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Founders Bell Ringing and Posthumous Honorary Doctorate Investiture

Thursday, February 17, 10:00 am12:00 pm

Thursday, February 17

10 a.m.
Founders Bell Ringing and Posthumous Honorary Doctorate Investiture
Brown Ballroom, Bone Student Center

The ceremony is open to the public and is anticipated to end at approximately 11:30 a.m. An open reception will follow in the Brown Ballroom. Anyone interested in ringing the Old Main Bell on the Quad will be able to do so immediately following the ceremony.  The public will also be able to view the bell ringing ceremony and honorary doctorate investiture via livestream.

Nominate a Bell Ringer by January 14.
Individuals may nominate bell ringers from campus constituent groups: students, faculty, Administrative Professional (A/P), civil service, retirees, and alumni.
The Founders Bell Ringing Committee will select participants from the nominations received.
*Please note: Individuals who have previously participated in this ceremony are not eligible. Self-nominations will not be accepted.

Andrew Purnell portrait.

Honorary Degree Recipient Andrew Purnell, Posthumous

Andrew Purnell arrived on campus in 1953, interested in engineering. He studied industrial arts, switched to math as his major during his junior year, and graduated in 1957. Beyond working to cover his college expenses, Purnell was active in intramural wrestling, fast-pitch softball, and bowling. He was inducted into Iota Lambda Sigma, an honorary fraternity, and served on the advisory boards for his class as a junior and senior.

Purnell joined peers in forming the University’s first NAACP chapter. Members tested public accommodations for African Americans in Bloomington. The local roller rink and YWCA allowed access to black residents only once a month at the time, with restaurants refusing service. A meeting with the McLean County State’s Attorney resulted, with a promise that unlawful discrimination would end.

Purnell was drafted into the U.S. Army. He trained in Colorado and did classified government work at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. He declined a job with NASA, choosing instead to complete a master’s degree and pursue a career in education. He taught math and served as an administrator in Illinois at Eisenhower High School and Alan B. Shepard High School.

In 1983, Purnell began working to create the Illinois State University Black Colleagues Association, which was chartered on campus in 1984 with 40 participants. Membership has risen to nearly 300 and more than $280,000 has been raised to provide black students with scholarships.

Purnell has served on the University’s Alumni Association Board and various campus committees. He has been inducted into the Steve and Sandi Adams Legacy Hall of Fame and received the Alumni Association Mercier Outstanding Service Award. In 2013, he was chosen as the alumnus Homecoming king.

Purnell died March 20, 2020. He is survived by three adult children.


Thursday, February 17
10:00 am – 12:00 pm