In Memoriam: James Bell, 1925-2016

BellJames Bell, the first African American to serve as a vice president and dean in the California State University System, died recently at the age of 90.

Dr. Bell was a native of New Jersey. After graduating from high school, he joined the Marines and served in the Pacific during World War II. Using the GI Bill, Bell enrolled at The Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and earned a bachelor’s degree in health, physical education, and recreation. He earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in physical education at Columbia University in New York. Dr. Bell was the first African American to earn a doctorate in the discipline at Columbia.

After teaching at several HBCUs, Dr. Bell joined the faculty at Cal Poly Pomona in 1968. In 1969, he became the university’s first associate dean. Three years later, he was named vice president for student affairs, the first African American to hold that rank in the state system.


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