Former faculty member
of the College of William and Mary, Norfolk Division, and Old Dominion
Q: Dr. Bell, I would
like to begin by asking you some general questions about your background.
Could you tell me briefly about your boyhood, where you were born, your
academic interests, and early career plans?
Bell: I was born
in Clark County, Virginia on July 9, 1900. I was brought up on a farm
for the first few years of my life and even learned to do a good deal
of farm work. I lived part of the time near a little town by the name
of Berryville. I was educated in the public schools after I had had
six years in a private school, taught by one of our neighbors a very
splendid old lady. Then I came along and graduated in 1918 from high
school just as World War I was nearing an end.
I joined the Army
hoping to get to Plattesburg and become a Ninety Day Wonder. I was sent,
as many others were, to college. I was sent to Randolph-Macon where
I had hoped to go, and then go on to Plattesburg where the Ninety Day
Wonders were being trained. However, World War I was over in December
of, or maybe it was November 1918. Whereupon the government set about
discharging us so rapidly that I went on home in December. My days in
the Army were about ninety, which didn't give me a chance to become
I decided to go back
to Randolph-Macon where I had been. It was a school I liked very much
because of the faculty, who I thought at that time, were very splendid
men. Men who were good teachers and they were good friends to students.
I did enjoy a great deal of fellowship with these people.
Some of my interests
were dealing with people. I've always been dealing with people in a
helpful sort of way. I think I got that from my father, who was a very
splendid man in that respect. He was always helping people and did what
many other people did - went on the note of many people. Many people
were beginning to start out as farmers and couldn't afford the price
of a horse, or a plow or something, so he felt that he should help them
get started. Because he had had the same thing, having been brought
up in the days following the end of the Civil War when times were pretty
hard, he always had great sympathy for people who were trying to get
started. I suppose you get that thing, that sort of thing by catching
it. It's hard to resist when you see need and see the satisfaction that
comes with satisfying that need or helping to satisfy it.
When I went to Randolph-Macon,
I met there a group of young men and a President, President Robert Emery
Blackwell who had one great theme. He, too, had been brought up following
the Civil War, and he would say to the students whenever they were assembled, "Young men, if you have any abilities you owe it to your age and
generation to get training so that you can better serve your fellow
man." And then that was a thing that was often repeated.
It was a thing that
you saw exemplified in the faculty of the day. Men who worked for very
little, but who had a dedication that was remarkable I thought. I don't
say that today people don't have the same thing, but then, it was so
obvious that that was the great theme of the day: service to your fellow
I graduated from
Randolph-Macon in 1922. My major was Latin and my minor was French,
with some work in Spanish, of course. I had gone to Middlebury during
the summer between my junior and senior year. And then I went again
the summer following my graduation; this time in French only. I became
very much interested in the spoken word and in the language and people.
Upon my return to, well to free life of - I thought I was going to go
to work in public schools as a teacher. I received then something that
wasn't too often given: a scholarship that paid tuition to the Johns
Hopkins University in the Graduate School of Romance Languages.
There again I was
fortunate enough to meet a man very much to my liking in the person
of Carrington Lancaster. He was a great scholar, who has written more
on the 17th century French drama than any other man who ever lived,
I suppose. He was a very encouraging man and when he discovered a little
bit of interest, he would try to encourage it; a little bit of ability,
he would try to brush it up for you, or help you brush it up. As a consequence
of this sort of thing, I went on in graduate work until the end of my
The College of Hampden-Sydney
wrote to Dr. Lancaster that they needed someone to teach for a year
or two French and German, or rather Spanish and German, let me correct
that. I was a little dubious but I said, "I think I can do that,
Dr. Lancaster. How about letting me go?" He wrote and found that
I was acceptable so I went to Hampden-Sydney with the idea of staying
one or two years, which I really did.
I found that college
was very much like Randolph-Macon. I had played football against these
boys, many of the boys in my classes, only a year or two before. I had
run track and found that here were some of my competitors. One of whom
had beat me in my best race which was the 440. But I did get along.
I found the men quite generous with me. I found plenty of support to
work with people. Hampden-Sydney, which had a small student body gave
the faculty a splendid opportunity to talk with the boys in and out
of class and to approach them on a friendly, mutually helpful basis.
