Photo: courtesy Purdue University
Diversification has long been a watchword in investing. Diversifying one’s portfolio is considered a sound practice. Creating diversity within the ranks, however, has been a more recent challenge for the corporate world.
In 2006, those enrolled at the nation’s top business schools were just 7% black or Hispanic—while the same minority groups together represented about 15% of the student body at top U.S. colleges, as well as law and medical programs.
Since the 1960s, Purdue University has sought to tackle the discrepancy. Faculty members of the Krannert School of Management established the school’s Business Opportunity Program in 1968. The following year, Dean John Day placed Cornell Bell at the program’s helm, where he remained for 37 years.
An Evansville native, Bell earned his bachelor’s (’47) and master’s (’52) degrees from IU, and a doctorate from Purdue (’72), and pursued careers as a chemist and educator. Bell had served in a number of capacities at Gary Tolleston High School and was the school’s principal when asked to join Krannert in 1969.
From the first class of eleven undergraduates that Bell took under his wing, the director of the Business Opportunity Program served as mentor to hundreds of minority students at Purdue. Bell extended his efforts at diversification nationwide through his involvement with the Graduate Management Admission Council.
The recipient of numerous awards at the university and state level, Bell was named Sagamore of the Wabash in 1996, the same year Purdue renamed the program he’d long directed for him. Bell passed away in 2009.
“I don’t want to be a king,” Bell maintained. “I want to be a kingmaker.”