Memories of Professor Emeritus Robert Wells

Thank you, Bob, for all that you have done for the international community of SLU.  I'll remember you by your visits to SC 236 on your way to visit Elaine. Your smile and stories always brought so much joy.  My sincere condolences to the family.
Tsewang Lama, SLU '10 & '15

I have always enjoyed seeing Bob come up to the University Advancement Office and tell us stories of his time on campus and his love for his students. He was a very kind, loving and generous man.  To the Wells family, I am very sorry for your loss. Your husband, father, and grandfather will be missed by those who knew him.
Elaina Smith, University Advancement

I am so saddened to hear this. I have known Dr. Wells my whole 34+ years here. I would see him often and always got a big hug from him. I was keeping track of him through his daughter & son. He is a one of a kind gentleman and will be missed by many.  Thinking of the family at this difficult time.
Joyce Sheridan, Dining Services

I did not know Bob as a fellow faculty member but as a caring neighbor and retired colleague. When we first moved to Elm Street, I loved hearing Bob's stories of St. Lawrence history and I always admired the care and dedication he had to SLU and the Canton community. Years later, when a Senator walked casually up to Bob's door to say hello to her mentor, it only confirmed what I long knew. Bob's legacy lives on in generations of Laurentians. The SLU/Wells family lost a great one and his mark on our community will last long into the future.
Matt Carotenuto, History

Bob was a great faculty member and a great man. Although he was still teaching when I first came to SLU, I didn't get to know him well until much later after he had retired. He was often on campus and he often stopped to talk to me about, of course, politics and life on campus. Small talk to be sure, but I got to know him through those treasured moments of conversation. He was kind to me, a very junior faculty member, always willing to give good advice, and be friendly. I will miss him.
Mark MacWilliams, Religious Studies

When I arrived on campus as a new Director of the University Writing Program, Bob's support was critical to me getting grounded and ready to take on the challenges awaiting me. He was fully committed to the project of making writing central to learning, no matter what the discipline. His official and unofficial involvement helped secure the funds and the real estate for the new University Writing Center--out of the windowless basement into its current grand location. These are the kinds of things that may not show up in his list of achievements, but are vital to liberal education.
Richard Jenseth, Film Studies

Bob was a wonderful mentor to me and I know that I am only one of many, many people he helped and supported over the years. He was an exceptional teacher, scholar, and colleague who changed St. Lawrence for the better in too many ways to count. My heart goes out to his family, and I hope there is solace in knowing that in his life and work he did immeasurable good, and that his legacy will live on through the many lives he touched. He was truly a pillar of our community; the whole campus as well as alumni around the world will feel this loss deeply and remember him always with gratitude and love.
Karl Schonberg, Dean of Academic Affairs

It’s difficult to know where to begin to describe how important Bob Wells was to my 33 years at St. Lawrence. I worked with him to bring attention to the summer Rotary Critical Issues Conference, various projects at the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation and his scholarly work in international relations. I have so many fond memories of him bringing me an opinion piece, in his unique hand on legal pads, and getting those thoughtful pieces into print in various publications. He would often stop by my office just to chat and catch up, on campus news, local news and national politics. I cherish the memory of those talks, which were so enjoyable. He loved St. Lawrence, and I hope he felt the love so many of us have for him in return.
Macreena Doyle, Communications and Human Resources, retired

I never had Bob as a professor, due to schedules, sabbaticals, etc., but he was chair of the department for some of the years I was there and my conversations w/ him were always engaging. He was a true SLU professor in his commitment to students.
Scott Furlong '85

My deepest condolences to Bob's family. In my early years at SLU, Bob always expressed optimism and faith that I would flourish at this university. Over those years, he left many newspaper clippings about China in my office mailbox, and when we bumped into each other, we always had something to discuss. Patricia and Bob made a great team. I also spent countless hours at the Banford Elementary School playground where I often felt grateful that Bob and the Wells family were behind the beautiful wooden play structure.
Grace Huang, Government

Dr. Wells was my first advisor in the Government Dept. I loved his classes, and still chuckle at some of the funny anecdotes he’d shared with our class. I will remember him fondly. My sincere condolences to his family.
Liz Conger '20

