John Alexander Monteith Bell was one of Appleby’s principal builders. On his appointment as headmaster in 1937, the school numbered fewer than a hundred boys; by his retirement 31 years later, the student population had grown to almost 250. During his tenure, some 21 acres were added to the campus, and the classroom building, the gymnasium, the John Guest Dining Hall, Walker House and several staff houses were
His last project was the extension of the Chapel to accommodate the growing number of students. When the work was completed in his last year as Headmaster, the Chapel was named after him in appreciation of his forty years of service to the school and its boys.
Born in 1903, Bell was educated at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, where he received his B.A. degree and his theological training. After graduation, he served as curate of St. George’s Church in Guelph until 1928, when he came to Appleby as a teacher of history, chaplain, and coach of the First Football Team.
He was appointed housemaster of Powell’s House in 1934, and on the death of Percival Wickens three years later, became Appleby's third headmaster. Bell believed he could see the potential for good in every young man he met. He was by turns a praiser and a critic. He could make the most outrageously controversial statements, but always to make a boy think; he needled and goaded to challenge boys’ conceptions of the world around them. And he was a consummate actor – more often than not, his famous rages were assumed and dismissed at will. While people didn't always agree with him, they respected his strength of character, his desire and instinct for fairness, his forthrightness,
and (most of all) his conviction that a school like Appleby could do a great deal of good for even the most recalcitrant boy.
Recognizing his contribution to Canadian education, Trinity College conferred upon him the honorary degree Doctor of Divinity in 1951. He was awarded the Centennial Medal as a tribute to his valuable service to the nation on Canada's hundredth birthday. He was also named a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Hamilton.
Dr. Bell died in 1981.