Spotlight on a Member: Thomas Bell

Spotlight on a Member
Thomas Bell tbell@vt.edu
 
If there is anyone we might consider to be “everyman,” that person could be Tom Bell. He has moved through life with interests and goals but with choices often tem-pered by apparent options. His youthful curiosity about the world around him became manifest in an interest in science. While he dabbled in several sciences during his early school years, by high school it was clear that biology predominated. Yet, in college, the melding of that with chemistry proved even more satisfying so that he chose to focus on biochemistry and, after receiving his degree, took a research position at what was then known as the Frederick Cancer Research Center (FCRC). While there, he became involved in some of the early work using recombinant DNA tools. Concerns and discussions about the safety of and ethical issues raised by this research were actively present in both scientific circles and society at large at that time. Tom took note of and became involved in some of these, reflecting a long-held desire to see science used in responsible ways and for the greatest benefit to mankind and the world.
 
Growing out of the societal concern and while at the FCRC, Tom engaged in studies in business. This ultimately led to a position in management in the Department of Chemistry at Virginia Tech. A focus of the business support provided to the Department is on the research enterprise. Although work and the ‘busy-ness’ of a young family caused Tom to decline an invitation to join a civic club during his early years in Christiansburg-Blacksburg, a friend’s later invitation to a meeting was accepted. Thus, in 2003 Tom joined the Rotary Club of Christiansburg-Blacksburg.
 
The enthusiastic friendliness shown by Club members led to quickly feeling comfortable with the group and the decision to join them. A Club member who was also an acquaintance from Virginia Tech, Janet Johnson, invited participation on a committee selecting a Rotary Scholar and in the next Club fundraiser. Through participation in these and other activities, it quickly became fun to be a member of a Rotary club, while learning more and more about all that Rotary does. Also, being a member of a Rotary Club with Bill Skelton (PRIP) and getting to know him, was special and added to the Rotary experience. There turned out to be a good fit between the kind of impact Tom wanted to have on the world around him, near and far, and what Rotary was doing. The Polio Plus and other medical programs, the clean water and community service projects, all reso-nated well and were something to be enthusiastic about supporting.
 
An invitation to be Club Treasurer was accepted as was participation on the committee liaising with a spon-sored Rotaract Club. Although enjoying serving the Club as Treasurer, a real enthusiasm developed from working with Rotaract. When the opportunity to do so at the District level was presented, it was quickly grasped. Seeing not only what the young adults in the local Rotaract Club do, but learning about what members of this Rotary program do worldwide, proved to be exciting, encouraging, and challenging. Tom went on to have a year as club President and now is privileged to be an AG. Still Rotaract and the youth is a focus. While the perception was held by Tom, at one time, that Rotary was populated by mature, well-to-do individu-als, he has learned that it was founded by some young men, relatively early in their careers. He believes this is a message for us as we go forward to grow Rotary and its impact.

 On a club project ( in the early years!)

 Rotaractors at District Conference, talking to one of the speakers

 Rotaractors with Tom Bell at the grand staircase at Disctrict Conference

 Rotaractors working on a 'can do' project.