"I ended up pursuing my career by following interesting questions and compellingly smart people. It started with the outstanding faculty in the History department."
Mark R. Bell
Class of 1998
Thesis topic: Religion and Revolution (later became the book Apocalypse How by Mercer University Press, 2000)
I am currently a Managing Principal at Diversified Trust Company, a $7 billion wealth management firm, and a senior research fellow and adjunct professor at Emory University’s Gouizeta School of Business.
First Steps after Graduation:
After graduating, I pursued a Masters and Ph.D. in history at Oxford University where I did a dissertation on religious violence and Puritanism. I then taught history and religion at Oxford for three years. Today, I remain on the board of the Bodleian Library at Oxford, having also served Stanford library board while a student.
How did you end up pursuing your career? Do you have any advice for students contemplating similar career paths? What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were an undergraduate?
I ended up pursuing my career by following interesting questions and compellingly smart people. It started with the outstanding faculty in the History department, in my view the best minds on the fuzzy side of campus. From there I was able to continue to seek new groups of smart people, from Oxford, to McKinsey, to D. E. Shaw and beyond.
My advice for students is to work hard and get strong marks, to follow their passions with real passion, to avoid easy classes and easy challenges and remember that many people from less fancy colleges are willing to work very hard to beat you.
Has your History training helped you along the way - and if so, how?
I wish as an undergraduate I had known how long a race I was undergoing. While at Stanford you are at the beginning of a marathon of learning, and not near the end, you have miles to go, as such, it is important to get the foundation right: history enables you to read critically, write well (logically and clearly) and to synthesize vast amounts of information. Get these foundations right and they will serve you for a long time. Many of my friends who focused on programming and finance classes are much further ahead of me in terms of material accumulation, but I continue to feel that I am richer in the sense that I can read deeply and understand things from a historical perspective. As such, I would not trade that for any career advancement or fancier title in the world.
Do you have any particularly fond memories of the History Department?
Most all of my history memories are fond. In terms of faculty, Carolyn [Lougee Chappell], Jack [Rakove], Paul [Seaver], and Norman [Naimark] stand out clearly in their willingness to take a sincere interest in me and my development, to challenge me to do more than I thought I could and encourage me to take risks, be it enrolling at the University of West Bohemia or working on obscure Puritan sermons. I wish I could take a dozen more classes from each. I also remember fondly editing Herodotus.
In an age of increasing technical specificity, I believe there remains a place for critical thinkers who can synthesize large amounts of information into compelling and actionable narratives. This is the historian’s craft and it is perhaps more important than ever as the need for public intellectuals is apparent for the good of the Country and beyond.