Alums, parents, faculty, and friends share their favorite memories of Dean Linda Wells.
Dean Linda Wells is leaving the College of General Studies at the end of the Spring 2013 semester. Though her deanship is ending, Wells sees CGS “as family” and will return to Boston University in a career development and alumni relations role in 2014. CGS alums, parents, faculty, and friends were eager to contribute their stories of the many ways in which Wells touched their lives; though Collegian couldn’t reach out to everyone who knows and loves her, we invite you to add your memories below.
Find your people
David Buttolph (CGS’77, CAS’79), Managing Director of Brookside Mezzanine Partners, Member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, and CGS Parent
Every year, Linda welcomes the students who have been accepted to BU with a speech. She tells them they will either love BU and decide to attend, or they will know that it’s not for them. Either way, she tells them it’s important to go to a college where you will “find your people.” It is one of the most remarkable speeches I’ve ever heard. It’s a tremendous thing to say to the young adults who are coming out of high school and feeling a little overwhelmed—like my daughter Kristen (CGS’10, COM’12). When Kristen was looking at schools, she visited CGS, saw the small class sizes and how accessible the professors were, and she said, “I’ve found my people.” Her BU degree has been a real plus in today’s competitive job market.
Earthy, Colorado ranch style
Jay Corrin, Chair and Professor of Social Sciences
Linda Wells and I taught together as part of the chairperson’s team many years ago. As chair of the Division of Humanities, Linda was capable of making difficult decisions with great thought and care, yet she was not moved by fuzzy sentiment and had the capacity to get to the core of an issue with astounding speed—even to the point of letting an incompetent and fractious faculty member know on the staircase one day that his contract would not be renewed.
Linda has the capacity to deliver hard but necessary news in a disarming manner (a rare quality in deans), partly because she frequently laces her messages with earthy, Colorado ranch-style metaphors gleaned from her sod-busting, uranium-mining mother. We eagerly anticipated our weekly chairperson’s meetings with Linda because she gave incisive analyses and was willing to take into confidence honest feedback from the chairs. We also had a good run at the idiocies of the day, whether University-related or inflicted on the broader national and world communities. Those sessions will be difficult to replicate, as will the good spirit and collegiality that Linda brought to CGS.
So strong, yet so feminine
Meghan Fay (CGS’97, COM’99), Director of Development for the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University and Former Alumni and Development Officer for CGS
Dean Linda Wells has a wonderful leadership style that’s so strong, yet so feminine. She embraces everybody’s differences and strengths and knows how to let her staff shine. She is so talented at steering the ship and getting everyone onboard working toward a common goal. She is open to change and never allows herself to get too comfortable. Now that I’ve returned to CGS as an alumni volunteer, I’m really inspired to see her still pushing boundaries. She gives the faculty so many opportunities to grow, and she has reinvented CGS with the Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching & Learning.
Dean Wells is an incredible person to work with, to work for, and to learn from. She always knows when it’s time for you to move on to your next great challenge, and she’ll begin the conversation about what’s next. I feel very blessed that she’s been a part of my life as a mentor and a leader in helping to shape the woman that I’ve become. CGS is one of those places you never want to leave because it is just that good, and Dean Wells has created that environment. We’re going to miss her, but CGS is a family—and she’ll always be an important part of it.
A knack for spotting potential
Thomas J. Flocco (CGS’83, CAS’85), Principal at L&H Advisors
Linda was one of the first people in my life to believe in me academically, and that made a big difference. I was not a hardworking student in high school. I was more focused on sports and friends than school and learning. That changed when I got to BU, where Linda was my humanities professor.
Linda has a knack for spotting a kernel of potential in her students and nurturing it into something more—more substantial, more intentional, more meaningful. Due to her early academic encouragement, my confidence grew to the point where I felt I could accomplish anything through hard work, critical thinking, and focus. That certainly wasn’t the attitude with which I came to BU, but it was the one with which I left because of Linda’s gift. To this day, I still don’t know what tipped her off that I could do more. Whatever it was, I’m glad she saw it. My life has been richer as a result.
The redecorating of CGS
Debralee G. Goldberg (CGS’76, CAS’78), CEO of International Financial Data Services, Member of the BU Alumni Council and the CGS Dean’s Advisory Board, and CGS Parent
Boston University has been lucky to have Linda Wells as part of its academic and social community for the last 33 years. During this time, she not only focused on academics at CGS by maintaining the College’s solid liberal arts education, but also upgraded its physical space. Linda and her team personally took on the task of raising significant funds to accomplish what she refers to as “the redecorating of CGS,” which included new study areas, new classrooms, and a welcoming main entrance. Linda is an amazing individual who has created strong student engagement and developed solid faculty and parent relationships, all while managing a very full personal and family life. Everyone she has touched in the BU community over the last 33 years will surely miss her day-to-day presence. My hat is off to you, Linda!
