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Bruce LeBel ’76

Interviewed By: 
Christian Feuerstein '94

Bruce LeBelAs an Antioch College student, Bruce LaBel's ’76 traveled to Guatemala to design and coordinate a relief shelter program with a team from the Mohawk Nation. A year later, he became a student of Buckminster Fuller’s in a graduate tutorial program in design science and tensile structures (tensegrity). LaBel went on to become a production engineer and special projects engineer with The North Face - the first manufacturer of tents applying Fuller’s principles of tensegrity. He volunteers with World Shelters and runs ProStar Software, his own software company.

What brought you to Antioch College? What was your major? The co-op program and international studies was really what brought me to Antioch. I had a dual major in education and art. I finished with four teaching credentials. I was actually told by the registrar that I set the record for most credits in a four-year program. I was voracious in taking advantage of the many dimensions of opportunities.

Was there a professor that made a huge impact on your life? I think that the combination of Karen Shirley and Michael Jones in the art department—Michael was an artist in residence—was very impactful. Warren Watson was influential for a deeper understanding of science and"bringing things together" kind of thinking.

What's your favorite memory of being at Antioch? There are so many! Most certainly friends, faculty, co-op experience, Antioch Education Abroad. I spent a year in South America and six months in Europe. When the art department faculty approved my proposal [and] commissioned me to do a monumental-scale sculpture on campus.(pictured at right), it was up for five or six years before a hailstorm got it…Bruce LeBel's sculpture on campus

Any stirring words of wisdom about the independence of Antioch College? I’m very impressed with the commitment, the level of engagement, the courage on the part of the Alumni Board and others involved in negotiating. From the business plan and the balance sheet, it appears that they’ve negotiated a reasonable deal. The assets—I was impressed with that.

I was also impressed with the leadership team to press the reset button... Essentially they’re creating a new Antioch College out of whole cloth from the seeds of the balance sheet, the Board Pro Tem, the campus, the principles and the global Antioch community.

If you could bring one thing to the future of Antioch College, what would it be? A commitment to doing what is necessary to stay in the black while adhering to the principles of the mission...In terms of what I would hope for the college is learning from significant mistakes of  the past...

On his current projects: [Regarding] World Shelters: It’s a channel for me to be able to express myself and to be of service in the process.I graduated Antioch College in June of 1976. April of 1976 is when the Guatemala earthquake happened. One of my education professors put me in contact with a group that originated with the Mohawk Nation to provide a service mission to outlying villages [in Guatemala] that had not received aid. They were caravanning to Guatemala and they picked me up from campus.

We used my designs for shelters using local materials: We built several model homes in outlying villages. Within a year, following our work, the areas were all slashed and burned by the Guatemalan Army, claiming they were insurgents. Kai Yutah Cloud, a colleague of mine, was killed. I have worked for 35 years in honor of my colleague who was killed doing a job that I had volunteered for.

I volunteer as Executive Director for World Shelters, and I also have a software company that I’m president of. The entrepreneurial spirit was reinforced for me at Antioch College. To be independent, to figure things out for myself, to put together the vision and the resources—[that's] certainly part of the process at Antioch. And keeping up with the changing  times.  ProStar’s new flagship application—PrISM Business Process Control—provides an important set of new capabilities for management of critical enterprise processes.  Companies using  PrISM can define, coordinate, communicate, enforce, track and measure interdepartmental business processes. We are just at the beginning and are looking for geometric growth.

Every day I wake up and get to do my own work.  And it’s a privilege to be of service.  I sure learned those two life principles at Antioch.