When David Bell (BSc '72) was in high school, no one talked to him about university. His class was the first for whom high school went to Year 12 in NSW, but most students still left school at 15 or 16. Talented and clear-minded, he was told he had a bright future in clerical work, however, that wouldn’t have allowed him to use his skills in maths and science to their greatest impact.
The answer came by mail in his last year of school. David was offered a Commonwealth Scholarship to the University of Sydney to study a Bachelor of Science.
Throughout the 1960s, more pathways to higher education were opened for talented students like David and though his parents had never considered university as an option, they were supportive of him pursuing his studies.
After a regimented high school experience, the freedom of the university campus was a foreign experience, but it was exciting. David was able to continue to build his academic interest in maths and science into a wide-ranging career in biophysics and biomedicine. This led to him eventually developing an interest in computer programming and founding his own company.
Fast forward 50 years and he’s made the generous decision to pay it forward by leaving a gift in his will to support another first-in-family student.
It's a gift that has the full blessing of his family.
“My wife and I spoke with our children, who are our beneficiaries, and told them we wanted to give a portion to some organisations. They were very supportive.”
One consideration was ensuring the organisations can make the most of the gifts.
“If you live another 20 years, you’re not too sure the organisation still exists or has the same needs. So, we’ve decided if we reach 80, we will distribute the money then. That way we’ll be around to see how it’s used and be a part of it.”
As for choosing to support first-in-family students, it’s motivated by a combination of David’s own experience and the cost-of-living issues faced by students nowadays.
A physics major, who went onto complete honours, David enjoyed his subjects immensely. He relished the independence he found in his studies and formed close bonds with friends he still has today.
However, he found it difficult to strike the right balance between the social aspect of the University campus – something he considers to be vital – and his need to succeed academically. Taking part in University life is something he wished he had done more of, and he sees the same pressures to succeed affecting students now.
He hopes his gift will support a first-in-family student to manage their cost-of-living and balance study, work and connection.“There are so many expectations on some students—particularly those changing their family’s history. I really want to see that they are supported not just to succeed academically, but that they can have a full and meaningful experience of University life.”
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