The following message from Provost Smith was sent to faculty and staff on Tuesday, December 19.

I write with profound sadness that Dr. Carolyn Wells, professor emerita of biology who also served as Longwood’s chief academic officer from 1975-1981, passed away yesterday, December 18.

After earning her Ph.D. in biology from Emory University, Dr. Wells was a postdoctoral fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory before taking a job as an assistant professor of natural sciences at Longwood in 1960. Her forty-year career was marked by a series of groundbreaking achievements. In 1975, she was the first woman appointed to serve as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. In that role, she helped facilitate the transition to co-education in 1976, and, in 1980, she hired Dr. Edna Allen Bledsoe Dean, the first Black professor to be awarded tenure at Longwood. In collaboration with art professor Barbara Bishop, Dr. Wells was also instrumental in founding the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts (LCVA). 

Upon returning to the faculty in the early 1980s, Dr. Wells developed her research interest in ornithology and engaged undergraduate students in fieldwork. She served on the Longwood College Council, the predecessor to today’s Faculty Senate, and was instrumental in revising and writing the Faculty Policies and Procedures Manual (FPPM) in 1992-1993, which is the basis for today’s FPPM. She chaired the Department of Natural Sciences for most of the 1990s, proving herself a servant leader until the end of her career. In 1999, a year before her retirement, she was named Board of Visitors Distinguished Professor, the highest honor the Board bestows upon a faculty member.

In retirement, Carolyn devoted her time to many arts, cultural, and non-profit organizations, including the LCVA, the Southside SPCA, and the Judith Randolph Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Alongside Dr. Barbara Smith, Carolyn was a dedicated member of the Farmville Presbyterian Church. Carolyn and Barbara were also fixtures at Longwood events – whether it was a basketball game, a scholarship dinner, or the LCVA gala. In 2021, the Board of Visitors named the first-floor atrium in Allen Hall in her honor.

For many of us, Carolyn has been a colleague, mentor, friend, and neighbor. Generations of Longwood professors have sought out her counsel and were always met with levelheaded, kind words of advice, often accompanied by her wry smile and a laugh. As I took on the role of provost in 2018, Carolyn advised me that “administrators are ministers to those they serve.” She lived those words herself and embodied the best of the Longwood spirit. She will be deeply missed by all of us who knew her.

Puckett Funeral Home will have details about arrangements as they become available. 

I wish you peace this holiday season.  

Best wishes, 

Larissa M. Smith, PhD
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

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