September 21st, 2021
Bell brought engaged leadership to GC Board
International student and diversity initiatives key parts of legacy
Pictured from left to right are: Dr. Richard Midcap; GC president; Don Morin, Board Chair, GC Board of Trustees; Vianne Bell, retired GC Board Trustee honored with 16 years of service; Dr. Brenda McCartney, Vice-Chair, GC Board of Trustees; Karen Myers, GC Board Trustee and Duane Yoder, GC Board Trustee.
Vianne Bell, whose engaged leadership style was a hallmark of her tenure on the Garrett College Board of Trustees, was recognized Tuesday night by the Board for her 16 years of service.
"Vianne's board service exemplified commitment to a cause – and that cause was Garrett College," Board Chair Don Morin said of Bell, a five-term Board chair who retired from the Board in July. "And that commitment didn't end when Board meetings ended. She tutored students, worked at the baseball concession stand, attended College sporting events, coordinated student outreach to elementary schools, and even housed students with no place to go over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks."
The Board resolution presented to Bell highlighted some of her most impactful contributions, including her role in expanding international student recruitment, developing community diversity initiatives, supporting Laker athletics, organizing fundraising dinners and events, and tutoring GC students.
Bell said her efforts on the Board were all directed toward one overarching goal.
"I supported students and faculty to maximize the benefits of their experience at Garrett College," said Bell, "and provide a welcoming environment for students, parents, visitors and guests to the College."
Bell and her husband, Michael, began their connection with Garrett College shortly after moving to Garrett County in 2001. The Bells were involved in nonprofit work in South Africa, and Garrett College was a partner in a USAID grant that brought South African teachers and administrators to the United States to learn new teaching techniques in math and science.
"We were asked to present a workshop for teachers in our local public schools and faculty at the College on the culture and people of South Africa," recalled Bell. "We also held a community reception at our home with the arrival of each new group [of South African educators] over the three-year grant period."
Bell was appointed to the Board of Trustees by Governor Robert Ehrlich in 2005. She was reappointed to six-year terms by Governor Martin O'Malley in 2009 and Governor Larry Hogan in 2015. Bell and her husband were strong supporters of an international student program that at its peak featured 22 students from 14 countries attending Garrett College.
Bell, whose non-profit Coalition for Effective Local Democracy (CELD) helps communities in South Africa, arranged for three South African, two Cameroonian and two Nigerian students to attend Garrett College during her Board tenure. All graduated in two years and continued their education at four-year institutions.
Bell and Tim Watson, a Garrett County Public Schools elementary school counselor, teamed up in 2017 to start a joint Garrett College-GCPS diversity initiative. As part of this endeavor, GC international students came to elementary schools to speak about their home countries. After the start of COVID, Bell and Watson were able to establish "virtual meetings" between GCPS 4th- and 5th-graders and their counterparts in a South African elementary school where CELD had provided computers.
"This has been an extremely rewarding initiative for all involved," said Bell of the joint GC-GCPS diversity program.
Bell's contributions have extended to philanthropic endeavors with the Garrett College Foundation. She and her husband have donated to the College's two recent capital campaigns – supporting the STEM and Performing Arts Center endowments – as well as financial support for the Community Aquatic and Recreation Complex (CARC).
"Vianne's commitment to the College and the community is inspiring," said Dr. Brenda McCartney, the vice-chair of the Board of Trustees. "We will miss her wise counsel."
In recognition of Bell’s contributions, the Board of Trustees approved renaming the College’s robotics scholarship the Vianne Bell GC Robotics Fund.
Read remarks from Vianne Bell, here.