Jesse W.O. Bell, Ph.D.
by Kathleen Moore, Ph.D. and David R. Dietrich, Ph.D.
Dr. Jesse Bell, a long-time friend of psychoanalysis and the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute, died suddenly on May 31, 2015. He was 61.
When Kathy Moore notified me (DD) of his unexpected death I wrote to her, "I am terribly sad to hear of his sudden death. Our community, our world, has lost a wonderful human being. I loved Jesse--he was my friend. My heart goes out to Brenda, and his daughters, and his family and friends."
A native Detroiter, Dr. Bell graduated from Cass Technical High School and received his undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University. He went on to receive Master's and Doctoral degrees from Columbia University in New York, where he received supervision and didactics from local psychoanalysts associated with the training program. He returned to Detroit in 1980 and obtained a position at the Lafayette Clinic, where he saw patients, participated in research, and trained and supervised psychology interns until the closure of the Clinic in 1993. During his tenure there, he undertook a personal analysis with a psychoanalyst from MPI, an experience that was life-altering for him and for which he was always deeply grateful. Dr. Bell transitioned to Wayne State University School of Medicine along with others from the Lafayette Clinic and shortly thereafter became the Director of the reorganized Predoctoral Training Program in Clinical Psychology, a position he held until his retirement in 2013. He was a much-loved and well-respected teacher and colleague, receiving numerous awards for his teaching and supervision and earning the enormous gratitude and lasting respect of countless doctoral psychology students who were on the receiving end of his wisdom, generosity and kindness.
In 2012, Dr. Bell was given a special award by Dr. David Dietrich, at that time President of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute. He was recognized for his strong support of psychoanalytic understandings of psychopathology, diagnosis, and psychotherapy, and for his major contributions to generations of well-trained doctoral clinical psychologists who did their internships in the highly regarded program Dr. Bell directed. Dr. Bell, in his own humble and quiet way, indirectly benefited great numbers of Michigan residents. A great many disadvantaged individuals received high quality psycho-therapy from interns in his program.
Dr. Dietrich noted at the time that Dr. Jesse Bell was a genuine friend of psychoanalysis and the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute, and he also pointed out that several psychologists who did internships in his program went on to become candidates in MPI's nationally regarded Early Admission Program.
I (DD) was fortunate to have been invited by Dr. Bell to teach a clinical continuous case conference for the doctoral psychology interns at the University Psychiatric Clinic. I loved conducting this case conference (which I did for several years), and I would often compliment Jesse on the bright and motivated interns he selected. Perhaps even more important, I always greatly enjoyed our friendship and the discussions he and I often had in his office prior to the conference. He had a wonderful laugh, and I was always privately struck by his gratitude. He was ferociously proud of his two daughters. And I always smiled when I pulled into the UPC parking lot and saw his bright--and not to be missed--orange car. Many years earlier, at Lafayett Clinic, he and I worked on a clinical research project together, and we would sometimes walk over to one of his favorite restaurants for a delicious lunch. We presented the results of this project at a national meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association.
Dr. Bell will be remembered by me (KM) as a man of great integrity who lived what he taught. He was a Biblical scholar as well a scholar of psychology and psychoanalysis, and these three currents converged in his demeanor and way of being in the world. He was a person who taught the analytic attitude by example. A patient and attentive listener, he was unfailingly accepting, non-judgmental, and compassionate. Never attention-seeking, he quietly devoted his energies to doing his job and tending to the needs of his students. He was the kindest person I have ever known.
Dr. Bell is survived by his wife and best friend Brenda; two daughters, Marisa and Allison; a huge extended family (which he counted as his life's special blessing, having grown up in a very small family); and countless friends, students, colleagues and coworkers.
Photo courtesy of Mary Simmons, B.F.A., M.A.T., BioMedical Communications, Wayne State University School of Medicine