As I had been interested in track, then I was asked to coach the track
team. I did so with some success but not too much. The only benefit
perhaps was that the boys got started a team which is still going.
Another group needed
somebody to coach dramatics. Well, I knew plays by having read them,
but I had never acted in one. I had seen many plays but I had never
had any acting experience. So when the boys said, "We would like
to have you coach dramatics," I proclaimed my ignorance of the field
of acting. But they insisted so I went ahead. One of my first students
was Robert Porterfield. Robert Porterfield, who later became Director
of the Bartley Theatre of Abingdon. He went to New York and to Hollywood,
and never did as much acting as he did promoting. He was a great promoter.
He was the founder of Virginia State Theatre, which we now have.
Not only was dramatics
a field of interest that needed cultivation amongst the students, but
music. Since I like to sing, and I used to sing in quartets, I helped
in this field. I used to sing in quartets with the boys or fellow faculty
members, out of which grew a double quartet and eventually we developed
a chorus. By that time I was out of it because I didn't know how to
do that and I let it be known, so they secured someone better prepared
to do so.
My teaching at Hampden-Sydney
I consider a great experience. The student body had always been a carefully
selected group and generally a group that was above average, not only
in ability, but in academic interest. Now, one never knows exactly the
result of his teaching but he can imagine that he did something even
if he didn't do it too well.
One of my students
informed me once that during World War II he had been a Lieutenant in
command of an LST which was driven ashore on D-Day. His comment was
that for three days he kept his men alive and out of the hands of the
Germans with the two years of French he had flunked with me at Hampden-Sydney.
So, one will have to take some satisfaction from small crumbs occasionally.
In any case I'm sure that while my interest in the language was great
and I did publish a book in it called Titres Tragie-comedie de Jean
Regnard that was a study of the life a third rate writer of the
17th century. He was a man who, as most small men do, influenced the
greater writers of the day, Corneille, Moliere, and Racine perhaps.
I didn't continue
in French because Depression struck about 1930. I had gotten married
in 1931 and had been hit by a terrific depression which took away much
of my salary, so I couldn't get abroad at all. I couldn't keep up with
myself; nobody could keep up with himself, or his field very well unless
it were a field where the material was close at hand. Most of my research
up to that time had been done in Baltimore, Washington, London and Paris.
The line of my research would have taken me into these fields, so I
actually had to get out of it and with the advent of a family, it was
still more difficult to continue in a scholarly way--that is, in a publishing
I simply had to let
much of it go, so I let my interests go to History, which was local
history. Most of my contributions from then on have been smaller articles,
briefer articles on local history or educational matters. I had publications
in the Virginia Journal of Education, Virginia Magazine of
History and Biography, as it was then called, and the William
and Mary Quarterly. So while they are brief, some of them have been
interesting and maybe valuable.
Then I also found
another bent. I was more interested in working with people than I was
with books, that is, as my main employment. I still read and still occasionally
try to publish things, but not as I once did. At Hampden-Sydney I taught
many students who have since done themselves splendidly in the world
of work and of scholarship, not the least of whom was Dr. James L. Bugg.
I was a bit surprised
to see him come to Old Dominion and not quite prepared to apologize
for whatever I might have done wrong to him while he was there. But
on investigation I found that I had always given him excellent grades.
I then felt quite at ease. Otherwise I might have been a little upset.
So my memories of Dr. Bugg are not only as a student, but as the son
of my banker and friend in Farmville, Virginia. I was still glad to
see him come and having lost all of my fear, I was doubly glad.
However, I was slated
for retirement almost immediately upon his coming anyway. So I need
not have been too troubled. I was more troubled by retirement almost
than anything else.
Yet, that was not
a thing I dreaded at all because I was ready for it. First thing I retired
from Old Dominion was a position as Director of Counseling, of course.
Then at 65, I was supposed to retire from that job, but I passed by
one year without being noticed and it was only when I was 66 that I
called attention to the fact that I needed to be retired.
I was eager to go
to Europe and I didn't want to have to work all summer. So, a successor
was named and I was made Professor of French. By this time I had a certain
nostalgia for the language and was permitted to teach higher classes
in literature because there was a demand at that time and I enjoyed
it. Now, there were other men at Hampden-Sydney whom I could recall,
but I think perhaps I better leave it at that for the present.
Q: During World
War II you were an American Red Cross Field Director with the Second Infantry
Division in Europe. Could you explain how you came to fill this position
and your duties?
Bell: Being a
Field Director with the American Red Cross was an opportunity to be
of service to men who were near the front. It was a position where you
were in contact with men under very trying circumstances. It's true
that the American Red Cross had many functions, but ours was to particularly
be helpful to the men to discuss problems. Not such as the chaplain
might be better fitted to perform, but since we had the privilege of
using army radio and we had second priority, we could send home for
reports on family conditions. Many men were in the Army who were disturbed
by fears of what was going on at home. Of course, their fears were already
pretty intense from being in the line of duty of battle, but the two
added together were sometimes pretty hard to take.
So, we spent much
of our time discussing with men what they wanted to know and then trying
to get the information. That was often very helpful. Death notices were
often sent to us, but I preferred never to deliver them myself without
a chaplain and found out that worked quite well. It gave us a better
relationship amongst the men, as well as myself and the chaplain. So
we would work out what we each would do, with the only idea being to
help the men in their need. That doesn't mean that we sometimes didn't
overlap, but generally we would have no problem getting together to
discuss things with each other and with the men.
It seemed to me that
what I was doing-- one thing I was doing was to get information which
the men would need. The next thing was to handle it in such a way as
to be helpful to the men. I was particularly impressed by one or two
of the chaplains I met who had an extraordinary gift of doing this and
I really learned a great deal from them.
Then there was the
old question of sitting down and talking to men whenever they felt that
they wanted somebody to listen. Now I have to emphasize the word listen.
As a teacher I was inclined to talk; not that all teachers talk, but
that then it was more or less the custom to talk. I had a splendid lesson
on that in Germany.
We had been billeted
after the battle of Leipzieg and we were billeted in a German brewery
of all places. There was nothing in there to drink because all the alcohol
had been extracted from the liquor, so nobody got drunk. Consequently,
when men came, they were sober and interested in what they wanted to
On one occasion a
young man came to me and said, "I want you to sit down here. I
want to talk to you." He began by saying he could preach. He could
preach an hour at a time. Would I listen? I demurred. I didn't think
a brewery was exactly the place for a sermon and I wasn't quite ready
for it anyway. I began to tell him that I thought maybe if he were going
to preach he ought to get ready. Get his education in line. He needed
to be educated. He needed this, he needed that. With some annoyance
he stood up and looked down at me and said, "Mister, you just sit
there and listen. I want to do the talking."
I think that was
the beginning of my understanding of what a counselor should be, although
I had had training. But to have it presented so forcibly was really
quite impressive, and I have thought about it ever since. I felt these
men had to talk. If anybody knows what a Doughboy or Infantryman at
the front goes through, you will see that he has to be allowed to talk
sometime. Otherwise he could never stand it. So I learned something
I went with the Army
to Czechoslovakia and Pilsen where we spent some months following the
end of the war. And while there, I was offered the job of Field Director
for the 3rd Army. I'm not quite sure why I didn't take it. I asked for
time to consider it and before I could do much considering, my division
had been ordered to be deployed. We started on our way, we were sure,
to Asia. I had no way of replying, so I don't know what might have happened
if I had actually said yes, immediately. I am happy now that I didn't.
But it was a great experience and made me resolve that I couldn't go
back into the classroom but had to follow along the same lines I had
Q: After the war
in 1945, you moved to Norfolk to head the Norfolk Regional Consultations
Service, a counseling service for adults. Why did you temporarily leave
college teaching after you had established yourself and what was the nature
of your new duties?
Bell: While I
was still in the Red Cross, attached at this time to the 97th Division
at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, I was approached by a friend of mine
in the State Department of Education in Virginia to consider helping
with one of these. What they were thinking of as a model counseling
services placed throughout the state. Since I had had a good deal of
training in a practical sort of way, in the Red Cross and also in classes
and had done a good deal of reading, I considered it. And as luck would
have it, before I could make up my mind this time, the Japanese had
surrendered and I didn't need to go to the Far East, so I resigned.
