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Noted sex researcher, professor, psychotherapist Alan Bell dies

By Dann Denny,
Herald-Times Staff Writer


Alan Bell, professor emeritus of counseling and educational psychology at Indiana University and the father of violin virtuoso Josh Bell, died Monday at Bloomington Hospital at age 70.

Friends, family and colleagues say he left behind a legacy.

"Alan loved life, he loved life, he loved life," said Rich Reed, a Bloomington psychologist and the man Bell considered his closest friend. "He taught people how to love others, and inspired them to move forward unequivocally with their passion in life."

"He loved to live, and he lived to love," said Sandy McGuinn, a Bloomington elementary school teacher and Bell's sister-in-law. "Every Friday after work, I'd come over to the house and say, 'Hi Alan, how you doing?' He'd give me a big smile and hug and say, 'Never been better.'"

"He had a child's sense of wonder," said Terry Milazzo, the daughter from his first marriage. "He never took a day for granted."

"Alan was so alive and giving, so full of passion, and had the most wonderful laugh," said Patt Stowers, who for a full decade co-taught a human sexuality class at IU with Bell. "I will so miss his physical presence, but his soul will live on in my life and in the lives of the students whom he touched deeply."

"He was probably the most non-judgmental person I've ever known," said his widow, Shirley Bell. "He had an unconditional acceptance of the human condition, which is what made him such a good therapist."

Bell's professional accomplishments were indeed remarkable. For 15 years, he did pioneering research in human sexuality at the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research.

He directed the Center for Human Growth at Indiana University from 1969 through 1977, and was a professor of counseling and educational psychology at IU until retiring five years ago.

In his spare time, he wrote books on counseling, psychology and human sexuality — such as his groundbreaking 1976 work, Human Sexuality: Studies From the Kinsey Institute, and his most recent book, The Mind and Heart in Human Sexual Behavior, published in 1997.

After retiring at 65, Bell continued his private practice as a full-time psychotherapist, seeing about 30 clients a week.

"He held half of Bloomington's secrets," McGuinn said.

On May 3, he saw clients all day and was feeling fine, but at 2 the next morning he suffered a massive stroke while sleeping in his bed.

He was rushed to Bloomington Hospital, where the stroke — coupled with cardiac complications — took his life 10 days later.

During the final days, Millazo was reminded of the time a few years prior when Bell had driven to North Carolina to be with her and her mother — who was dying from a brain tumor.

"His visit was the ultimate gift, one I will never forget," she said. "That's just the way he was. He'd open up his heart and let you crawl right in."

Memorial services for Bell will be announced at a later date. The family will receive friends 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Bell residence.

 

Hoosier Times, May 15, 2002

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