Professor Wells was an authentic and deeply devoted educator, community member, and patriarch.
He will be forever admired by those with whom his path crossed over the many decades of his accomplished life. What a wonderful gentleman who’s legacy is etched into the hearts and minds of thousands of Laurentians and professional colleagues from around the world. Godspeed, our dear friend, Dr. Wells.
Bob Phinney '83, P'16, P'20, P'24

I took as many of Professor Wells' classes as I could. He was always engaging, interesting and funny. His involvement in the Canton and SLU communities was the epitome of what it means to be a Citizen. Godspeed Dr. Wells. Here's to a life well lived!
Carlton Brownell '86, Government

One of my fondest memories at SLU was Native American Government with Professor Wells. We had a great field trip to the Akwesasne (St. Regis) Mohawk reservation. We ran into many individuals that spoke so highly of Dr. Wells and the changes that he help bring to their community. It really opened my eyes to what we can do as an individual to make the community a better place.
Ryan Muldoon '04

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Bob Wells, or Dr. Wells as we used to call him. He was an extraordinarily enthusiastic and energetic Professor of Government, and although I was only his student in one class, if memory serves, he was an unforgettable presence. I also remember him fondly from my days as an SLU alum. He was a guest, more than once, on boat cruises on the Potomac River with the Washington DC club. When I returned to campus in 2001 for Reunion for the first time in many years, he remembered me and greeted me warmly, which meant a lot. I have in my desk a letter he wrote to me when I had written to him telling him that I had finally secured a tenure track job at a college. In it, he urged me to "help students all I can," advice which I try to follow. RIP, Bob Wells.
Jason K. Duncan '85, Government

My first year, the students hustled into the classroom after a chilly walk on a 22 degree November morning. Down parkas and woolen hats were slowly removed. Teeth chattering and with our murmers of how cold it was, Dr. Wells bounced into class wearing a sweater. He looked around the room, beamed his wide smile and said, "You think THIS is cold?" He tilted his head back and laughed, "Just wait!"
R. Alex Chamberlain '76

In my first year at SLU, I ran into Bob at the bookstore where I was discussing organizing a student trip to Borneo with a colleague. Bob overheard the conversation, came over and introduced himself, and spoke about the time that he had organized exactly such a trip SLU students. He gave me some useful tips and advice and even put me in touch a couple of his contacts in Malaysia who proved incredibly useful when organizing my own trip. Bob was then retired from SLU and did not know me at all, yet was incredibly generous with his time, advice, and resources. My students and I benefited from his experience. He did imbue the best of mentoring at SLU.
Aswini Pai, Biology

We lived across the street from Bob and Pat when we moved back in 1986 for Grant's new position at SLU. We moved in with our two week old son Tanner and lived in that house for the next four years. Bob and Pat were gracious neighbors. Whenever I was out in the front yard raking leaves or Tanner was pulling some toy up and down the sidewalk they would wave and say something cheery. We always thought of Bob as the town mayor because he knew so much about Canton and cared deeply about the people who lived there. He was so proud of his family and had many, many students stop by to visit him all the time. How lucky we were to live in a small community with neighbors who knew your name and are always happy to lend a hand to a young couple whose own family lived far away.
Peg and Grant Cornwell

Mayor Wells was a visionary leader that loved serving others. When I was elected Mayor, he immediately reached out and was a wonderful resource and advisor. I loved his smile, his tenacity and compassion. He made a difference in the lives of others and our community as a whole.
Mary Ann Ashley '86

Dr. Wells was a fresh face at St. Lawrence when I took his class in American Political Thought in the fall of 1966. The textbook used was written by a Princeton professor by the name of Alpheus Thomas Mason and it covered the writings of many early American thinkers and doers like Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, historical figures who had relevance then and who relevance now. Through the good offices of Dr. Wells, it was arranged for me to meet Professor Mason in the early 1970's at Princeton where I spent an evening with him to discuss American History and politics while having tea and cookies in the living room of his home. Every time I met or saw Dr. Wells on campus over my adult years, it was like going back in time, for he always maintained the energy of youth and had a positive outlook about most things. He was ageless. For me, he was "Mr. St. Lawrence," the professor who embodied the thrill of academic discovery and growth. I extend my deepest sympathies to his immediate family and the St. Lawrence family for his loss, while at the same time celebrating his incredibly useful life and a life fully lived.
Dennis J. Phillips '67

