SPEARFISH – Wanda Marie Bellman, 90 was born Wanda Marie Sumners in Russellville, Ark., on July 21, 1930. When Bellman was born her mother needed to register her at the county, because hospitals in that area did not record her birth at the hospital. For some unknown reason, Wanda was not recorded until Aug. 15, 1930. Bellman did not know that she had two birthdays until her retirement from Black Hills State University, where paperwork was required along with her official birth certificate.
From a young age she loved reading and books. An incredibly special instructor in high school, Marie Rainey encouraged Bellman to go on into voice (oral interpretation/theater) and literature. This would affect her future career choices.
Bellman attended Mary Hardin Baylor College (now University) and received a bachelor’s degree in speech/theatrical arts.
For a couple years, Bellman taught English at Stroud, Okla. After that, she went on to Chattanooga, Tenn., to become the youth director at a Baptist Church. She said her father was “pleased that she would at least get paid for it.” She then decided after one year that she would attend Denver University.
In Denver, Bellman began her master’s degree program in progressive communication methodology, which was based on interpersonal relations and oral interpretation. She met Stewart Bellman in an oral interpretation class. She said she was quite irritated with him at first, because he was a “big ski nut, who was more interested in skiing that working on rehearsals and projects.” Stewart was known to be the “hot dog on the hill.”
The couple got married at the First Baptist Church’s Chapel on June 12, 1958.
When Stewart received his master’s degree, they decided to move to Spearfish and began teaching at Black Hills State University. Stewart would be mainly an English instructor, and Bellman would be teaching speech, theater orientation, and math media classes. They were granted tenure and took sabbaticals to get their doctorates at the University of South Dakota at Vermillion.
Returning to Spearfish Stewart taught English classes and he supervised “practice teaching” experiences. He also initiated collaboration with the Bush Foundation, where he had an office, also, at S.D. School of Mines. Wanda was a full-fledged instructor of English, speech and theatrical arts for 30 years. They had befriended many other instructors, administrators, and students.
They made many significant contributions to the university over the years, including establishing a writing scholarship, and the Excellence in Writing Award; sponsoring a theater/admissions scholarship; purchasing two Termespheres; gifting a concert grand piano to BHSU’s music program; along with other furniture; paintings by locally renown artists, Dick Hicks, Dick DuBois, and Francis Tetraul.
Within the community at Matthew’s Opera House, Stewart established the “Brown Bag Series,” and remained a key figure in the program’s success until his death in 2002. The series is a humanities program designed to explore ideas, history, literature, art and culture. Then, Bellman along with dedicated contributors kept it going with programs of substance and interest.
Bellman has been involved over the years in P.E.O., was an active member at the Episcopal Church of All Angels’ in choir and a member of the Trinity Guild.
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