I went to Richmond where I spent about four months in classes and in
practical apprenticeship counseling. I was given then the position of
Director of Norfolk Regional Consultations Service.
There were two functions
really: to help encourage counseling practices in the surrounding school
divisions of which I was to be responsible for eighteen. At that time
I don't think that there was a single counselor in any of the school
divisions called such. There were people doing counseling or advising,
but they were not set up as counselors. There was no provision for them.
People hadn't been thinking along those lines, but of course, the need
was growing. The other thing was that we were to offer practical training
and keep up our own contact with people by counseling adults, primarily
service men who had returned and who needed to do planning.
So we went for that.
We had an office on the corner of City Hall and Monticello Avenue in
Norfolk for a number of years. We moved about in various spots in the
following years, but there we were quite near the agencies that were
serving veterans. And what we were trying to do was to provide an opportunity
for men and women to study themselves and their interests. Their capabilities
which we would occasionally help measure with tests. And then to help
them shape their own plans. We did profess never to make these people's
decisions for them
and I hope we succeeded. We've always felt that a person could do a
better job of arriving at his own decision about what he wanted to do,
instead of being told what he had to do and having to accept it.
So our point was
to think with him until he could arrive at a decision if possible. It
didn't always happen, but we thought we could help them there. We were
dealing mainly with the people who didn't have any special difficulties,
emotional difficulties. That doesn't mean that we didn't meet plenty
of these, but it was our practice always, if possible, to refer them
to any agency or an individual who could help them in a way that we
That has been my
philosophy, and was my philosophy while I was at Old Dominion and while
I was in Portsmouth schools. When abnormalities began to appear, began
to manifest themselves in such a way that they blocked any other possibility
of arriving at a decision. We would always refer them, at least my agency.
We had four people.
There were myself, two counselors and a psychologist at all times. And
we would take plenty of time to think with the person. We tried to collect
all the information we could, particularly out of college catalogues
and descriptions of jobs and how to go about training for them. Training
facilities were one of the things we tried to be most informed upon.
All in all, it was
a question of helping a person reach his own decisions, on the basis
of information as accurate as we could give him when he felt the need
for information. Along with this we were visiting, at all times, the
various schools in the area.
We would, for instance,
go into a school and help, usually the principal, or somebody close
to him, study a person, and plan for that person. We thought that if
he once had done this job, he would be interested in learning more about
helping children and he would know more about how to help them. I should
mention, of course, that I had taken about eighteen hours of work at
the College of William and Mary in this field of counseling. I had occasionally
taught classes. One of the prize classes was on the Eastern Shore of
Virginia where we had been discussing how you go about helping a person
make up his mind about something. We would say you study your own abilities,
your assets and your liabilities, your interests and measure them. Then
you sit down and get the pros and cons with reference to any decision.
Well, before we got through one lady who had been going with a gentleman
for 19 years had married him. Maybe we were useful at least in one instance.
Q: In 1952 you joined
the Portsmouth school system as the Director of Guidance. Could you give
me some information about this job and the experiences you had in it?
Bell: The Superintendent
of Portsmouth at the time I went over was Alf Mapp Sr. Mapp had been
one of the people who had cooperated with us when he was Assistant Principal
of Woodrow Wilson High School, so we had worked with him in this way.
When he had problems with children and he wanted help, we would say,
"Mr. Mapp, you just give us your story of your experiences with
this person; what you have talked about. If we can help with tests or
if we can help by added discussion, we will do it."
In that way worked
as a cooperative venture, really, and Mr. Mapp was so impressed with
the possibilities of it that when the State decided that they were going
in for more testing instead of counseling, which I have always regretted,
because I think the figures are useless and don't really tell a good
story. They could have told a better story, but there are many things
that prevented that. Mr. Mapp invited me to come over and direct the
promotion of guidance activities in his schools.
Wherever we found
a child or a person who needed help we would first try to make a careful
study of that person. Before we drew any conclusions we liked to study
the person carefully and hear from him; hear his story. If tests were
indicated, we would give him that. Dexter-Bellevue or what not, in which
I have more confidence than in most of the tests that were used. So
we would talk once we had gauged the child's interests. We would let
him talk to us freely after we had measured the best we could with tests
that were available, his interests and capabilities. We would then discuss
it with the teacher, the parents, the pupil and think together about
how to implement any suggestions. Well, that was what we really were
trying to do and I think we managed to do fairly well.