I met Bob Wells when I worked at SUNY Potsdam and he taught a summer course there. I recall thinking “wow! I’d love to be his colleague!” He was warm, kind, brilliant. A few years later my wish came true and for three decades I saw how warm, kind and brilliant Bob really was. His legendary reputation only begins to describe the scholar, the teacher, the friend he was. We all are better for knowing him.
Lisa Cania, Retiree, M'82, P'07

As our neighbor Bob was always kind, welcoming, and curious. We are grateful for all that he contributed to both our local and the SLU communities.
Jolene Carotenuto

I first met Bob when I took his International Law class as a senior in 1999. It was clear to me that he was not only an expert in his field but also a master storyteller, and he braided the two effortlessly into entertaining, informative class sessions. He was the model of a kind, accessible, yet rigorous scholar. Years later, when I returned to SLU to teach, he welcomed me in a way that made me feel as if I truly belonged here. He and Pat were wonderful neighbors when Becky and I lived on Elm Street; Bob especially liked to see me walking by with my dog. Whenever I return to Appleton and sit in my usual seat, I'll always look over my left shoulder, to where he used to stand against the rail with his companions--where there's now a plaque marking his spot--cheering on the hockey teams. Bob sought friends everywhere, found them everywhere, and showed others how to do the same. His mark on our community is indelible, and an inspiration to us all.
Paul Graham '99, English Department

I went to Europe with Bob for J term - he put together an amazing program for us to go to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, NATO in Brussels, UNESCO in Paris, and then spend two weeks at the UN in Geneva. It was a fantastic experience being immersed in such a rich learning environment and being able to see those government organizations from the inside. To me, that was the true promise of a liberal arts education led by a remarkable professor - thank you Bob!
Mark Holland '90

Dr. Wells was the most important person to me at SLU. He taught me so much and inspired my career in government service. I will never forget the trips - to the UN in NYC and the J-term trip to study international organizations in Europe, the dinners at the Kappa house and to my graduation dinner with my family so my mother could thank him for all his support. He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed by so many. But as so many teachers before him, he leaves a legacy with his family and those he taught over the years who will never forget him.
Heidi Bauer '86

Bob and I were dear friends when he was a young professor and I was a young student. One night in the spring of 1967 he called me and asked which activities I was active in. He knew I was the editor of the Hill News and Chair of the Student Affairs Committee, but he wanted something else. I don't recall how I answered because I was puzzled by the question. A few days later I was tapped by ODK and I learned he was fighting for my admission that night.
Bob Axelrod '67, History/Government

Bob Wells, while also being my professor for several classes, was the one who took a bunch of us to Europe for an International Organizations J-Term in January of 1988. His energy and excitement for this area of study was palpable. We as a class enjoyed every minute of this J-Term.  I was also involved in Operation K on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation - a program created and supported by Dr. Wells. It was an amazing opportunity for education for both sides of the equation.  I have only the fondest of memories of him and I wish to express my most sincere condolences to his family.
Tom Taylor '90

Dean Wells has always been in my thoughts since I graduated in 1971. Decades ago, I wrote to thank him for allowing me to get my degree and continue with my plans for the future.  Basically, as Academic Dean, he changed a mark on my final report card which gave me the freedom to enter the real world without a hiccup. During the second semester of my Senior year, I had to take an "extra" course in order to earn enough credits to finish. I signed on for History of Fine Arts. This was strictly a memorize and list-type course. I gave up baseball that spring and prepared to get married on June 12th, two weeks after graduation.  Unfortunately, the professor marked on a Bell Curve and even though I normally would have passed, I was on the wrong side of the curve.  I went to Dean Wells, who listened to my story, then "changed" the mark on my report card (I still have the document with the erased/altered grade) after telling me he would "see what he could do." Three credit hours at another institution would have been a hassle and my soon-to-be wife (Jean Dolan) had accelerated her academics and was graduating in 3 not 4 years.  So we got married in Gunnison (still together after 50 plus years), moved to Boston and started our journey. I owed it all to Dean Wells for understanding my situation and being a positive influence on the outcome.
Tony Colao '71, Easthampton, MA

