Yale University

In Memoriam

John Douglas Bell

December 3, 1942 – December 4, 1998

John Bell
1964 graduation

John Bell, born in St. Paul, came to Yale from Portland, OR. He was active in the Yale Chess Club, serving as its captain and president. He stayed on for an M.A. in history, then earned a Ph.D. at Princeton.

He married Susan Ellen Woods and together they had three children, Kimberly, Courtney, and Tamsin. His wife died in 1986. He was survived by a second wife, Judith, and her child Lindsey Ann Court.

Bell served as professor of history at the University of Maryland – Baltimore County. The Princeton University Press published his Peasants in Power in 1977. The Slavic Review published his article "Giving Birth to the New Soviet Man: Politics and Obstetrics in the USSR" in 1981. And the Hoover Institution Press published The Bulgarian Communist Party in 1986.

The high quality and high volume of Bell's work earned him a position of leadership in Bulgarian studies. He served as director of the Bulgarian area studies program for the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State, directing the training of diplomats who were to be stationed in the Balkans. He was president of the Bulgarian Studies Association from 1988-92, and was an official observer of the June 1990 Bulgarian elections. In 1984 the Bulgarian State Council awarded him the "1300 Year—Bulgaria" medal for "service to Bulgarian studies."

Shortly before his death, in a characteristically generous gesture, Bell announced his intention to endow the department's Maas Prize, named for a colleague who also had died tragically and young. The prize is awarded annually to the outstanding undergraduate history student. The Maas Prize has been renamed the Bell-Maas Prize.