By Shelby Brooks

RECENTLY awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of New England, Alan Bell – who hails from Kongwak – credits his agriculturally rich childhood for his eventual career pathway which took him all the way to Cornell University in the USA.

“I had a happy childhood in Kongwak,” Emeritus Professor Alan Bell told the Sentinel-Times.

“I was very lucky to be born into the family that I was.

“My interest in agriculture, and particularly animals, was from my agricultural lifestyle, I’m sure.”

Mr Bell’s 50-year career in animal science has taken him across the globe, working in research institutions and teaching in Scotland and America as well as La Trobe University in Melbourne.

After he finished his Rural Science degree at the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale, NSW, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do and thought he might end up back on the family farm helping his father milk cows.

But he instead took on a job at the CSIRO before completing a PhD in Scotland and returning to teach for eight years at La Trobe University.

In 1985, Mr Bell took on a position at the prestigious Cornell University in New York State where he furthered his international reputation for research on the nutritional physiology of pregnancy, lactation and growth in sheep and dairy cattle.

He ended up staying for 22 years.

“It wasn’t a planned thing,” he said.

He served as chair of the Department of Animal Science at Cornell for 10 years.

By 2007, it was time to come home where he became the chief of CSIRO Livestock Industries.

While there, he spent a year as the interim CEO of Food Science Australia and helped establish the new CSIRO division of Food and Nutritional Sciences.

Mr Bell retired in 2012 and looking back, he said despite the numerous prestigious research roles he held through his career, he received a lot of satisfaction from teaching.

“In many ways, I got as much satisfaction from teaching and mentoring young people in my career, some of which have gone on to be much more accomplished than me,” he said.

“It’s a pleasure to know I had some influence on their careers and to see them really blossom.”

Mr Bell was one of 13 alumni of the University of New England to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award – an award which is nominated by fellow colleagues.

“I am very chuffed about it. It’s an honour I certainly didn’t seek,” he said.