Darkness.
In 1988 Cone was nominated for the Nancy Susan Reynolds Award, which "recognized the unsung heroes of North Carolina whose vision, determination, resourcefulness and strength of character caused them to make a positive difference in the state." A lengthy nomination booklet demonstrates Cone’s immense impact. Several former students wrote enthusiastic recommendations, which further highlight Cone’s almost unbelievable dedication to her students.
Bonnie B. Thyer, who started her own company in a male-dominated field, remembers Cone as her mentor and role model: "I felt that if Bonnie E. Cone could operate at the highest levels in her profession, there was no reason why I could not be successful in my chosen field." That same persistent push of gentle firmness that allowed Cone to gain allies in building UNC Charlotte also motivated students to enroll in college, finish their degrees, and strive to be their absolute best in their chosen careers.