Graceland Award of Recognition

Bob Bell ’86

Bob Bell '86, President Patricia H. Draves

Bob Bell ’86 received the Graceland Award of Recognition. Bell was a high school senior in Port Huron, Michigan, when Graceland football coach Dan Hanton '65 urged him to visit the campus with six friends. Bell fell in love with Graceland and enrolled in the fall of 1977.

Bell is not shy about admitting that he had a rough start at Graceland. “I didn’t actually make the dean’s list, but I sure made the dean’s office,” he shared. Once he “got his head on straight,” he turned things around and earned a Bachelor of Arts in physical education and health with an elementary education endorsement. That foundation sustained him through 17 years of teaching in elementary and high school classrooms as a special education specialist.

Bell always looked up to those in the military and was just 26 when he joined the Army Reserves. He has been to Korea three times, Bosnia and Germany, and he served three tours of duty in Iraq. He trained soldiers at the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois for four years before hanging up his military uniform in 2013. Thank you, Bob, for your service to our nation.

Bell donned the Lamoni Police Department uniform in 2014 and served as police chief from 2015-19. It was in this role that he worked side by side with Graceland's dean of students Dave Schaal ’80, turning college students in the right direction through personal mentoring and counseling. Schaal commented, “Bob has a real knack for connecting with young people, sharing his own journey while helping students see the light. He’s been invaluable in our mission here at Graceland.”

Steve '77 and Jeanie Upson

Steve Upson '77, Jeanie Upson, President Patricia H. Draves

Steve '77 and Jeanie Upson also received the Graceland Award of Recognition. To say that Steve and Jeanie love getting their hands dirty is an understatement. The couple thrive on getting the most out of mother earth, and Graceland has reaped the fruits of their labor.

Steve came to Graceland from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the fall of 1973. He later transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in horticulture in 1978 and went on to earn his Master of Science in horticulture from Kansas State University in 1980.

Over the years, Steve has served as a county and district horticulture educator with the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and as manager of a commercial market garden operation east of Kansas City, Missouri. In addition to his consultation services, he is an active participant in the newly formed Noble Foundation Institute Center for Pecan and Specialty Agriculture, where he serves as a technical advisor and educator in the areas of raised-bed and container gardening, commercial market gardening, and high tunnel (hoop house) construction and management.

Jeanie is from Skiatook, Oklahoma, and received her Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Cameron University. She has been a Title I elementary reading specialist for Ardmore City Schools for the past 32 years.

Graceland sustainability coordinator, Jen Abraham-White ’08, had this to say about the Upsons, “Their continued commitment to Graceland’s sustainability program has been remarkable: remarkable because they decided to buy in to a vision that had little support – their hands planted a seed; remarkable in the way that they have driven thousands of miles, back and forth from Oklahoma, to help construct a better and greener Graceland; and remarkable in that they so generously and graciously share personal savings from years of hard work in fields of service to educate a new era of students and impact posterity.”