Thomas Cowan Bell

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Thomas Cowan Bell (May 14, 1832 – February 3, 1919) was one of the seven founders of Sigma Chi Fraternity.[1][2]


He was born May 14, 1832 in Bellbrook, Ohio, near Dayton.

He graduated from Miami University in 1857 and began his life's work of teaching. In 1861 he enlisted in the Union army, where he was commissioned as a captain, major, and finally lieutenant colonel with the 74th Ohio Infantry of the U.S. Army.[2] He received high commendation, leading the regiment's bayonet charge at the Battle of Stone River.[1][3][4]

Following the war he returned to his career in education, serving as the superintendent of schools in Nobles County, Minnesota from 1872-77. He was publisher of a journal from 1878–85, president of Philomath College in Oregon from 1885–86, principal of La Creole Academy from 1887-92, and president of Central Oregon State Normal School from 1892-96. After his retirement in 1896 he moved to Oakland, California.[2][3][5]

He remained an enthusiastic member of Sigma Chi into old age. He died in 1919, the day after attending initiation of the Alpha Beta Chapter at the University of California, Berkeley. He is buried at the San Francisco National Cemetery.[6] His grave can be seen in the background of a shot in The Dead Pool (1988).


In 1855, Thomas Cowan Bell became one of the seven founders of Sigma Chi at the age of 23. As a student at Miami, Bell lived in the Oxford home of his Aunt Lizzie. Because all of the other members of the Fraternity at one time or another lived in Aunt Lizzie's place or took meals there, the house became known as "the first Chapter house of Sigma Chi."[3][5] According to his fraternity, Bell is best known for his "... exemplification of the qualities of learning and friendship." In 1933, Sigma Chi erected and dedicated the Founders' Memorial Monument to him in the San Francisco National Cemetery, where he is buried.[7]


  1. ^ a b Society of the Sigma Xi (1905), The semi-centennial celebration of the Sigma Chi fraternity, the Grand Council, pp. 77–78 
  2. ^ a b c Levere, William Collin (1915), "BELL, Thomas C.", Leading Greeks: an encyclopedia of the workers in the American college fraternities and sororities, Evanston, Illinois, p. 30 .
  3. ^ a b c Runkle, Benjamin Piatt (May 1896), "Thomas Cowan Bell: May 14, 1832 to Feb. 3, 1919", The Sigma Chi Quarterly XV (3): 237–241 .
  4. ^ "Letter from Colonel Granville Moody", Senate documents, otherwise publ. as Public documents and Executive documents: 14th Congress, 1st session-48th congress, 2nd session and special session, 1863, pp. 158–159 .
  5. ^ a b "Thomas Cowan Bell, 1857", Miami University Bulletin (Oxford, Ohio: Miami University) XVII (12), August 1919: 16–17 .
  6. ^ Thomas Cowan Bell,, accessed 2012-01-09.
  7. ^ The Norman Shield. Sigma Chi Fraternity. 2015. p. 40.