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Tyebjee’s commitment to teaching was truly awe-inspiring. This spring, he designed the course he was teaching around a series of guest speakers, knowing that he might not see the quarter to completion. On his last day in class, Tyebjee came to teach with the assistance of a wheelchair and an oxygen tank, using a lapel microphone to be heard. His students were visibly moved.
“Tyzoon told our class that he’d put his whole life into this final course,” said Kevin Holmes ’01, an MBA student in Tyebjee’s course and the director of Santa Clara’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “He said he was living on borrowed time, but wasn’t ready to fold the hand life had dealt him just yet.”
Tyebjee ended that last class early. He told his students, “It is a beautiful day outside, so go enjoy the sunshine,” recalled Professor Shelby McIntyre, co-chair of the marketing department.
Professor Dale Achabal, co-chair of the marketing department, said that for Tyebjee, teaching was about “discovery and getting students to be engaged and committed.” Tyebjee served as faculty director of the ACE Program, which invites high potential students to participate in a select leadership program over their four years in the business school. He was also the International Business Director from 1981 to 1985. In that role, he worked with business students to identify course work, internship, and study abroad opportunities to broaden their capabilities as global leaders.
He published more than 40 articles in leading trade and scholarly periodicals including the Harvard Business Review, California Management Review, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, and the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology. His scholarship focused on consumer behavior, early adoption of technology, and new product development.
Born November 2, 1945 in Bombay, India, he received his undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1967. Tyebjee immigrated to the United States for a master’s degree in chemical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He also completed an MBA and a Ph.D. in marketing at UC Berkeley. An avid traveler, river-rafter, bridge player, and raconteur, he made many friends around the world.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce; daughter, Zia; and son, Saleh; as well as his brother, Tamim, in Bombay; his sister, Taima, in Toronto; and an extended but close family around the world. A private memorial gathering was held in April.
“Cathy was a magnificent colleague, a scholar of international standing, an inspiring mentor to generations of students, and, as chair, the academic leader of our department, which she considered her family,” wrote Paul Crowley, S.J., chair of religious studies. After serving as chair from 2000 through 2005, Bell retired from teaching last year due to the burdens of illness.
A native of New York, Bell earned her bachelor’s degree at Manhattanville College and completed her Ph.D. at University of Chicago. She taught in Japan and took a post-doctoral fellowship for Chinese language study in Taiwan. She was also awarded fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her work as a fellow of the Center for Chinese Studies at University of California, Berkeley and with the Chinese Popular Culture Project at Berkeley, led to her major work, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, published in 1992. The book changed the framework for understanding the nature and function of ritual within religious and ethnographic structures and was awarded the American Academy of Religion Book Award in the History of Religions.
A legendary teacher and mentor, Bell regularly taught introductory courses in religious studies and an array of courses on Asian religions. Her seminar “Magic, Science & Religion: The History of the Social Study of Religion” was much sought after among serious students. She also redesigned the structure of the Religious Studies department and in 1996 was honored with the Brutocao Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation. In 1998 she received the College of Arts and Sciences Beyma Research Award and, in 2001, the President’s Award for distinction. In 2005 she was named Alumna of the Year by the University of Chicago Divinity School. In 2007 she was awarded another NEH fellowship for her final, unfinished project, Believing: Assuming Universality, Describing Particularity in the Study of Religion.
Bell suffered greatly in recent years from the effects of multiple sclerosis but continued to be a source of strength and gallant inspiration for her colleagues. “Illness could not overshadow her luminous spirit and lucid mind,” said her longtime friend Diand Jonte-Pace, professor of religious studies and vice provost for undergraduate studies.
Catherine Bell is survived by her husband, Steven Gelber, professor of history at Santa Clara; her mother, Blanche Coogan; and her siblings, James Bell, Linda Whalen, Daniel Bell, and Edward Bell. Memorials may be made to: the Catherine Bell Award Fund, Department of Religious Studies, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053; the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Northern California Chapter; or the National Breast Cancer Coalition.