Photo above: BOP spans
generations as well as geographical boundaries.
Shown are: (from left) current student Jody (Banks)
Conway, BS (ACCT) '93, MBA '03, Dr. Cornell Bell,
director for BOP, and former BOP student Pervis
H. Bearden, BSIM '77, North American warehouse
service manager for Procter & Gamble.
Krannert's Business Opportunity Program helps develop new
generations of Racially diverse business leaders
By J. Michael
after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
Krannert's then-new dean John Day and several faculty
members decided to pursue a dream of their own: to provide
minority students with the tools to succeed in the overwhelmingly
white business world. During this time of extreme racial
tension, the Krannert School created the Business Opportunity
Program (BOP) to support and fund minority students'
college educations and help grow a new generation of
business leaders that included African Americans and
other minorities. The program was one of the first of
its kind in the nation.
taking wing in 1968 with 11 student participants, BOP
has grown and blossomed under the leadership of Dr. Cornell
A. Bell, expanding to include graduate students as well
as undergraduates. To date, more than 500 minority undergraduates
and more than 300 minority master's degree students (predominantly
African Americans, about half males and half females)
have graduated from Krannert with scholarship and fellowship
help from BOP and the personal touch of Cornell Bell.
graduates of the Krannert School's Business Opportunity Program talk
about the program's leader, Dr. Cornell A. Bell, the same words and
phrases keep recurring:
Bell has been like a father to me."
"Even after you graduate, Dr. Bell keeps up with you like a parent." "The
graduates of the Business Opportunity Program have become like a family."
The street runs both
ways. Dr. Bell describes BOP as "almost like a family. I have so much
respect for these students. Some have become my best
BSIM '80, explains the relevance of the family metaphor. "For a lot
of students whose parents didn't attend college and didn't
have that experience to draw upon, Dr. Bell fulfilled
Pennington was headed
to Indiana University from Hammond (Ind.) High School
when he met Dr. Bell. "He was the only person who came to our school to talk about college," Pennington
said. "He offered a challenging opportunity. That really appealed to
metaphor remained intact once Pennington reached campus. "Other people,
particularly minorities, felt like they were on their own at the big
university. But with Dr. Bell and BOP, you were part of something. The
other BOP students were like brothers and sisters to you," he says.
earned his Krannert degree, he went on to earn his MBA
from the University of Chicago. He is now managing principal
of Pennington Partners & Co.,
a venture capital firm in Chicago.
Bell and BOP are the keys to my success," Pennington says. "What has
been important is the relationship, the network, and
of the BOP students didn't know they were interested in management careers
until meeting Dr. Bell. In fact, some hadn't even viewed college as
a realistic possibility.
Shawn Taylor, BS
(ACCT) '82, was a solid "B" student and football player at Chicago Vocational
High School. He grew up in the projects, his family on welfare. Taylor
relates that after the last football game of his career, Dr. Bell showed
up at his house. "We sat around the kitchen table, and he told us about
BOP," Taylor says. "It was a totally new idea to me. I never knew there
was such a thing as a chance."
Dr. Bell says that
Taylor, with his vocational school education, had some
academic catching up to do at Purdue. "But Shawn's discipline, determination, and desire
to succeed were overwhelming," Bell says.
on his chance at Krannert, graduating with honors. After graduation,
he worked for Arthur Andersen in Dallas for 10 years, where he became
a manager. Then, he spent five years with American Express as a personal
Today, he is the
owner, president, and CEO of his own company that runs 32 Taco Bell
restaurants in the Houston area. He still stays in regular communication
with Dr. Bell.
says, "Dr. Bell is like a father to me."
What is Dr. Bell's
secret to finding and motivating talented students?
"He has such
commitment," Taylor says. "He cares. People see that and respond to
Cynthia G. Barnes,
BS (ACCT) '77, was an honor student from Ft. Wayne. She
had known from the age of 10 that she was going to be
a businesswoman, although she didn't know what kind of businesswoman.
She had scholarship offers when she graduated from high school in 1975
and "absolutely no
intentions of going to Purdue.
"Dr. Bell convinced
me to come down for a visit," she says. "I was persuaded to come to
Purdue because Dr. Bell took me personally under his
wing. I thought for many years I was his one and only.
"It wasn't until
we had a function honoring him in 1992 that I realized that I was just
one of the people in a room of 400 or 500, each one of whom Dr. Bell
had personally taken under his wing." Barnes laughs at the memory.
Barnes was a young
woman in a hurry. She graduated in 2 1/2 years. "Funds were an issue," she
says. "I came from a working family, and shortening that time span in
college made a financial difference."
in December 1977. She interviewed in Chicago with KPMG,
LLP, a Big Six accounting firm. When she told her interviewers
she wasn't interested in working in Chicago, they spread out a U.S. map
and told her she could work anywhere the firm had an office. She chose
Houston, "because I
knew it was booming."
Before the fact,
Dr. Bell had worked hard to make contacts with accounting firms because
of the underrepresentation of minorities in the field.
Barnes is now a CPA
and partner at Barnes & Lenoir CPAs in Houston.
