The death of well-respected University of Memphis criminal justice instructor Dr. Lenard Wells has deeply affected students and faculty who knew and worked with him.
News reports said Wells, 69, died March 21st of complications resulting from the COVID-19 virus while visiting Wisconsin with his wife. He had a 30-year career with the Milwaukee Police Department before beginning his teaching career.
“His untimely passing with leave an indelible void for some time to come. He will be sorely missed by his family, students, and colleagues,” the U of M said in a statement.
The staff, students and others he interacted with agreed that they benefitted from his wisdom and positive outlook on life.
In a March 23 email sent to faculty, staff, and students, Dr. K. B. Turner, chair of the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department, emphasized the impact that Dr. Wells made on his students, while supplying his fellow peers with lifelong lessons along the way.
“During his tenure at the University of Memphis as an instructor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Dr. Wells touched the lives of many students,” Turner said in the email. “He was well known for his compassion and dedication to the impartation of knowledge and providing guidance to students regarding their future careers and life.”
Alexsis Brandon, a graduate student in the Criminology Department, is testament to that. She developed a close relationship with Dr. Wells. She met him in the fall of 2017, and he provided her with knowledge that extended beyond the classroom.
“I viewed him more than a professor,” Brandon said. “He was like my grandfather whose door was always open for any advice or just to calm us with the stress of graduate school.”
Wells, born in Milwaukee, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in psychology. Choosing to further his education, Wells earned a PhD from the Cardinal Stritch University, focusing on leadership, learning and service. He completed these accomplishments while working as a full-time officer on the Milwaukee Police Department.
Wells served as a police lieutenant in Milwaukee for 27 years. After finishing his time on the force, he was named chairman of the Wisconsin Parole Board.
Still wanting to serve others, Wells transitioned into life as a professor, working at the U of M for nearly seven years.
Fellow colleagues and students of the late professor recall his kindness and reflected on the wisdom he routinely provided them.
As evidence of his kind heart, Dr. Wells and his wife frequently took all of the graduate students out to eat; at times, even, the entire department.
Another tradition that Dr. Wells conducted during his tenure at the U of M was to provide students with their own graduation photoshoot. He often would share these works with department faculty.
It Brandon sad that the tradition will not be continued this year, and she greatly misses Dr. Wells.
“With me graduating from graduate school this May, it breaks my heart that I won’t be able to experience that with him,” Brandon said. “Dr. Wells really was a pivotal person in the department and in my life, and I will truly miss him.”
In another email, department Chairman Turner, said Dr. Wells’ impact was immeasurable, particularly as it relates to the students he has taught at the University of Memphis.
“He was much more than a classroom instructor who held his students to a high standard. He always was willing to devote time to talk to students not just about academics, but also their future careers and life.”
Dr. Wells teaching abilities led to him being the recipient of a prestigious teaching award. Turner wrote the letter of support Wells and he’s saddened that Dr. Wells will not be able to receive the award next month.
“In addition to being a meticulous instructor, he was a supportive colleague our faculty also understood they could talk to,” Turner added. “Because he was a good listener, it also contributed to him being a great colleague.”
Wells’ impact on the criminology department will be seen forever with the mock trial exercises renamed the Lenard Wells Mock Trial Scene.
“I pray that when my career ends, I will receive at least a fraction of the positive and affectionate comments students have intimated about Dr. Wells,” Turner said. “I will truly miss my friend.”