Cornell Bell

Krannert honored Cornell Bell with a retirement reception in 2006 that brought numerous BOP alumni back to campus. (Photo by John Underwood)

Bell and his wife did not have children, and he famously called the students in the Business Opportunity Program “my children.” Roland Parrish, who later became co-executor of Bell’s estate, fondly says Bell called him his No. 1 son. The Libraries received the first acquisition of the papers from Parrish in 2009. But Bell’s other “children” were also involved.

“If Roland Parrish is Cornell Bell’s No. 1 son, Dr. Sonia Winslett is his first daughter,” Borger says. “She was the first woman to go through the Business Opportunity Program and cared for him in his final years. She managed the hard job of packing up the collection and sending it to Purdue.”

The collection chronicles a pivotal period in both Purdue and American history, Borger says. The collection is now open and accessible to scholars. Materials include photographs and correspondence between Bell and his students, colleagues and personal friends. Featured are a few items from Bell’s early life as a child, but the majority of the collection documents his personal and business life from the years 1973 to 2007.

The collection consists of three main series: papers, photographs, and audiovisual and artifacts. Papers and photographs are broken up into subseries showing Bell’s personal and business life separately. Materials within the collection include correspondence, greeting cards, photographic prints, slides, negatives, notebooks, ID tags and awards.

Winslett donated additional materials in 2010, including Bell’s 1941 yearbook, photographs of Business Opportunity Program students, and the 2009 program “The Legacy of Dr. Cornell Bell,” sponsored by Purdue Black Alumni Organization. Also included is a DVD produced by Winslett of Bell receiving the Special Boilermaker Award. Roland Parrish was the executive producer.

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