Millicent Bell

With sadness the MBL reports the passing of MBL Trustee and long-time friend, Millicent Bell. Dr. Bell’s family has provided the following obituary.

The MBL flag will be lowered in her memory.

milli.bellDr. Millicent Bell, a literary scholar, author, and professor emerita at Boston University, died peacefully in her home on August 6, 2015 at the age of 95. Born Millicent Lang, she spent her youth in Brooklyn, New York. From an early age, Dr. Bell was devoted to literature. Declared a prodigy, she entered high school at the age of nine and enrolled in NYU at the age of fifteen. It was there, as an English major, that she met her husband Eugene Bell. Their shared passion for peace, justice, the sciences, and the arts, carried on through seven devoted decades together.

Dr. Bell began her career in journalism during WWII, when women in the newsroom were scarce. She worked as a reporter for the Savannah Evening Press, the Toledo Blade, the Philadelphia Record, and Time, Inc., also serving as an Associate Editor of Architectural Forum. She went on to earn a Masters Degree and Doctorate of English Literature from Brown University. For 25 years she taught the great works of American and English literature at Boston University. She held prominent roles in many literary organizations, most notably President of the Hawthorne Society.  Her scholarly articles and literary translations appeared in academic journals and in the New York Review of Books. Published works include “Meaning in Henry James,” “Shakespeare’s Tragic Skepticism,” and “Marquand: An American Life,” which was nominated for the National Book Award in biography, and for the Pulitzer Prize.  Dr. Bell has been widely honored for her works including a National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Fullbright Travel Grant to France. Throughout her life, she traveled the world as a lecturer and guest professor.

Together with her husband, she was a lifetime advocate for humanitarian and environmental causes. She took her greatest pleasures in walking through the city of Boston, traveling to Cape Cod and to France, reading poetry, and spending time with her family. She will be remembered for her commitment to the study of literature, her contagious intellectual curiosity, and her fierce appetite for the bounty of life.

She was a very devoted philanthropist, establishing the Millicent and Eugene Bell Foundation, endowing the Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering at the MBL, establishing fellowships in literature at NYU and biology at MIT as well as a professorship in Tissue Engineering at the University of Chicago, and an endowment at the MGH.

She is survived by her children and grandchildren and loved by many far and wide.