Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight

C. Lu Bell ’51

A Librarian Inspired by Learning

C.Lu Bell ’51 knows a thing or two about resilience. The generous Goucher donor has grown deep roots into the Maryland soil, even as life has taken her far and wide. Born in Washington, DC, her family lived in Rockville, Maryland, the Eastern Shore, and Baltimore before she’d even started first grade. She attended Western High School in the city, and when it came time to choose a college, her mother told Bell she could go anywhere she wanted—as long as it was in Maryland. But Bell didn’t mind. “She’d wanted me to go to a good college,” Bell says, “and Goucher was, of course, as outstanding then as it is now.” Bell’s older sister, Mary “Becky” Bell Middleton ’45, was already a happy Goucher alumna.

Bell graduated in 1951 with a degree in political science and went on to get an advanced degree in library science at the University of Michigan. She worked first at the New York Public Library and then at McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, where she was in charge of selection cataloging. She would have preferred working in reference, however. “Cataloging is not that exciting,” Bell admits.

In 1959, Bell left McGraw-Hill for a reference position with a group that was a tad more exciting: the CIA. “It was a great place to work,” she says, “because they would tell me exactly what they needed, even if it was classified.” Bell had always dreamed of joining the Foreign Service, and in a way, she was now close to the action. Early in her career at the Company, Bell did some of the background work for a tense Cold War spy exchange after an American pilot was shot down in Soviet air space. Gary Powers was a pilot working for the CIA when his U-2 spy plane was shot down in 1960. Two years later, Powers and an American student were exchanged in Berlin for a Soviet KGB colonel. It was satisfying to Bell to know she played a part in making the deal happen. She would spend the rest of her career at the CIA, retiring after 25 years.

Throughout her life, Bell remained close with her sister, Middleton. Middleton was a voracious reader and also a librarian; by the time she retired, she was the head of the physics library at Johns Hopkins University. Towards the end of her life, Middleton, who died in January of 2016, lived with Bell in her home at a retirement community in Towson, close to the college that planted the seeds of their intrepid lives.

Middleton generously included Goucher in her estate plans, which Bell has done as well. Middleton’s significant bequest will be used toward current capital projects, and a space will be named for her in the Hoffberger Science Building. Bell thinks this is fitting, as Middleton’s career at the physics library gave her a particular interest in the sciences, even though the humanities came more naturally to her. That was another thing the sisters shared—a love of learning, a desire to keep digging. And with their bequests, Goucher can keep the tradition going. “Goucher has maintained its position,” Bell says. “It was a great college in the past and is continuing that, and it’s continuing the type of education that I think is really important.”