For years, Barnes
and other BOP graduates have referred others to Dr. Bell
and the BOP family, the Krannert School, and Purdue.
Barnes referred and recommended three Texas students to the class of BOP
students who entered the program in the summer of 2001.
"Dr. Bell was always
there for me," she says. "He opened doors. He encouraged self-esteem
and gave me the tools and foundation to walk into a board
room, adjust, adapt, and solve problems.
"Dr. Bell was
that father you always wanted. And I have a very special
father of my own."
BOP began as an idea
following closely on the heels of the racial turmoil
following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. Several faculty members came to the new Krannert dean, John Day, and
suggested something needed to be done to recruit African American students
to Purdue and the Krannert School."
Faculty members were
saying that if the African American community was going
to progress, minorities were going to have to get involved
in the economics of society," Day
was quoted as saying at that time.
Those faculty members
include Prof. Dan E. Schendel, strategic management, now dean of the
German International Graduate School of Management (GISMA); and Prof.
Wilbur G. Lewellen, finance, now director of Krannert Executive Education
Programs (KEEP). Two others were Charles Lawrence (now an emeritus professor)
and Joseph C. Ullman.
Very few minority
students were getting MBAs in those days. From BOP's inception, Day
and the faculty had their eyes on growing their own MBA students from
schools were a logical place to find minority students
for the West Lafayette campus, but Day and his Krannert
colleagues realized that some of the schools weren't providing sufficient
educational preparation for Krannert. Day set up a summer college preparatory
term before the freshman year, funded by a loan from
the Purdue Research Foundation.
The summer term
gave motivated students the tools to succeed academically: an eight-week
course in mathematics, English, and economics; academic and adjustment
counseling; BOP also provided tutors throughout the students' undergraduate
years, and summer internships.
The only thing lacking
was someone to lead the program.
In BOP's second year,
Dean Day hired Bell, a former Gary, Ind., school administrator
who was planning to earn his doctorate at IU. Day convinced
him he should work on his PhD at Purdue. "I suggested he come on board as a professor,
but primarily as the administrator of the new program," Day said. "He
was very successful at this. He later started working
not only with undergraduates but also with graduate students.
This grew into one of the most successful programs of this type of any
business school in the country."
In fact, it was one
of the first such programs nationally.
Bell, who still corresponds
with Day, says that the situation was not comfortable in 1968 when BOP
began. American cities were afflicted with racial violence, and the
Vietnam war raged abroad. Yet Day had the vision to begin the potentially
"When I think
of Dean Day and the social environment in which he started the BOP program,
I think it takes a lot of courage to be a leader," Bell says, About
the faculty members whose idealism was the impetus for
BOP, Dr. Bell has one word: "extraordinary."
Ingredients of Success
Dr. Bell discovered
his gift for encouraging students to pursue their educations as a counselor
in the Gary schools in the early '60s.
that BOP has come a long way since it began with 11 students
in 1968. But what he terms "the ingredients of success," the qualities
he looks for in students, have remained constant through
"I have always
looked as much at the parents as at the students," Bell says. His reason
is that parents often impart important qualities to their children,
especially the self-esteem, "stick-to-it-iveness, and competitiveness" that
he saw as the qualities his successful students had in
"I am still
looking for those same ingredients," Dr. Bell says. Successful
students, in Dr. Bell's experience, had good role models.
He knew this from his background as a principal in Gary,
one of the places BOP targeted early because of the influential group
of African American doctors, lawyers, and teachers there.
While he wouldn't
say so himself, Dr. Bell is one of the ingredients of
his students' success. He describes himself as necessarily
stern, because "I
can't lose the students' respect."
But this stern father
figure is often around at suppertime for his students. Dr. Bell makes
the rounds to the residence halls where his students live. He has been
a Faculty Fellow at Wiley Hall for more than 15 years, and it's no coincidence
that he's spotted and recruited some sharp students for the MBA program.
He has recruited white students as well as minorities.
flock to me," Dr. Bell says. "Students are good psychologists. They
are keen at intuitively detecting the people who are
genuinely concerned about them. Students value commitment,
rapport, encouragement, and follow-up."
In addition to putting
his students on the path to success, Dr. Bell has always
looked after the growth and success of BOP, too.
After Dr. Bell's
initial concentration in the Northern Indiana steel-mill
region for students, he began to look outward, not just
in the Midwest but also in other parts of the country, to Texas and Alabama,
and even to the coasts.
"It's good for students
to see young people from other parts of the country," Dr. Bell says. "Geographic
diversity is almost as important as racial diversity.
"As BOP became
more successful, Dr. Bell began to expand the program to the MBA level,
Dean Day's original dream. As it turned out, Krannert and BOP didn't
have to do all of the growing of qualified MBA prospective students.
Dr. Bell was an early and active member of the Graduate Management Admissions
Council, a national federation of top business schools dedicated to
recruiting MBA students. "I was not only drumming up new students for
the Purdue cause but also ensuring that the pioneering
efforts of BOP were recognized among our university peers."
