POR: Dick Bell March 08, 2009

Dr. Dick Bell is the sports management program coordinator at Mesa State. He teaches workshops overseas each summer and recently donated a kidney. PHOTO BY DANIELLE STOMBERG

Dick Bell was a practicing lawyer and professor, when he saw an ad in an airline magazine and discovered his true passion.

“I was on an airplane somewhere and opened up a magazine and saw a big ad about sports management,” Bell said. “It was the mid ’90s and I’d never heard of it. I started investigating it.

It became real attractive to me. I started looking into teaching careers in sports management. I knew I needed to teach at the college level when I found this program at the U.S. Sports Academy (in Daphne, Ala.)

“I planned my calendar around it. I put my bicycle on the back of my car and went to Alabama.

Here I am, 50 years old, riding my bike and spending all day in class. I enjoyed it.”

There, he earned a doctorate in sports management and turned his focus to teaching full-time.

He taught at the University of Incarnate Word in Texas for two years then at Wichita State University for a year before coming to Mesa State in 2005.

“I’m here to stay,” Bell said. “I found a good job. I needed to find a place I like to live.

“Grand Junction is one of those hidden jewels. It’s getting uncovered, but the climate is great and the size of the city is perfect.”

Bell and fellow professor Steve Murray met to discuss what to do with the new sports management program.

“He was real good at working with me about bringing some changes within the program and bringing it more in the business model,” Bell said. “It’s in the department of kinesiology, but sports management is a business degree. It’s all over the place in different schools.”

They were able to focus the program.

“We talked about it and wanted to bring it more in line with the national standards for a degree.

To do that, we needed to make it more business-based. That’s why it went from it being a BA in kinesiology to a stand-alone BS degree in sports management.”

Bell speaks to a lot of students who have an interest in sports but are undecided on their major.

“When I talk to a kid I try to talk to them about what they are interested in,” Bell said. “If you’re interested in business, would you rather do a strategic plan for Chrysler, Nike or the Nuggets?

Kids know a lot about sports. They keep track of sports.

“Kids can understand the labor unions when it shuts down the baseball season. Getting them excited about it makes them want to learn it.”

Bell is also the adviser of the sports management club. He takes the club to the Colorado
Rockies spring training site during spring break and to the Pepsi Center during fall break.

“The Pepsi Center is run by people in sports management,” Bell said. “All cities have a recreation facility and need people to operate it. I’d say there are hundreds of people that work for Kroenke Sports.”

He kept in contact with people at the Sports Academy, which signed contracts to teach sports management classes overseas.

Bell, who lived in Illinois, Alabama, South Carolina, Portugal and Japan as a child of an Air Force veteran, was interested in teaching the classes.

“The Sports Academy knew I liked diversity,” Bell said. “They asked me to consider being a part of the program. They send me a schedule of the courses and I look to see how the dates work out.”

The six-week courses take place in the summer and Bell often signs up to teach a specific part of the course for a week.

He has been to Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Thailand. This summer he is going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“I never thought about going to these places,” Bell said. “When I taught in Bahrain the first time that was in 2001. It was isolated. My students were dressed in suits and thobes (a traditional Arab dress).”

Bell’s expenses are covered when he travels overseas to teach, but he’s not paid to teach.

“I feel like growing up and having a military background as a kid helped me to appreciate and seek out diversity,” he said. “Basically, when I do this my expenses are covered. The money doesn’t motivate me to do this.”

Before classes began at Mesa State last fall, Bell donated a kidney.

“When I was a lawyer, I had several clients on dialysis,” Bell said. “My father-in-law needed to go on dialysis in his 80s and he said, ‘No thank you.’ He died later, but that got me thinking about kidney donation. I’ve always been a blood donor. I did some research on kidney donations. You only need one.

“I looked at different programs and found a real good one at the University Hospital in Denver. I contacted them and I think I was the first one to contact them and say I’d like to donate a kidney to somebody. They called me an altruistic donor because I didn’t have any specific person in mind. They spent a couple months checking me out, including physiological tests.

I felt like I could make someone’s life a whole lot better. It meant nothing to me. I’m going to lose a kidney, which I really don’t need. My crazy days are over. They decided I was giving this up for the right reasons.”

Bell was still young enough to donate the kidney safely.

“I told them I didn’t care about identification,” Bell said. “When I returned from overseas, they found somebody. I woke up (from the surgery) and had a nice gift basket from the family and a nice card. The recipient contacted the hospital and wanted to thank me. I said, ‘OK.’ He wrote me a letter and I wrote him back. We’ve e-mailed a couple times and met for brunch in Denver.”


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