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Jewell Puts Feet to Philanthropy at SC

When Bob Jewell attended his very first meeting at a Southwestern College trustee back in 1999, he didn’t follow a pattern set by more experienced trustees as they filled the room from the back to the front.

Jewell parked his papers in the front row, center seat.

He laughs when he’s reminded of that moment; it is, he says, the same way he chooses where to sit in church.

“It’s partially practical: I’m deaf in one ear,” Jewell admits. “But it’s also a personality trait—I tend to want to interact with the speaker.”

High-energy interaction has been a trait marking this 1977 graduate’s relationship with Southwestern since he became a trustee, but the interaction isn’t limited to meetings. As founding director and senior vice president for Network Integration Services, Inc., Jewell pushed the college to expand its wireless network to include all classrooms and public spaces on campus. Then, in the summer of 2002, NIS contributed the wireless hardware—and Jewell led NIS technicians as they crawled through dusty spaces installing the system.

The transforming effect of the wireless network is noticeable as students began carrying their laptop computers as they went about daily work, something that hadn’t been seen in the previous three years of the laptop program. Jewell doesn’t take credit for the transformation, though.

“Wireless was extremely beneficial to the use of the technology, but the other factor was that everyone had a laptop. You had four years of the professors learning to teach with an electronic student body,” he points out. “Now you have a student body that can be online in class, which wasn’t available before except in one or two wired rooms. Wireless didn’t do it alone—it was a confluence of several factors.”

As an entrepreneur, Jewell is accustomed to hands-on involvement with his company’s networking efforts throughout the world. A few years ago, for example, NIS completed the computer network design for the Tel Aviv airport. The result was more than 10,000 computers connected over a 25-square-kilometer network, handling about 2,000,000 travelers every year.

Now, as head of the trustees’ facilities and technology committee, Jewell continues to give feet to his philanthropy. He and his wife, Barbara, are donors both financially and physically. They will co-chair the Builders of Excellence capital campaign in the Kansas City area, and hope the example of their commitment of financial resources, expertise, and energy will inspire other donors.

The result is an effective combination. After all, Bob says, his Southwestern experience was a pivotal point in his life. As someone who had graduated with a class of 35 (from Peabody, Kan.), the close-knit Southwestern experience was crucial.

“We want to make a difference at Southwestern,” he says flatly. “If we can help the college with technology, or with sweat labor, or with knowledge, these are all significant gifts.

“It’s a lifelong environment, and I need to provide support to help future generations have the same kind of environment.”