Q: In 1957 you accepted
the post of Assistant Professor of Counseling at the College of William
and Mary in Norfolk. Why did you leave the Portsmouth school system and
I wondered also if Lewis Webb played any role in your coming to the College?
Bell: Oh yes,
I would say that Lewis Webb played a part in my coming, and I would
also say that Vernon Peele did too, Dean Peele. The two of these men
I had talked with often. I want to say that I was also interested in
the job that Mrs. Henry was doing at the time. I'll say Mrs. Buddy Henry.
I first knew her as Miss Simco when she was a very capable lady and
doing an awfully good job and had a fine approach to both men and women
and was very patient and understanding I thought. So I was interested
in carrying on that sort of work and I had many cases to deal with in
college. I began to feel that the most enjoyable and profitable kind
of work, particularly the work of encouraging sound guidance practices,
would come with reaching future teachers.
My experience with
teachers on the job had given me a great deal of practical material
to think about and to use in such courses as I might be able to give.
So the whole point was that of continuing what had been my original
purpose in coming to Norfolk, to develop sound counseling principles.
Q: Could you describe
your job at college as you viewed it in the Fall of 1957?
Bell: Well, in
1957, that's a long time ago; I've almost forgotten. We didn't have
so many students, so many entering students that we couldn't see them
all. So we set about interviewing every entering student if possible.
We missed a few but we tried not to miss anybody. The purpose was to
discuss with this student his aims and help him think about his capabilities
and his interests and to evaluate them and make a good choice of subjects.
We also felt that we could help him get an understanding of college
and furthermore to meet the men in the various departments.
Now the counseling
office would help a student arrange his schedule, subject to acceptance
or approval, if they chose to seek it, of the department which he was
to enter. If there was a member of that department around, we would
normally refer the student immediately to the department once we had
determined his objective and his promise or his capabilities in the
field. I must say the cooperation of these departments was splendid.
We have men now, Dr. John Tabb and Professor Adams and there are others,
particularly in Engineering. There was Dean White who just retired,
and was very helpful in that respect. There were others, I'm sure, who
I could mention. I would hate to omit any, but I can't recall them just
for the moment. They would always help us with the student and see that
he got started in the field of his choice.
The curriculum was
such that a student need not go far wrong, or be afraid of going far
wrong if he took a certain number of basic courses. And yet there were
other courses which needed him to begin immediately if he were going
to get through in the prescribed four year curriculum.
We still continued
this idea of letting the student decide on the basis of whatever help
he could get from us. Now you can never really measure what you've done
for people, and you don't need to. And I don't want to. I like to forget
that I was involved in any way except to help the person get his own
thinking cleared. So, we would get him started in the right way and
trust him to come back if he wanted to.
We did do some vocational
counseling that is, choice of vocations when people had no idea what
they wanted to do. We never insisted upon that, because it's a decision
you can't really force. You can encourage and help supply them with
information about jobs. Some of the finest publications have been gotten
out by the government on this point. To help analyze a job or a profession
by telling you what qualifications are needed, what training is needed,
and where you can get the training. Also, what the pay is and what satisfaction
you can get probably. Those things were very helpful to many people,
so we would always encourage people to read that. It was pretty difficult
to get them to do it, though.
Q: You also taught
classes in guidance in the Education Department. I wonder, was this a
Bell: No, it was
not half-time. Whenever we needed people to do a job in those days,
we sort of asked him to do it. We weren't thinking too much about being
overworked, although perhaps we aren't any better than anybody else;
we just hadn't thought about it. Furthermore, they needed to get the
school off the ground. We were under the College of William and Mary
and William and Mary would accept our budget and cut a certain percentage
off of that and include the rest of it in their own budget, since we
came under them. It went to Richmond and you were always sure at that
time that anybody's budget would be cut 10%. So they would up it 10%
and get what they wanted really by getting the cut.
Mr. Webb used to
say, "When you cut nothing 10%, you've still got nothing."
We were often in that place of having nothing to start with - no experience
or background or history of need of this thing, were just beginning.