Grace under pressure
Natalie McKnight, Associate Dean and Professor
“Grace under pressure”—that’s the phrase that most comes to mind when I think about Linda. When I was an untenured professor, I had the privilege of having Linda as the chair of my department, and I was always amazed by how effortlessly and graciously she juggled the demands of being an administrator, professor, and mother. She made it look easy; she never seemed rattled and she always had time for a chat. Even when we had to hire six or seven professors in one summer, she took the task lightly and actually made it fun for those of us on the search committee.
She demonstrated the same grace under pressure when she adopted her children from Mexico. That had to have been an extraordinarily complicated and emotional process, but she strode through it with an astonishing mix of steely determination and lightness of heart. Not many people can exhibit both at the same time. Once again, she never seemed rattled.
Another thing that distinguishes Linda from all other professors and administrators I know is her colorful language (some of which I will refrain from repeating here!). Her Colorado ranch roots show in phrases such as “I didn’t come down in the last rainfall” to indicate that she isn’t naïve, or “he feels like a warm bucket of spit” to refer to someone who feels he has not been respected.
More than a professional performance
Matthew Parfitt, Chair and Associate Professor
“You know me, I like everybody,” Dean Wells has said to me more than once, a little apologetically. As if the failure to discriminate between the likable and the unlikable was a personality flaw. I don’t suppose she really sees it that way, but I’ve often been struck by how Dean Wells really does seem to genuinely like everyone, whether rich or poor, well-liked or disliked, exalted or humble. I’ve been particularly impressed with this quality on occasions when we’ve traveled together, because after a long flight, a long conference, a series of mishaps, or all of the above—let’s face it, things can get on your nerves. But even then, Dean Wells takes a genuine and equal pleasure in meeting all of the people she encounters, whether cab drivers or fellow travelers, parents of students or well-heeled alumni, and she seems to get a kick out of hearing their stories and sharing hers, no matter who they are.
This is just one of many qualities that have made her such an effective dean. But I’m pretty sure effectiveness has nothing to do with it. People sense that her interest in them is more than a professional performance, and that her curiosity and attention would be the same no matter who they were or what the situation. But they—we—are still pleased to be liked. And so of course, we like her back.
For all her credentials and influence…
Sharon Pyes, Member of the Dean’s Advisory Board and CGS Parent
The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra played at Agganis Arena during the capital fund campaign weekend in September, and my family and I attended the cocktail party before the concert. I was wearing a beautiful gray suit, which my daughter Lauren (CGS’10, COM’12) had helped me choose. Dean Wells came over to chat, and she said, “Sharon, you look fabulous!” Then she asked my husband, “Did you tell your wife how absolutely lovely she looks?” I don’t see Dean Wells that often, except at CGS board meetings, and there were hundreds—thousands!—of people at this affair, but she stopped for that minute just to tell me how nice I looked, which just totally floored me. For all her credentials and influence and power, she is such a warm, kind, and perceptive human being.
Only a phone call away
Karma Roberts, Member of Parents Leadership Council and CGS Parent
I had my first introduction to Linda when I received a phone message from the Office of the Dean of the College of General Studies. My son Mark (CGS’06, CAS’08) had just started his first year at BU, and I wondered, “What has he done?” I totally freaked out. I immediately called him to find out what was going on, and he was just as worried. When I finally connected with Linda, she put my mind at ease. She was going to be in the San Francisco area and wanted to meet me. She said that she always likes to meet her students’ parents and to reassure them that all is well. This experience exemplifies Linda’s character.
Linda was also instrumental in helping my daughter Hilary (CGS’10, COM’12) to choose Boston University. She developed a wonderful relationship with my children, and both Mark and Hilary felt that they could talk to her at any time about any issue, from homesickness to class concerns. During my children’s time at BU, we all knew that Linda was only a phone call away. Her direction contributed to my children receiving a college education that has put them in the top percent of the job market.
Simply too perfect
Robert Wexelblatt, Professor of Humanities
After a dozen years under the leadership of Dean Wells, CGS is better than it has ever been, and in every respect. Given this, it is worth recalling just how close the College came to missing out. Thirty years ago, there was a vast proletariat of the spirit—that is, many PhDs in the humanities and too few jobs for them. It was common to have two or three hundred applicants for every opening in the Division of Humanities, many of them better qualified than the members of the search committee. The year Linda was hired was like that. We interviewed more than a dozen fine applicants; in fact, we had all enthusiastically agreed to make an offer to a talented woman who was the next-to-last candidate to be interviewed. Linda, the final candidate, was waiting outside the room as we grinned broadly and said goodbye to this candidate, assuring her she would hear from us soon. We had all decided. When we ushered Linda in for the final interview, we thought we were just running out the string.
But she was so bright, energetic, funny, poised, and quick-witted; she answered our questions so articulately; her anecdotes were so engaging and her talents so obvious that we had a bit of a fight. The majority of the committee, while conceding Linda’s virtues, felt committed to the other candidate, reminding us that we had already agreed to hire her. Others of us, though, pleaded to hire Linda on the grounds that she was simply too perfect to let slip through our fingers. In this case, the minority prevailed. That the committee made the right choice has been spectacularly proven by Linda’s career and the good she has done her students, colleagues, the College, and the University.
Please add a comment to share your memories of Dean Wells, and click here to find out what her “next chapter”