Father and Son Have Military Career and Professorship in Common

Like father, like son. Dr. Stephen Bell followed in his father’s footsteps in multiple ways: first with his military career, then by becoming an educator at Liberty University.

Dr. Bruce Bell and his son, Dr. Stephen Bell, are both veterans of the United States military and current professors at Liberty University. Bruce Bell is an associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences while Stephen Bell is a professor of English.

In January 1971, Bruce Bell was commissioned through Army ROTC at Penn State, beginning a military career that took him around the world.

The Bell family was living in Tehran, Iran, during the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in 1978. They lost everything they owned during evacuations after the Shah’s government collapsed and after the Ayatollah Khomeini, the former supreme leader of Iran, took control of the country. The Bell family returned to the United States, and Bruce Bell began serving as liaison officer in the Pentagon. 

Bruce Bell became a lieutenant colonel, but working for the betterment of the country is his life’s proudest honor. 

Following his time working in the Pentagon, Bruce Bell followed orders to take on the role of a public affairs officer, becoming only one of four spokespersons for the Army. In 1990, shortly after the U.S. military entered Panama to oust the dictator Manuel Noriega, Bruce Bell was flown to Panama to work for one year as public affairs officer, while his wife and children remained in the States. 

Upon returning to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1991, Bruce Bell continued serving as public affairs officer and then became a speechwriter for the superintendent of West Point. The end of his Army career and beginning of his next step came in 1996.

“I retired from the Army June 30, 1996 and began teaching at Liberty University the next day,” Bruce Bell said.

Bruce Bell taught in the School of Business and then became dean of the school in 2000. He later became associate dean in the College of General Studies and then associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. He has been happily serving in that role since 2011. 

Stephen Bell had every intention of following in his father’s footsteps. However, an unfortunate knee injury led him away from the military and towards a career in academia. 

“Having grown up in a military family, as well as being surrounded by many friends in the same boat, I totally wanted to do ROTC through college and be commissioned as an officer in the Army like my dad,” Stephen Bell said. 

Stephen Bell completed ROTC at Wheaton college and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Defense Artillery after he graduated. While finishing a six-month office basic course in Fort Bliss, Texas, Bell aggravated a knee injury sustained from running. During his time working a staff position with the Eighteenth Airborne Corps in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he heard about a program known as the “Army National Guard Combat Reform Initiative.” 

“[It] sought to transition active-duty officers into the National Guard,” Stephen Bell said. 

Stephen Bell would go on to spend two years in National Guard units in places such as Suffolk, Portsmouth, and Franklin, Virginia. Stephen Bell left the Guard in 2001 to study graduate-level English at the University of Virginia.

After teaching English courses at Azusa Pacific University in California for several years, Stephen Bell returned to the East Coast in 2007.

“(I) began teaching world literature at Liberty around the same time that I started a doctoral program in literature and criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Having finally earned my doctorate in 2014, I continue to teach world literature and theory classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels here at Liberty. Love every minute of it,” Stephen Bell said.  

When asked about how he and his father are similar, Stephen Bell mentioned that his mother was a teacher as well. 

“I was also basically following in both parents’ footsteps as teachers, but my dad got his doctorate in the field of business. I guess you could say I went in a different direction getting my doctorate in literature and criticism,” Stephen Bell said.

This past year, Stephen Bell published his first book, “Global Migrancy and Diasporic Memory in the Work of Salman Rushdie,” a scholarly text based on his dissertation. 

Like a number of other veteran faculty and staff members at Liberty University, Bruce Bell and Stephen Bell are dedicated to fostering an environment of academic excellence and training champions for Christ. Although both are retired from the military, the father and son are leaders in the academic sphere, working to positively impact the place where the Lord has brought them. 

“It’s a joy getting to serve here at Liberty, beginning during the university’s 25th anniversary and now during this jubilee year. It’s an even bigger joy getting to serve alongside my older son Steve,” Bruce Bell said.

Burton is a feature writer.

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