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Terrell Howard Bell

Alumnus, Ph.D. Educational Administration

"There are three things to emphasize in teaching: The first is motivation, the second is motivation, and the third is (you guessed it) motivation." — Terrel H. Bell, U.S. Secretary of Education, 1981–1985.

T.H. Bell

Terrel Howard (“T.H.”) Bell (1921–1996) was the Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan. He was born and educated in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. T.H. graduated from the Albion Normal School in Idaho. After this he served as a school superintendent of various schools in Idaho and Wyoming.

He served as a sergeant in the Marines during World War II, and returned to Idaho to get his education. After earning a B.A. from the Southern Idaho College of Education at Albion in 1946, he started a career as a high school teacher and bus driver. He later earned an M.A. from the University of Idaho in 1954, and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Utah in 1961. Prior to serving as the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Reagan, he also served as the Utah Commissioner of Higher Education.

Appointed last in the Reagan cabinet, T.H. was expected to preside over Reagan's proposed dismantling of the Department of Education, but in 1981, T.H. Bell convinced Reagan to appoint a commission to study excellence in education. The 1983 report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, titled A Nation at Risk, started the drive for education reform with its conclusions, which included the claim that the nation was threatened by "a rising tide of mediocrity."

Though education's importance was highlighted by the reform drive, Reagan continued to try to reduce funding at the Department of Education. T.H. served for Reagan's first term, resigning in January 1985. He returned to Utah, and joined the faculty at the University of Utah. In 1988, he published his memoir entitled The Thirteenth Man: A Reagan Cabinet Memoir.

In 1984, the Utah State Legislature funded the Teaching Incentive Loan (TIL) program. In return for tuition waivers, TIL recipients are required to pursue an educator preparation program, obtain educator licensing, and then teach in Utah public schools for a period equal to the time they received assistance. The program is jointly administered by the State Board of Education and the State Board of Regents.

T.H. Bell died in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 22, 1996.

Last Updated: 3/15/21