By Irina Rusanova
Recently, an anonymous student at Saint Vincent College began a petition on change.org to alter the name of the current Student Activity Center building, or SAC, to the J. Bell Center in dedication to John Bell, strength and conditioning coordinator at SVC and former defensive line coach of the Bearcat football team from 2007-2014. Coach Bell heads the strength training and conditioning of all the teams in the Saint Vincent athletic department and performs multiple other duties on campus
“John Bell devotes nearly all of his time making sure students and faculty are happy with their time at Saint Vincent,” the anonymous student who began the petition stated. “[…] He lives and breathes Saint Vincent College and deserves to be able to leave his mark.”
Many other students affirmed the anonymous student’s claims in the comment section of the petition.
“You need to recognize and reward those who give back to their community. Coach Bell is deserving of this honor,” one student wrote.
Another student added that over the years many things have changed at SVC, but the one thing that has remained constant was Coach Bell.
“He has always been there for all the student athletes and always will be even after they graduate,” the person said. “I believe we need to name this in his honor for all the sacrifices he has given to make SVC a better place.”
Others joined into the conversation, including alumni from the college and parents of student athletes. Out of the 500-person goal, the current count of petition “supporters” is over 350 people.
Bell himself addressed the petition.
“It’s very flattering that [the students] did it, but like I keep telling them – I’m alive,” he said.
Bell commended the students’ and other petition signers’ efforts, but declined their desires to name the building after him.
“They never said a word; I still don’t know who started it,” Bell said.
Bell never expected to become the subject of students’ attention when it came to the possibility of renaming the SAC.
“I had no idea what change.org was. […] I was talking to Becky Pizer, our trainer, and she made a comment about something being named after me. And I just laughed and walked away. Later […] my wife called me and said, ‘You know there’s a petition to name the building after you?’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’”
Bell said he was surprised by students’ ambitions.
“I kind of looked at it and said, ‘Wow, that’s cool,’ […] then tried to figure out how I was going to get out of it, essentially.”
Bell stated that he was not exactly sure how to react to the situation.
“As flattered as I was by it, that’s not me. […] There are people that are more ‘deserving’ than I am,” he explained. “I’m very lucky to do what I do; I love my job. I’ve been here 13 years. […] I love the students here. I love the facility and the place.”
Bell explained his role as a faculty member on campus.
“[The sports teams] do between 100 and 150 workouts here every day, almost. We do work in the morning in the [basketball] gym with the athletes,” he said. “I just love what I do. And the more people I see in here, the better. […] It’s helping us be better athletes, better teams.”
Bell prioritized his role as a coach to help student athletes improve their abilities rather than to receive recognition from them. He stated that while he appreciates all the comments, he is dedicated because that is the way he learned coming up in athletics.
“If kids are willing to come here on their own free will, we’ll be here for them,” Bell said. “My payback is seeing the kids in here, seeing alum come back.”
The petition, however, helped Bell understand the magnitude of his efforts.
“Maybe I did something right, that’s what I look at,” he said. “If they thought that much of what I’m doing here, then I did something right. I just [have to] work harder.”
Bell hoped that he could continue to positively influence students in the future, no matter the future of the SAC.
“I’m very low-key, I don’t like to be in the limelight,” Bell stated. “I just want to come do my job. […] If the kids are happy, I’m happy.”