In the past several
years, minority MBA candidates have come to Krannert
not only from excellent undergraduate programs at institutions
such as Texas, California-Berkeley, Princeton, Illinois, and Michigan,
but also from historically African American schools such as Prairie View,
Spellman, Hampton, Morehouse, Tuskegee, and North Carolina
Dr. Bell says he
looks for the same qualities in prospective MBA students
that he seeks in BOP undergraduates: good minds, competitiveness,
and motivation. But the ante is up for this group, Dr. Bell says. "The
MBA is pro ball."
Future of BOP
In some ways for
Dr. Bell, the future of BOP is the past: "I am still interested in giving
young people a chance to take full advantage of all their
educational opportunities. The well-educated minority
student today has more opportunities for advancement than ever before
in this country's history."
Ana McCune-van de
Velde had graduated from Indiana University in 21/2 years and was teaching
journalism at West Side High School in Gary. She had heard of Dr. Bell,
and sought him out when he made his annual recruiting visit to the school.
herself and inquired about graduate programs in business," Dr. Bell
The next year she
came to Krannert as a graduate student and teaching assistant-counselor
to undergraduate BOP students. She received her master's degree in 1979.
"My goal was
independence," van de Velde says. "As a female, I had not been previously
aware of the opportunities for women in business and management. "I
had not even been able to dream the dream. Dr. Bell,
in my mind, is a miracle worker.
"The dream for
McCune-van de Velde started at General Motors Corp. After a year, she
was recruited by AT&T Corp. and went through a series of rotational
assignments in sales and marketing, accounting, operations,
engineering supervision, and strategic planning.
She then became vice
president and later interim president of New Detroit,
Inc., an urban planning and development company.
"Then, in 1995 I
became a real entrepreneur in partnership with my husband
in our company, Automotive Strategies, a worldwide automotive
consulting company doing competitive benchmarking, engineering, and marketing
studies for all the major automakers worldwide.
"She also is
a partner-owner in Paradies-Metro Ventures, Inc., which
operates 24 retail gift and news concession stores in
the Detroit and Flint airports.
By the end of the
year, Paradies-Metro Ventures will open 19 new stores at the airports.
Van de Velde and her husband maintain homes in both the United States
and France. She is also the mother of 6-year-old twin boys.
"The need for
programs such as BOP and people like Dr. Bell is even stronger now," she
says. "There are more social pressures today for young people - drugs,
negative peer pressure, gangs, children raising children
- BOP is a real alternative."
Although times have
changed since 1968, "excellence" is still the byword at the university,
and the original BOP design for students who might not
have gone to college is still viable.
In management education,
particularly at the MBA level, the competition for top students is intense.
Still, Dr. Bell keeps his eye out for the motivated, competitive minority
student lacking only one thing - a chance.
"The point is
to be valued for our differences," says Pervis H. Bearden, BSIM '77,
North American warehouse service manager for Procter & Gamble. However,
he says it's important to be able to relate to others, though that doesn't
mean minorities should just buy into the existing power structure. "You
have to know how to assimilate yourself with the movers
and shakers to have them understand what you bring to
the party. When I talk to students today, I refer to this as 'savvy.'"
Another word for
it is "leadership."
The Cornell A. Bell Endowment
On opening day of the 1998
baseball season in Cincinnati, Pervis H. Bearden, BSIM
'77, North American warehouse service manager for Procter & Gamble,
was in the stands with James Dworkin, who was then the
Krannert School associate dean. Bearden brought up the
idea of the Krannert School's doing something to simultaneously
provide for the future of BOP and honor Dr. Bell's leadership
of the program.
"How about an endowment?" Dworkin
suggested. "Do you think the BOP graduates would be willing
As it turned out, the graduates were more than willing. At first a bit daunted
by the challenge of a $1 million goal, Bearden, with the help of development
officer J. Christopher Smith, sent out a letter to 650 students, alumni, and
friends of BOP and Dr. Bell. Appropriately, Roland Parrish, BSIM '75, MSM '76,
Dr. Bell's first BOP recruit, made the first major gift pledge - for $50,000.
An endowment committee was formed. The fund took off.
Motor Co. contributed $300,000 in recognition of the
former BOP students who had gone to work for the automaker.
Dr. Bell himself made a $50,000 contribution. Suddenly,
the seemingly impossible $1 million goal seemed possible.
Bell hopes the endowment will provide "more scholarships,
more fellowships, more opportunities for out-of-state
He'd like to see corporate support
for BOP grow, but not in a feel-good charity way. "We've
been providing companies with good people for many years
now," he says.
At this writing, the gifts
and pledges to the endowment have reached $922,000.Bearden,
who has chaired the endowment committee, calls Dr. Bell's
"Dr. Bell isn't about
the money. He stayed the course in a profession that
was not the most lucrative in terms of salary," Bearden
says. "And I think you'd have to say he's done it - and
is doing it - for the good of mankind. His idea was to
educate students to make a good living and to be good
citizens. He never takes credit. He does it because it's
the right thing to do.
"BOP and Bell have been
good for Krannert and good for Purdue because we now
have a reputation as a nurturing place to be for minorities
in management and engineering," Bearden says. "It's helped
us recruit students we couldn't recruit before."