So ours would be a totally new request.
Everybody, I think,
at the time was impressed with the professors who were here. Every one
of them that I ever knew was a pretty dedicated fellow and didn't mind
very much being overworked. I don't say that's admirable, I say that's
a condition that prevailed when I came here and I like to join them
on that basis. I appreciated the chance to get in. I don't exactly know
how it came about that I got in, it's pretty hazy. I was talking about
it with Dean Peele and first thing I knew, I was here.
Q: That is, you
were talking about the job or about the courses?
Bell: Oh, I forgot
to mention the courses, didn't I? The courses that I taught were just
when people needed me. I taught them when the department needed me.
Sometimes we would get a little extra pay. Often we would get a little
extra pay for teaching in the extension work done here. I should have
mentioned something else, that is, what we did. Part of my job, I thought,
was to encourage contacts with groups like the Ford factory and the
Staff College. We had worked up some pretty good relations with them,
so on many occasions either I or someone else would visit the plant
and interview the men there, find out what they wanted, and how they
had to go about it. Then we would bring that result back and we turned
his request over perhaps to the School of Business, or maybe to the
Department of History, or Engineering for further study. Then, we would
go back with that to the men, because many of them could not come out
to the college during the day, but they could come out at night.
The men they wanted
to see were seldom on hand at night, or available in any case so in
that way we were able to establish a relationship that was growing quite
strong. At one time I think we had forty some people from the Ford plant
taking courses here, out of a student body of 1500 to 2000. Then at
the Staff College we always had quite a number and I used to enjoy going
out there a great deal.
Q: I was wondering
what kinds of problems the students came to you with in the late 1950's
and early '60's or if you found that they were reluctant in those days
to seek out help.
Bell: When a student
comes to you for help, he doesn't always name the obvious point on which
he needs help. They come because they need help and they need a chance
to discuss it. Now, I felt that nobody in the Counseling Office as such
should judge himself competent to handle emotional problems of a serious
nature. They came with problems of that sort often, but we managed to
get them to their family physician, to their family, or in some way
get them in contact with people who could help. We were dealing with
the essentially normal people who had the difficulty of arriving at
decisions. Not that we turned the others away, but we would direct them
as gently as possible to the proper source of help.
The kinds of problems
that came to us were of all sorts -- some people who were very seriously
disturbed; and others who were a little disturbed, but seemed to get
much better once they could get directed. Then, I think many things
we call "emotional problems" often disappear. However, when
an emotional disturbance was such that it interfered with his proper
performance, we did not claim and did not try to be proficient in that
field. We did not abruptly end any contact with a person, but we simply
did not claim to be proficient and did not act as such.
Q: Did you refer
them to professional psychiatrists?
Bell: Yes, we
frequently did. We cooperated with psychiatrists very frequently from
the Naval Hospital. The psychiatrists there would bring a person to
a certain point in their treatment where he could feel that they would
profit by vocational counseling and information about that sort of thing.
We would work with that group and exchange ideas about the person. Some
private psychiatrists worked the same way with us here in the city.
The beginnings of psychiatry, as generally accepted, were just being
made at that time. It wasn't easy to get people to accept psychiatric
help. But we did cooperate with the Veterans Administration and with
any other agency that was working with people, particularly the veterans.
Q: How did you go
about making your services more widely known among the students. You say
you met them at the first and then was it up to the student to take the
initiative to ever see you again, or did you see him in his second, third,
or senior year?
Bell: We always
tried to offer our services or make ourselves available, but always
felt that a student should come to us after that, when he felt like
it. Now, faculty would often refer people to us. Other students would
refer people to us. We were generally pretty busy. We didn't have staff
enough to do very much advertising. We didn't need to because we were
always busy. But I think the referral from other students or other people
was one of the biggest means of getting them to come in after that.
We liked to work with faculty members.
We would not want
to say, "We will take him and get a solution and bring him back
to you with a solution." Rather, "We will work out a solution
together on the basis of what we can find out and on the basis of what
you know." That was the thing I think the faculty seemed to accept.
The thing I do regret is that we didn't make a greater effort to push
for an extension of the services. Most of the time we were so busy,
we didn't have time to think and we knew there wasn't money, too.
