Professors before they were Professors: Timothy Bell

Nathan Turoff, Features Editor

Dr. Timothy Bell is one of the University of North Florida (UNF)’s most esteemed professors, with over thirty years of education and accounting experience under his belt. One thing that further sets this distinguished professor of accounting apart from his peers is that he is a UNF alum, having graduated all the way back in the university’s infancy.

Bell didn’t attend UNF as an undergraduate, but as a graduate student. In 1971, he graduated from Jacksonville University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He explained how he had passed the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam but had to meet two years of experience requirements before he could obtain his official CPA certification. 

“My options were to work for a specified period (I think 2 years) in a public accounting practice or meet the experience requirement by taking graduate courses in accounting & business subjects” Bell wrote.

He eventually chose the latter option and settled on the then newly opened UNF for his graduate courses. Starting his late-night courses in 1973, he eventually graduated in December 1975 with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an emphasis on accounting.

Timothy Bell at his Graduation
“Me at UNF Graduation, December 1975”, photo courtesy of Timothy Bell

“UNF was a fledgling, upper-division-only, university with a couple of buildings and The Boathouse.” Bell said when describing the campus at the time of his graduation.

One of his fondest memories as a student was with a professor named Joseph Perry, who said of a Venn diagram, “This is a tool invented by a Dutchman who said, ‘Venn are we going to diagram these things?’”

Despite all of his classes being at night, Bell has fond memories of the tiny campus, excellent faculty, and “invigorating coursework.” After graduating, following a recommendation from a professor, he moved to Oklahoma to pursue a doctorate degree, which he received from Oklahoma State University in 1981.

After that, Bell taught at the University of Texas for a few years, before setting down as a Director of Audit Research for a large accounting firm. He would hold this position for 21 years, a time he cherishes greatly.

“I have had a wonderful life collaborating with some of the world’s best accounting scholars on research projects and traveling in all the continents except for Antarctica.” Bell said of his time at the accounting firm.

As he aged, Bell found himself desiring retirement from accounting and a transition back to Secondary Education. He came into contact with the Chairman of UNF’s Accounting and Finance Board, and he ended up convincing Bell to become a part of the UNF Accounting Faculty in 2009. 

Returning to UNF after over thirty years later was definitely a struggle for him at first.

“The infrastructure has grown so much that initially I had trouble finding my way around campus.” Bell recalling his first times back on campus.

The UNF Map as seen in the 1975 Course Catalogue
UNF Map taken from the 1975 Course Catalog, the year Bell graduated. The large majority of the modern campus did not exist yet. Courtesy of UNF Digital Commons.

Despite the larger size, he still believes the university is as beautiful as it has ever been, which he greatly appreciates. He is also impressed by how the high-quality standards of the faculty have remained from his time here as well.

Many of Bell’s students are mostly commuters from off-campus much like he himself was, and he is able to relate to them exceptionally well because of it. 

“Cherish every moment of the learning experience. Learning is life-affirming. The collective body of knowledge is expanding at an increasing rate. So is the collective body of misinformation. Make it your quest to maximize your ability to differentiate the two. Be skeptical of your own beliefs. When I was young, I just put my head down and plowed right on through. Embarking on a lifetime of scholarly research has “sensitized” my perspective on perspectives,” Bell advised all current and future students.

Further information documenting Dr. Bell’s long and decorated career can be found here.



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