University News

Belles Celebration of Life July 15

July 10, 2017


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MACOMB, IL -- To celebrate his life (and his love for ice cream), an ice cream social will be held to celebrate Gill Belles, professor emeritus of Western Illinois University's recreation, park and administration (RPTA) department, on July 15 in the WIU College of Fine Arts and Communication Recital Hall (Simpkins Hall).

The Belles Celebration of Life will be held from 1-3 p.m.


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WIU Mourns Passing of RPTA Professor Emeritus Gil Belles

May 26, 2017

MACOMB, IL -- Gil Belles, professor emeritus of Western Illinois University's recreation, park and administration (RPTA) department, was killed in a vehicle accident this morning (May 25) in Macomb. Arrangements are pending at Dodsworth-Piper-Wallen Funeral Home.

"The Western Illinois University community mourns Gil's tragic death," said President Jack Thomas. "He was a wonderful man, and will be missed. We send our deepest condolences to Gil's many friends, his family and to the members of his WIU family."

Belles arrived at Western in 1968 to teach history. While he was in that department he helped create a Black Studies Area and then chaired the department of African American studies. In 1985, Belles "retrained," earning another degree, and began teaching in the department of recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA). He taught in RPTA, creating courses for the tourism component of the curriculum, until his retirement in 1996. Along the way, he chaired the Council on Admission, Graduation, and Academic Standards (CAGAS) for three separate terms. He was the recipient of the College of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Outstanding Teaching Award, five WIU Faculty Excellence Awards and a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Wittenberg University, to name a few.

During his tenure, he was actively involved in such campus activities as Open Door and the President's Task Force to End Homophobia, and continued to be involved in numerous community and civic organizations including the Performing Arts Society, YMCA of McDonough County, Tri-States Public Radio and Tri-States Audio Information Services, the Western Illinois Museum, Meals on Wheels, McDonough County Historical Society and the Macomb Public Library.

"Gil took his roles as a faculty member and community member in a manner that we should all try to emulate. He was always attending events on campus and in the community, and he was a great representative of Western," said Brad Bainter, vice president for advancement and public services and executive officer of the WIU Foundation. "Not only did he support areas in the community, like the hospital and the Y, he has also given approximately $600,000 to Western that will forever keep his spirit alive at this University that he loved so much. He was a great friend through good times and bad. I know that I will miss his presence and support."

In 2009, the College of Fine Arts and Communication recognized Belles with the "Distinguished Friend of the College Award." Belles is a past board member for the Performing Arts Society and was instrumental in leading the effort to renovate the COFAC Recital Hall Green Room. The PAS named the Green Room in Belles' honor. In addition, he supported many Alumni Programs functions and was instrumental in coordinating the annual Homecoming run/walk. Because of his commitment to the University, Belles received the WIU Alumni Programs' Honorary Alumnus Award in 2010.

Belles delivered the inaugural Jackie Thompson Wellness Lecture, "The Importance of Wellness in Your Life," in October 2011. An advocate of health and wellness, Belles could often be found at WIU's Student Recreation Center and the McDonough County YMCA.

In his earlier years, he served as the swimming coach for the YMCA, the high school and the WIU Water Polo team, which won the NAIA national championship in 1969. He created the first WIU TinMan Triathlon in 1980 and served as the event's director through 1985.

He was recently inducted into the WIU Phi Kappa Phi chapter, and was featured in a 2016 episode of the PBS program "Illinois Stories." The program focused on public art on Western Illinois University's Macomb campus, and featured Belles, who started a project to add signage to the public art at WIU (and in Macomb) in order to give credit to the artists. In Spring 2016, Belles co-coordinated an extreme triathlon at Macomb's Spring Lake. He also was an active participant in the annual Senior Olympics held at WIU.

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations