NET WORTH: Unknown
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Digital Equipment Corporation, Microsoft
FUNDING AREAS: Education, Digital History & Rights, Arts & Culture, Health & Human Services
OVERVIEW: Gordon Bell and family move their philanthropy through the Bell Family Foundation. Grantmaking involves several different regions, including the Bay Area, New Jersey and Colorado, which tracks with personal ties. The family supports their schools, the arts, and more. An important grantee is the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, where Bell serves a trustee.
BACKGROUND: Born in Missouri in 1934, C. Gordon Bell received a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from MIT. He worked at MIT’s Engineering Speech Communications Laboratory. Bell went on to work at Digital Equipment Corporation as vice president of R&D. He also worked for Microsoft, helping set up its first research laboratory.
EDUCATION: Bell has supported his alma mater MIT, as well as Carnegie Mellon, where he was a professor of computer science and engineering for six years. The couple's son Brigham graduated from University of Colorado, which has also received Bell Family Foundation support. Other grantees have included Truman State University in Missouri, University of Minnesota, Portland State University Foundation, Academy of Arts and Sciences, Hillsborough High School, and Alexander Dawson School. The Bell's daughter Laura studied piano performance at New England Conservatory, another Bell Family Foundation grantee. The Bells fund a scholarship program in Bell's native Missouri.
DIGITAL RIGHTS AND HISTORY: Bell and his wife Gwen helped found the Digital Computer Museum in Marlborough, MA, in 1979 and Bell and was a founding board member of its successor, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. The Bells have steadily supported the museum via the foundation, site of the Gwen Bell Artifact and Book Collection. The collection consists of written works and physical objects relating to early calculating instruments and methods beginning in the early 17th century and ending in about 1980. The Bells via their foundation have also supported places like Wikimedia Foundation and Internet Archive.
ARTS & CULTURE: Laura Bell studied piano performance at several different institutions and works in music including as a pianist and music teacher. The New Jersey-based Laura appears to drive some of the grantmaking in this category. Grantees have included Central Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Opera Colorado, Boulder Chamber Orchestra, and The Exploratorium.
HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: Grantees have included Hillsborough Food Pantry, San Francisco Food Bank, Stanford Medical Center, Alzheimer’s Association, and Arthritis Foundation. Heart disease doesn't appear to be a central part of this family's health giving via their foundation, which is interesting, given that Bell has had heart disease.
LOOKING FORWARD: Expect Bell family giving to continue past interests and regions. The family's next generation—Denver-based Brigham and Jersey-based Laura—should be watched carefully.
Bell Family Foundation does not provide a clear avenue of contact but below is an address:
Bell Family Foundation
611 Washington St., Ste. 2502
San Francisco, CA 94111