BOP 50th Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018, the Dr. Cornell A. Bell Business Opportunity Program (BOP) has more than 1,400 alumni worldwide and a six-year graduation rate of 80 percent — higher than Purdue's overall graduation rate of 76 percent for all students and 70 percent for underrepresented students.

Opportunities Dreamed, Legacies Promised

Celebrating 50 years of the Dr. Cornell A. Bell Business Opportunity Program

The day following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968, a group of Krannert faculty members led by then-dean John S. Day established the Business Opportunity Program (BOP) to increase diversity and provide underrepresented minority students with access to a world-class management education.

BOP, which enrolled 11 students in its first year, was one of the first student-success programs to promote inclusion within a major business school and the first diversity program at Purdue.

Business Opportunity ProgramIn BOP’s second year, the late Dr. Cornell A. Bell was hired to direct its growth. Under his leadership, BOP blossomed into a nationally recognized program that recruits, enrolls, educates and provides support for both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing management careers. In 1996 the program was renamed in his honor.

Now under the direction of BOP alumnus Darren Henry, who was among Bell’s final class of MBA recruits, the program has more than 1,400 alumni worldwide and boasts a six-year graduation rate of 80 percent. That’s higher than Purdue’s overall six-year graduation rates of 76 percent for all students and 70 percent for underrepresented students.

Today, as Purdue and the Krannert School continue a yearlong celebration of BOP’s 50th anniversary, we take a look back with memories shared by alumni of the program while sustaining a firm vision of success for its current and future students.

Changing times

Sonia WinslettDr. Sonia Winslett (BSIM, MSM ’76) excelled academically during her time at Purdue, completing both her BS and MS degrees in only three and a half years. Had it not been for Bell and BOP, however, she wouldn’t have become a Boilermaker.

“My high school counselor never mentioned BOP because Krannert did not have an accounting degree at the time,” she recalls. “When I became aware of the program, I immediately understood the awesome opportunity and sought out Dr. Bell. The most important life lesson I learned from him was ‘Yes, we can.’ None of us has to be locked into a box by our initial selection of a career course. The only constant in life is change, and that’s OK.”

It’s a lesson that Winslett — a member of the first class of BOP students to include women — took to heart. After becoming a CPA, she fulfilled a lifelong dream by earning a medical degree and went on to a distinguished career with the Mayo Clinic as both a physician and an auditor.

While continuing her second career providing aid for post-disaster victims as a “locums tenens,” or traveling doctor, Winslett still feels Bell’s impact on her life.

“I think of the administrators and professors who took a leap of faith and invested in starting BOP. I think of Dean Day and Dr. Bell, who did whatever necessary to move the program forward,” she says. “These individuals contributed to the lives of people they did not know. In turn, as members of the BOP and Krannert family, we are each obligated to reach out and help the next generation of students.”

Crowning achievement

Kassandra Agee ChandlerWhen Purdue's first African-American Homecoming queen presented a lecture titled "My Pieces of History: A Queen's Journey to Archival Peace" at Krannert Auditorium in February (2018?) as part of the University's Black History Month celebration, she also shared her story as an alumna of BOP.

Kassandra "Katie" Agee Chandler (BSM ’80), founder and principal consultant at Systematic Design Consultants, a boutique information-technology consulting firm based in the Houston area, distinguished herself academically and as a student leader at Purdue. She served as a counselor for BOP, a member of Mortar Board and a founding member of the Society of Minority Managers.

“Dr. Bell, the Business Opportunity Program and most importantly my parents, Fred and Alice Agee, were the only influences on my decision to attend Purdue,” she said. “I jokingly refer to it as the best decision I never made! When Dr. Bell came to our home and said he was from Purdue University, I immediately began to talk about wanting to go to Georgia Tech — a school that was not a short drive away. All my talk was countered when Doc Bell asked, ‘Why would you want to attend a school whose program is patterned after Purdue’s?’ ”

Agee Chandler also spoke to current BOP students and presented her papers to Purdue University Archives and Special Collections during her visit to the West Lafayette campus.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to return to my alma mater and share my experience as Purdue’s first African-American Homecoming queen,” she said. “During this critical time of divisiveness in our nation, I hope that revisiting this significant milestone in Purdue history inspires students to engage in an enlightened dialogue on race, class, gender equality and other relevant issues facing us today."

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