Obituary: Barbara Bell, 1936-2013, taught passionately for three decades
By Jackson Ly
Instructor Barbara Bell remained devoted to City College and her students even after her retirement in 1997. She lectured with authority, inspired female students and participated in campus politics. Barbara died at her Berkeley home on Jan. 19.
She taught one of the first women’s humanities courses, as well as English and interdisciplinary classes full-time for 30 years.
Barbara applied her professional training as an actress in London to deliver lively lectures to her students, English teacher William McGuire, who worked with Barbara for 22 years, said.
Humanities teacher Dennis Hendrickson worked with Barbara in the 1970s.
“She was on a mission to make sure that the young women in her class were listened to and paid attention to,” Hendrickson said.
Barbara brought art, recordings, videos and posters to her students, English teacher Loren Bell said. The two are not related.
The teachers worked together on a project in 1995 commemorating the bicentennial of poet John Keats’ birth. Barbara was featured as a reader.
Barbara spent three practice reading sessions that lasted about two hours each to prepare John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” for the students.
“Barbara recited from memory Keats’ entire poem “To Autumn,” event organizer Abdul Jabbar said.
Barbara was serious about teaching and campus politics.
“She fearlessly confronted corrupt administrations face-to-face,” McGuire said.
Barbara joined students in occupy movements, campaigning against budget cuts and equality by camping overnight with students near the City College flagpoles.
Barbara dreamed of creating her own salon, where artistic talents in the Bay Area would meet and discuss politics, theories of art, sculpting, architecture, philosophy and novels, Hendrickson said.
Barbara left behind her husband, Charles Kittel, two brothers, a niece and a nephew, according to a San Francisco Chronicle obituary.
A memorial will be held on Friday, May 10 from 12 – 1 p.m. at the Rosenberg Library.
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