I was a bit shocked
at one of these men who came in with a consultant firm to talk to me
about my office. He knew nothing when he came and he didn't take time
to learn anything while he was there. I'm afraid that these firms had
not thought in the terms that we needed to of the interpersonal relationships
that needed to be developed at an institution. I still think that that
has not been done at most places. It isn't that you "milk feed" (as they used to say) these people, but you want to understand them.
It seems to me the primary importance is to understand.
Q: It just occured
to me. What extent of a staff did you have and physically where were you
located on campus?
Bell: Well, we
had only two counselors, although we used others. We had two full time
counselors, but we used other people in the counseling at various times.
We could always count on other members of the staff to help us in need
and we often did that. We referred people to them.
The location was
in the Administration Building, on the north end of the Administration
Building at first. We later moved to the South. We were quite near always
to the Admissions Office. We felt we cooperated well because we had
the records and we could exchange information there so easily. We ended
up in many other things that were not part of counseling, but we always
did college board tests and we administered all of those and any kind
of entrance examinations and things of that sort.
Q: We talked about
the personal counseling and psychological counseling. We've even gone
to a point on vocational counseling. I wonder how your work related to
the work done by Mrs. Lippincott in the Placement Office, or if you consider
your duties to be quite different.
Bell: I think
we were not doing exactly the same thing. Mrs. Lippincott, of course,
was getting information and giving people the chance to contact the
world of business, and we were trying to help them study themselves.
Our responsibility was to the individual himself. After he had done
that, he was ready then to go into the choice of a career. That's oversimplifying
it, but it's, I think, the way it should have worked.
Q: You say that
you made up their schedules in the first year. After that was it the responsibility
of the faculty member in their major departments to make up their schedule?
they had to have the approval of the department before they could proceed
in the field at the end of the second year anyway. We always tried to
encourage them to consult with a member of the department in which they
were mainly interested to see that they were following a safe course.
Often it happened but sometimes it didn't happen, you just simply couldn't
cover the field. You can't make people do it, but we were always ready
to help and did do it, and I think so were the faculty ready to help.
Q: Getting back
to the question about the student making his own decisions, what about
the student who simply sat there and didn't make the decision and didn't
seem inclined, and wanted the counselor to make the decision for him?
What did you do with that student?
Bell: As gently
as possible, we refused to make the decision. I would try to help him
by thinking and talking and developing something of a sense of responsibility.
There aren't too many people who don't want to make decisions. They
would like you to make a decision when they want somebody to be responsible
for a wrong decision. But if you try to make a person's decision, you
have much greater kickback than you want to put up with. I think most
people resent being told as if they were automatons. What we did with
them, was we just stuck with them as long as we could.
Q: I was wondering
how you rated the effectiveness of standardized tests as many people have
criticized them a great deal in recent years.
Bell: I'm inclined
to criticize the misuse of standardized tests. Standardized tests are
at best a sampling process in the performance of functions whether it
be verbal or manipulative, that come about in the experience of a person
and you measure his relative efficiency or his performance. Now that
doesn't mean that you really measure the individual well, but you have
an aid. The person who does well on standardized tests can be sure that
he has something worthwhile in the field of measurement. When you measure
intelligence, for instance, we used to think that we had a single I.Q.
that occasionally became quite important. For instance, the areas of
intelligence, mathematical reasoning, let's say, verbal fluency and
artistic, or let's say the measurement of spatial visualization are
tested and we can get some help. The danger is, we have too many conclusions
from them. The next reason that the tests aren't often good is that
they're improperly administered. If a test is administered, it must
be administered under the conditions prescribed. The directions must
be carefully followed for them to mean anything. I found that in visiting
the eighteen school divisions, they were doing almost everything with
They were being honest,
but they just didn't think, for instance, that four minutes was enough
to master a certain portion of a test; they were giving ten. What they
didn't know and hadn't been trained in, was the meaning of tests and
the utilization of tests. Nobody is expected to answer everything on
a test. That's not the measurement you're looking for. You're looking
for relative performance actually and that is "How do I stand alongside
my fellows?" Now that is the reason I was critical of the state
tests because I have helped administer those things, and helped train
people to give them and then find out they weren't abiding by them at
all. First thing you know a teacher would be teaching the test, and
quite often, too. We had to give up one of our high school equivalency
tests some years ago because there were groups of people who never should
have been doing it. They had access to the test and then could use them.
