$1 million gift will establish two Clemson endowments

05/02/2013 12:00 AM

05/01/2013 11:46 PM

Clemson University has received more than $1 million to establish two endowments — one to provide scholarships and one to create an endowed professorship in its electrical and computer engineering department.

Given by an anonymous benefactor, the endowments are named in memory of Clemson alumnus Samuel Lewis Bell, formerly of Chester, university officials said Wednesday.

Half of the money will establish the Samuel Lewis Bell and Lucia Beason Bell Memorial Scholarship Endowment, which will award scholarships to undergraduate students from the Chester area.

“These endowments are a wonderful way to honor the memory of Mr. Bell, who was a distinguished alumnus and important leader for South Carolina,” Clemson president James F. Barker said. “I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to an alumnus than to provide opportunities for students to follow in his footsteps.”

This gift is part of the university’s “The Will to Lead” capital campaign to raise $1 billion to support Clemson students and faculty with scholarships, professorships, facilities, technology and enhanced opportunities for learning and research.

The other half of the money will create the Samuel Lewis Bell Distinguished Professorship, which will support an endowed position in the Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, part of the College of Engineering and Science.

The professorship will focus specifically on optoelectronics, the study of the interaction of light with electronic devices using photons and electrons, and will work with COMSET, the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies.

“The holder of the Samuel Lewis Bell Professorship will be an integral part of a community of scholars and entrepreneurs with shared interests and expertise in optoelectronics research,” said Darren Dawson, department chair for electrical and computer engineering.

“Optoelectronics are everywhere. They are found in lasers, television and computer screens and in communication, medical and defense systems. To see this technology advanced at Clemson University is an honor, and we are very grateful to this donor.”

“This gift helps support our efforts to attract and retain nationally prominent faculty for the College of Engineering and Science,” said Martine LaBerge, acting dean of the college. “I am sure Mr. Bell would be pleased to see how far engineering at Clemson has come since his days as a student. This gift will help us go even further.”

A Chester native, Bell graduated from Clemson in 1925 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. At the age of 14, he began working as a part-time repairman for the Chester Telephone Co. After graduating from Clemson, he began regular employment with the company, becoming president in 1947. He held that position until his death in 1975. Bell also was a director and president of the S.C. Independent Telephone Association.

Bell’s wife, Lucia, was a native of Woodruff and an alumna of Queens College in Charlotte. She became a teacher at Foote Street School in Chester, but after marrying Bell, she worked for the Chester Telephone Co. She worked for the company until her death in 1990. At the time of her death, she was a vice president and director. Lucia Bell was also involved in many community organizations.

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