Despite being legally blind since 8 years old, an acclaimed educator, mentor and motivational speaker has for nearly six decades continued his legacy of peering deep into the black community and turning individual talent into real-life success stories.
Dr. Gregory E. Bell, a native Washingtonian and longest-serving black male administrator within Montgomery County Public Schools’ central office, has devoted more than 40 years to rebuilding black youth as an educator, individually mentoring over 25 students yearly
Bell has stood firm for the educational black community and youth, spurred by his mother’s words and his mantra, “Focus on your vision and not your sight.”
“It never matters how you start your race, what matters is how you finish,” he said. “I wasn’t gifted with the ability of carnal sight, but my vision to see others succeed far outweighs anything that I could ever read in a book. When I mentor, I do this on my own accord because I believe in the youth.”
Even with his visual impairment, Bell earned a Ph.D. in early-childhood and middle-childhood education at the Ohio State University at the age of 27, understanding early on the importance of instilling education onto others.
Bell, father of two daughters who are both Howard University graduates, is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and the National Alliance of Black School Educators.
DeLonte Murray, a long-term mentee who once risked failing out of high school, championed Bell’s contributions to his turnaround.
“I didn’t do well in high school — it took me six years to graduate and I had a cumulative GPA of 0.11,” he said. “Many people wanted me to meet Dr. Bell and once I did, he changed my life. I remember telling Dr. Bell that I was lazy and [his] response was to drop the ‘laz-,’ add a ‘bus-‘ and let’s get busy.
“Through his mentorship during my last two quarters in school, I took my GPA from a 0.11 to a 3.8, received a full scholarship to a junior college and then [went] on to obtain a full scholarship into the University of Cincinnati, where I obtained my bachelor’s in criminal justice,” Murray said. “Soon, I will be attending Shepherd University for my master’s.”
Bell himself has received a multitude of honors for outstanding service in education and youth, including the Montgomery County Executive Service Award and numerous awards from NAACP’s Montgomery County branch.
Jerry Floyd, the branch’s 1st vice president, expressed his admiration for the lifelong mentor.
“It is very difficult to put it in words how extraordinary Dr. Bell is,” Floyd said. “His ability to command attention and motivate others, particularly with young people is amazing. I spent 35 to 40 years in education myself. I received my Ph.D when I was 47 and I have 20/20 corrected vision. For Greg to be able to do the things that he does, with the kind of impairment that he has, is an inspiration to anybody and any race.”
Bell continues to work on behalf of multiple school districts, universities and corporations, evidenced by his keynote speech at Rockville’s recent 45th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Richard Montgomery High School.
Jake Oliver, publisher of the Afro-American Newspaper and a longtime collaborator of Bell, also praised Bell’s legacy.
“Dr. Bell has been a huge support for social progress and has a natural attraction to anything that will improve education,” Oliver said. “He is always the first and the loudest to generate support for students, is extremely humble, and I am proud to have him for a friend.”