Bill Bell Announced as William Peace University Commencement Speaker

Apr 29, 2024

Former Durham mayor and lifelong public servant William V. “Bill” Bell will be the 2024 Commencement Speaker at William Peace University, the school announced today.

Bell is the longest-serving Mayor of Durham with eight terms from 2001 until 2017. He also served on the Durham County Board of Commissioners for 26 years, 12 of those as the chair.

“It is with great humility and excitement that I accept the invitation to address the graduating class of William Peace University,” said Bell. “I am eager to share insights, inspiration, and encouragement as you embark on the next chapter of your lives, armed with the invaluable tools of education and the spirit of determination.”

A product of the public school system in Winston-Salem, N.C., Bell earned his BS in Electrical Engineering Engineering from Howard University in Washington DC and his MS in Electrical Engineering from New York University, in New York, NY. Bell was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from Duke University on May 13, 2018, at the Duke commencement ceremony.

In July 2019, the UNC Board of Governors appointed Bell to the North Carolina Central University Board of Trustees. That first term ended in 2023, but Bell was appointed again on July 1, 2023, for four more years.

Bell is currently the Chairperson of the North Carolina Railroad Company’s (NCRR) Board of Directors and also serves on the M&F Bank’s Durham City Advisory Board. Bell was a charter member of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Board of Trustees and the Research Triangle Regional Public Transportation Authority. He’s also the President/CEO of the UDI Community Development Corporation in Durham.

In 1988 Bell was awarded the Alumni Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement in the Fields of Engineering and Public Service by the Howard University Board of Trustees. Bell’s professional background and experience as an electrical engineer led him to roles at The Martin-Marietta Corporation, the US Army Research and Development Lab, and The IBM Corporation in Research Triangle Park (RTP) until he retired in 1996.

Bell and his wife Judith live in Durham. They are the proud parents of four children and seven grandchildren.

WPU President Dr. Brian Ralph said he’s honored to have Mr. Bell speak at Commencement.

“I am very excited for our graduates and guests to hear from Mr. Bell,” Ralph said. “He has been a highly respected leader for decades, known for his character and wisdom. I am confident we will all benefit from what he has to share with us.”

WPU’s Commencement Ceremony will take place at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 11, 2023.

About WPU 

Founded in 1857, William Peace University is a regionally ranked institution in Raleigh, NC – one of U.S News’ Best Places to Live – serving more than 750 students in 30+ undergraduate and multiple professional programs in criminal justice, education, business administration, and more.

Nestled in the heart of Raleigh’s downtown area, the University’s culture is as vibrant as the city surrounding it; students benefit from all the connection and collaboration our central location offers. The University focuses on an immersive curriculum and innovative teaching methods to ensure students graduate career-ready and prepared to thrive in the organizations of today and tomorrow. Learn more at


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