Dr. Wells was my mentor and professor. I took several enjoyable classes with him where I learned a lot and was thoroughly engaged. He was a gentleman to be greatly admired. My sincere condolences to his family.
Nancy A. Lowery '80, Political Science

Prof. Wells was simply larger than life. He had a gigantic mind and intellect that wandered into the nooks and crannies of interesting issues. But bigger than his mind was his heart. He relished a good debate but few could keep up or best him. He was a formative figure in my education and I am so grateful to have known him. Rest well.
Scott O'Connell '87, Government

My most sincere condolences to Bob’s family and many friends. I first met Bob over twenty years ago, not long after I arrived at St. Lawrence. From that moment onward, whenever I saw him on campus he would always take the time to ask me how I was doing, and about the progress of my work. Bob was well informed about so many things, particularly Canadian politics. I will miss those nice conversations.
Neil Forkey, Canadian Studies

Bob was a great citizen of the university. He would gush about his alma mater, the maize and the blue, but he bled the scarlet and brown. They don't make them like that anymore. He even had the grace to wait until the semester was over before passing away. He left an imprint on the whole university, but no more than on the Government department.
Alan Draper, Government

Although I never took a class with Dr. Wells everyone one I know who did say he had a huge impact in their lives. Their favorite teacher ever a real mentor. We had the honor to have him join us at our last in person reunion and it was wonderful to see him. Chris please know we have you and your family in our thoughts and prayers. I hope all the wonderful memories of your father bring you comfort during these times. With sympathy,
Alex Kirby Taylor '89

I taught in FYP with Bob back in the early 1990's. We took the class to Ottawa in three vans, Bob in the lead. At every opportunity, when he could get through a light on the last of the yellow, he zipped right through, leaving me and Andrea Nouryeh with our vans full of students on the other side of the intersection. We'd just about catch up to him when he would zip through another yellow light. We did get where we were going, and brought all the students back safely, however stressed out Andrea and I got. I suspect Bob got great joy from zipping through those yellow lights. I can still hear him laughing! I am glad I got to know him and work so closely with him.
Aileen O'Donoghue, Physics

Bob Wells was a great human being. When I first arrived at St. Lawrence, he went out of his way, and received me warmly. Always I will remember him with that wide smile of his - he lit up a room with his joy. You are missed, Bob.
Roy Caldwell, Languages

Dean Wells was one of my favorite SLU professors. You could tell he cared for his students and would continue to reach out to former students at reunions.  My favorite memory was a class trip to Ottawa when he spotted Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, going into The Parliament. He was just so excited to see the “Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah”.
Cori Tallman Hoffman, '68

I was a history/government major in 1965 when I took Bob Well’s International Relations course. He was an inspirational professor as he moved about the classroom while lecturing. He talked about the Berlin Wall (I believed he had served in a National Guard unit deployed to Berlin during the crisis). I could relate to his stories since I had been an exchange student in Germany and visited Berlin. He inspired me to want to work for the government. Though that never happened I was always glad to have had him as a professor.  His wide cheerful smile and bright eyes were always a welcomed sight on campus. He certainly was the embodiment of SLU.  Please accept my deepest sympathy.
Helen Hartford Bonner '67, History/Government

While I was a government major under Dr. Wells' guidance, Canada was working towards an "independent" constitution, beyond that permitted under the British North American Act of 1867, which had required the approval of British Parliament for any major changes to that Constitution. Dr. Wells and the department arranged for us to meet with some of the Canadian leaders working on the new Constitution. It was fascinating and a rare privilege to be observe some of the issues being considered in the drafting of this historic Constitution for our neighbors, friends, and allies. It seemed as if the spirits of our 1776 founders were watching, perhaps whispering to these twentieth century fathers of Canadian democracy. Dr. Wells guided the experience of his students through many such observations and applications of the role of government, not limited by the contents of textbooks. As you can see from others' comments on the range of his endeavors, such as with the Akwasasne Nation, Dr. Wells took his students well beyond classroom studies. We learned some of the challenges and rewards of the application of our learning. Thank you, Dr. Wells, and thank you to your family, for sharing him with us. He set a standard for college teaching by which we can measure the success of others. Godspeed, Dr. Wells.
Barbara J. Hampton '76