Ford W. Bell, D.V.M., has been inspired to give by outstanding people — big thinkers — with the most important being his grandfather, James Ford Bell, the founder of General Mills and a University Regent for 24 years, who was a dedicated collector of books. The James Ford Bell Library opened in 1953, as part of the Libraries, with books from the elder Bell’s collection of rare books, maps, and charts dedicated to the development of world trade in the early modern period.
As Bell prepares to move from the property where his great-grandfather had built a house in 1906, he has been examining things he inherited from his grandfather. “It’s very clear to us from his writings and what he told his children — my father and his siblings — that what mattered most to him was the Library.” The James Ford Bell Library collects books and artifacts on trade and cultural exchange up to about 1800 CE.
The Bell Library is “unique in its focus. It’s clearly a world-class collection, known all over the world.”
“It’s unique in its focus,” Bell says. “It’s clearly a world-class collection, known all over the world. That is very, very important to me, and I want to see what we can do to continue to enhance the prestige of the Library and strengthen its ability to support scholars from all over the world, something I know my grandfather would have loved.”
A veterinary oncologist by training, Bell served on the board of the Associates of the Bell Library for many years, and also serves as a trustee for the Book Trust his grandfather established. He has led Hennepin County Medical Center’s foundation, the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, DC. He also served on the board of Mia, and was chair of the board from 2003-2005.
Bell has been involved in some incredible acquisitions for the Bell Library, including the purchase of Matteo Ricci’s world map. This map was created under the leadership of Jesuit Matteo Ricci by artisans and scholars at China’s imperial court in 1602. It was purchased by the James Ford Bell Trust in 2009, and Ford Bell was instrumental in donating it to the Libraries in 2020. The map will continue to attract scholars from around the world, while opening perspectives in education and research for students and faculty here at the University.