So when we found out people were making 100 on tests, we found out they
were being misused. That is, answering 100 questions out of 100. That
just wasn't intended by the test. So you had all sorts of abuses that
have made tests not always reliable. You have to know who is the testing
person and how it is administered. Also, how it is used and how it's
interpreted before you can be sure that a test is very much help. Even
then, it is only partial; only one portion of a picture that you are
trying to get. I think we could get along without any tests at all and
do good counseling. I mean relatively good counseling. It's always better
to have some information.
Q: I was wondering
what changes in the students and their counseling needs you observed during
the mid 1960's when the Vietnam War was on and there was general unrest
in the country.
Bell: I think
I met some of the spirit that was often manifested in soldiers who were
at the front: "What's the use of thinking about the future? There's
no future assured me."
Of course there never
is any future really assured you, but the future was relatively vague
and uncertain and unpromising. So, I don't think the students were any
less sincere but they were puzzled and rightly so. It was a puzzling
situation. We don't yet know what was the value of Vietnam, let's say,
and that's what was puzzling. When you put your life up to defend something,
you want to be sure that it's a good cause. To be threatened with having
to put your life on the line for no very good cause, in your mind, whether
it was or not, I won't judge, but that was their attitude. "Was
it worth it?" And what to do as a consequence. How were they to
do something different so they didn't have to go through that, was always
present with them.
Yet I think a great
many people were doing some pretty sound thinking. I wasn't particularly
shocked at any change. I'm never much shocked at what people do because
you can expect almost anything from any of us sometime. And you just
have to be prepared for shocks. This discouragement was, to me, rather
painful; I didn't like to see it.
Q: Could you relate
the story of how you were instrumental in Old Dominion College's receiving
a collection of bones and skins of animals native to Burma from Herbert
Cecil Smith, the British ornithologist and naturalist?
Bell: Mr. Smith
is a friend of ours through our son and his wife. My son married an
English girl and we made the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Smith in 1959
when we went to my son's wedding in England. We were guests of the Smiths
in a fine old manor, a manorial residence, that they had bought when
they came back. It was in the Wythe valley and being situated on the
side of a hill, it had several plateaus, I mean stages as you went up.
Every little nook and cranny had some kind of flower in it because both
of these people loved nature, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith both loved it.
It was in a beautiful spot and still is to this day, although they don't
live there. They gave it up for a smaller place because he's grown too
old to take care of it, and getting somebody who could do it was difficult
When we learned that
he was moving from this big house of about thirty or forty rooms, I've
forgotten which it is, we discussed the matter and our son had discussed
it with him: what was he going to do with these trophies that he had?
In Burma he had been the man who planned hunts for all of the "grandees"
from England who had come over to go hunting. He would always plan it
for them, go along with them and had done some hunting himself. So these
trophies were things that he had collected over the years. He was very
fond of looking for the birds of Burma. He has a book on the birds of
Burma and he had other magnificent, apparently, pictures that he had
drawn of these birds and painted. When the war came he had thirty hours
to get out. He had to leave some things behind. One of the things was
these, I believe they were plates; they had been made into plates. The
Japanese took those to Japan and when the first American bombers went
over to Japan, they bombed the building in which these things were stored,
and they were destroyed. So the poor fellow, had really spent these
years; he had everything ready to do some writing and he's done some
of it, but most of his material was destroyed in that one direct hit
by an American bomb on the building in which these things had been stored.
He had to get rid
of these because he had no space where he lives in the cottage. A nice,
beautiful little spot along a hillside there in the Wythe Valley. He
has some there, but very few. He offered them to the University and
Mr. Webb found $500 which we spent in getting them over here and placed
in charge of the Biology Department. Dr. Zaneveld was then chairman
of the department and said that they would welcome them. He has spent
some time too, you know, in the East Indies, in Dutch East Indies. So
he welcomed them as a reminder of his life out there, too, I suppose.
That's the way we came to get them and that picture I gave you of them
is of Mr. and Mrs. Smith when they were youngsters out there enjoying