Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies News

Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Cornell A. Bell: A Timeless Tribute

February 1st, 2024

Purdue University recently held a poignant event to honor and dedicate an exhibit commemorating the remarkable legacy of Dr. Cornell A. Bell, former director of the Business Opportunity Program (BOP). The dedication ceremony was hosted by Dr. Beth McNeil, dean of Libraries and School of Information Studies, Darren Henry, managing director of BOP, and Roland Parrish, entrepreneur and distinguished alumnus. 

Dr. Cornell Bell left an indelible mark on education through his dedicated service to the Business Opportunity Program. As the program’s director for 37 years, he played a pivotal role in providing opportunities to countless students. Even after his passing in 2009, his influence continues to resonate, with the exhibit serving as a timeless tribute showcasing his life, achievements, and impact.

Dean McNeil welcomed guests to the event and thanked Briana Smith of RLR Associates, Indianapolis, the experiential graphic designer behind the exhibit. Darren Henry expressed gratitude to attendees, especially BOP students, emphasizing the life-changing impact Dr. Bell had on his own career. Henry also acknowledged Roland Parrish, highlighting his role in preserving Dr. Bell’s legacy through the Parrish Library, which is the first space at Purdue named after an African American alumnus.

“Everybody always asks me: ‘why have you stayed with the same employer in the same job for 17 years?’ And the quick and easy answer to this question is that I am just trying to do for others what Dr. Bell did for me, to help change their lives and their families’ lives as well.” — Darren Henry, managing director of BOP

Vice Provost for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging John Gates, although not personally acquainted with Dr. Bell, then emphasized the profound impact of the BOP program at the university. He praised the program’s commitment to excellence, citing the academic achievements and leadership of its students. Dr. Gates echoed Dr. Bell’s legacy of resilience and encouraged current BOP students to persevere, creating an environment where excellence thrives.

“The legacy that Dr. Bell left, I strive everyday to try and live up to. The BOP program plays an extraordinary role at Purdue. When we think about excellence, and when we think about black and brown excellence, it is imbued in this program. This is the cornerstone for the … environment we want to create at Purdue where people care about students deeply, where we believe in your excellence and the efficacy of your value, where you strive to reach the absolute stars and where we support you in doing that. No one is more important than you and no group of students here is more excellent than you.” — Dr. John Gates, addressing current students of BOP

Roland Parrish invited those who knew Dr. Bell personally to stand, underscoring the greatness of both the man and the program. He shared personal anecdotes, portraying Dr. Bell as a charismatic educator who transcended classroom boundaries. Parrish also stressed the need for continued funding to support the BOP program to ensure its ongoing success. 

Following the remarks, Dean McNeil, Darren Henry, and BOP students unveiled the exhibit, which is now on continuous display in the library. The collection, curated with dedication by Sammie Morris, University Archivist and Head of Archives and Special Collections, offers a visual journey through Dr. Bell’s lifetime, featuring photos, awards, and documents that capture the essence of his impactful contributions.

We invite you to visit the exhibit and encourage you to witness the visual display chronicling Dr. Bell’s extraordinary life, which stands as a heartfelt celebration of his enduring legacy—a legacy that will undoubtedly continue to inspire and shape the lives of generations of Boilermakers to come.


View photos from the Dr. Cornell A. Bell Exhibit Dedication (photo credit: Caroline Yoder/Purdue Libraries and Triston Myers/Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business):