January 23, 2008: Whatever happened to...
Whatever happened to Charles E. Bell ’76?
It took only one nude run, performed on a $20 bet, from Henry Hall to the Chancellor Green student center for Charlie Bell ’76 to earn his Princeton moniker “The Streak.” Bell’s run on Feb. 3, 1974, watched by “maybe 50” students, he recalls, came at the cusp of the mid-1970s nationwide streaking craze. But his notoriety would have “died quietly,” he said, if he hadn’t run for Undergraduate Assembly president about a month later. One of two joke candidates in the election, Bell promised that, if he became president, he would streak from Palmer Stadium to Nassau Hall (his slogan: “If elected, I’ll run”). Bell later stopped active campaigning in deference to his parents. “At the time, the humor of the campaign eluded them,” he said.
Now co-head of the math department at The Hotchkiss School, where he has taught for 20 years, and the father of two daughters, Bell prefers to be remembered for his “lap around the country” rather than his jaunt in the buff. Three years after graduation, Bell was questioning what he wanted to do with his life. Running and writing were his passions; his job at IBM was not. So after quitting his job, Bell spent 19 months running around the perimeter of the United States, carrying a Princeton flag given to him by Fred Fox ’39 (Princeton’s late recording secretary). He traveled 10,000 miles during his Forrest Gump-like odyssey, touching every border state.
Bell followed his vision when he decided to run around the country and has never regretted it. Now he encourages his students to follow their dreams as well.