Gifts and Gratitude
Bench Dedications Honor Scott Sommer ’73, Brandon Bell ’06
In recent months, friends of two Ohio Wesleyan alumni who have passed away honored the memory of their cherished former classmates with ceremonies dedicating benches in their name on campus.
Jon Armstrong ’73 and friends dedicated a bench in honor of Scott Sommer ’73, who died in November 1993 at the age of 42. A prolific novelist and screenwriter known for his tragicomic characters, Sommer was recalled as charismatic and as someone who “possessed a wicked wit.”
“Scott was one of the funniest people ever,” says Armstrong, a politics and government major from Sandusky, Ohio. He remembers meeting Sommer, a philosophy major who hailed from New Jersey, their junior year, when they shared a suite in Welch Hall.
Sommer went on to earn a master’s degree in creative writing from Cornell, and then settled in New York City, where he wrote four novels and a collection of short stories. He wrote the screenplay for the film CrissCross, starring Goldie Hawn, and his novel Nearing Grace was made into a feature film in 2002.
Armstrong, who worked in banking and finance in New York after earning an M.B.A. at Columbia, said the two saw or spoke to each other every day.
“One line he used often in the late ’80s and early ’90s was, ‘The trouble with New York is everyone has bought a ticket to his/her own show.’”
Armstrong says, “Bearing in mind that this was pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook, pre-Instagram, I always thought he was rather prophetic with regard to today’s social media. Can you imagine what he’d have to say about that?”
Sommer’s bench is inscribed, “Scholar. Novelist. Teacher. Friend.”
Rich Kramer ’06 and friends dedicated a bench in honor of Brandon Bell ’06 at a private ceremony held during Alumni Weekend last May. Bell, who grew up in Akron, Ohio, passed away in January 2016.
“Brandon was the most charismatic person I ever met,” says Kramer, an economics management major with a concentration in business management.
“He was super intelligent and could talk on any subject. Most important, though, he made you feel like you were the only person in the room in the midst of the crowd.”
After college, Bell, who friends called a “free spirit,” took time off and travelled the world after working for a company that developed medical devices. He was in Nepal in April 2015 during the earthquake, and survived after being initially among a number of missing Americans.
Kramer says he, Brandon and Ben Bell (no relation) were friends and suitemates since freshman year in 2002. “We didn’t do the whole fraternal life,” he says, “but we had our own social network.”
Bell’s friends remembered him as someone who accomplished his goals, always encouraged his friends, and whose curiosity and enthusiasm were an inspiration.
Kramer, a golf team recruit, recalls Bell trying out for the golf tournament as a walk-on and making the team.
The bench, he says is a way he and Bell’s friends wanted to remember him and serves as a way to tell others that Brandon had an impact on other people’s lives. “He had this wisdom about him,” Kramer says.
“He really made me think about what I wanted to do in my life and the kind of a person I wanted to be.”