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Thomas Bell-- 2003 Outstanding Alumnus
Bachelor of Arts - 1948 - Zoology and Physiology
Master of Science - 1957 - Zoology and Physiology
Thomas Bell is passionate about Wyoming’s wild places and wildlife. And that passion is the impetus that led him to spend a lifetime defending the natural wonders of the land he loves. When Bell was very small, his father bought a ranch on the North Fork of the Popo Agie River, near Lander, and Bell spent his childhood exploring and falling in love with the land.
After earning a Silver Star in aerial combat during World War II, Bell returned to Wyoming to finish his education in wildlife conservation and game management. While working for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as a fisheries expert, game bird, and waterfowl biologist, bell realized that his concern for protecting wildlife and Wyoming’s natural wonders was not in harmony with local politicians and policies. That’s when he became a grassroots activist.
Bell became involved with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation (WWF) and later served as its president. Eventually, he founded the Wyoming Outdoor Council to better coordinate the activities of different groups working on resource management issues. A member of NWF, Craig Thompson once said, “Around the Rockies, Tom Bell is known as the Grand Old Man of Conservation. He had the insight to see the future of unchallenged development at the very beginning and decided he would head them off at the pass, even if he had to do it alone.”
Well aware of the power of media, Bell began writing columns for Wyoming Wildlife and the Wyoming state Journal. In 1969, he became editor of Camping News, and within a year renamed the paper High Country News. Bell took a paper that celebrated the great outdoors and turned it into a hard hitting voice for conservation in the Rocky Mountain West. During the four years that Bell ran High Country News, the publication took on powerful politicians and wealthy landowners. In 1974, Bell handed off control of the paper.
Bell also taught science in the Lander school system, inspiring hundreds of students to excel in their work and to approach the world with a sense of wonder and curiosity. Recently, he became a recognized historian and leader of the liberal arts in Lander, and in 1984, Bell created the Wind River Mountaineer, a quarterly historical journal dedicated to researching and publishing central and western Wyoming history. University of Wyoming alumnus Todd Guenther said, “For nearly eight decades, this quintessential Renaissance man, Tom Bell, has studied and taught the arts and sciences. He is the embodiment of everything that is exemplary in humanity and is an unsurpassed example of the type of human being that a liberal arts education can produce.”