“Every student that is part of the Bell scholarship program is family to me,” said Dan Giustina, who owns the Oregon-based timber product company Giustina Resources.
He became the College of Agriculture’s biggest supporter in 2013, donating $2 million to establish the Bell Family Presidential Scholarship in memory of his second family—local legend Tom Bell, who owned the 16,000-acre Bell Ranch, and his wife, Dorothy Bell, and sisters Claudine Bell and Helen Head.
“Every student that is part of the Bell scholarship program is family to me.”
—Dan Giustina, scholarship donor
“It’s no different than your own kids,” said Giustina, who became so close with the Bell family that they built him a room in their home. “You’ve got the ability to help them become contributors through education, through being around other students of like mind, and professors—and the inspiration they get from working with these people.”
At an early morning breakfast, Interim Dean Dave Daley and second-year agricultural
education major Holly Hockett—who, along with Jase Northup, is an inaugural recipient—welcomed the four newest members of the Bell scholar family to campus.
As they talked, it was clear one thing connected them all: the University Farm.
“You let us know if you need to get out to the farm,” Daley said, looking around the table at scholars Austin Dowse, Brigitte Braud, Brooke Vogt, and Cole Lauchland. “That can be your home base.”
Their interests are as diverse as the goods produced by agriculture each year. Whether they aspire to educate students, provide veterinary care, promote sustainable practices or healthy pest control, or run a successful business, the Bell scholars seem to all embrace the same incredible responsibility: sustaining life.
“Everything you consume—whether it’s food or products—comes from agriculture in one way or another,” said first-year agricultural business major Austin Dowse. “It’s probably the single most important thing needed to run our nation, as well as the world, smoothly.”
It is easy to see that agriculture students, teachers, workers, researchers, and leaders are a family and that the farm inspires a philosophy that touches all aspects of their lives.
Giustina says agriculture’s fundamental role in society means it is inherently a “generational kind of job,” rooted in the past and responsible for the future. Whether it’s riding around all day, talking and looking at cattle (as he did with Tom Bell before he died in 1987) or taking an animal science class out at the University Farm—education is how wisdom passes from one generation to the next.
“My father and mother always instilled in their children: The purpose in what you do is not only to learn, but, once you learn, to give back that ability to learn,” he said. “And that’s the way Mr. and Mrs. Bell were.”
This pay-it-forward, family mindset is what Giustina wants to inspire in the Bell Family Presidential Scholarship recipients.
“Not a lot of donors take the time to get to know you,” Hockett told the other scholars. “Hearing Dan explain what hard-working, generous, and very kind people [the Bells] were, and hearing his insights was really great. It made the whole scholarship experience different.”
“That’s what the Bell scholarship is really about, Daley said. Those qualities that students are nominated for—achievement, commitment to agriculture, leadership, and civic engagement—Dan is all of those things.”
Which is why, twice a year, Giustina makes the same trip down to Chico that he’s made since the 1960s—to visit with his Bell family.
When their first breakfast together came to a close and the scholars started heading out for 8 a.m. classes, Hockett was overheard saying, as if on cue, “I want to give you all my phone number in case you need anything.”