University members gathered together in a farewell celebration for former Provost, Marilyn Wells, Jan. 8 at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Wells has been appointed chancellor at Penn State Brandywine and has been serving in her roles at MNSU since July 2013.
She has contributed to the university in many ways as she helped develop the first-ever integrated academic master plan, new faculty and student research opportunities, and more than 30 new academic programs in six different colleges, etc. At the farewell reception, staff, faculty, and university members, were able to share a meal with the former Provost and honor and thank Wells for her contributions.
As part of the program, President Richard Davenport, staff and faculty around the university, and cabinet members spoke about Wells’ achievements, what it was like working with Wells, their different bonds with Wells, and personal stories.
Davenport reminisced about Wells interesting humor, her love for cooking, her love for the community, her thick skin, her strong work ethic, her leadership and mentorship, etc. “We all know that she’s been a great mentor to many, not just students, but also to a lot of faculty and staff and a lot of young administrators,” said Davenport. “With my conversations with Marilyn, she’s told me, that’s probably the thing she takes the most pride in.”
Davenport also shared during his speech, Wells “interesting background”. Her family moved a lot around the states, she has a lot of knowledge about cars as her father was a used car salesman and worked in the military, and she was a first-generation college student. “If you’re car doesn’t start, call Marilyn. I understand she can jumpstart and hotwire anything on wheels,” said Davenport.
Although some of his stories may or may not be exaggerated or false, Davenport poked fun at Wells as he shared stories of her alligator spearing days and obsession with martinis. “She had one of the most interesting jobs, spearing alligators, at a very young age she would spear alligators, dry the skin, make purses and shoes out of the hide and sold them for big money. So, I think she was an entrepreneur from the very beginning, by the way that’s a true story,” Davenport said. “She also worked at dozens of bars and has an insatiable taste for martinis.”
Davenport shared that Wells almost went the route into food service, but decided to go the route of education – a decision Davenport is glad she made. Many staff and faculty appreciated Wells’ unique humor, interesting stories, and movie/pop references.
In his speech, Dr. Paul Hustoles, the chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, used a pop reference “Three faces of Eve” to describe Wells in his remarks titled “Three faces of Marilyn” and his three specific bonds with Marilyn – as his boss’s boss, peer, and subordinate. “We at MNSU have had less grievances than any other state university in our system, and why is that? It’s because of that woman, it’s because that woman would go ‘hmmm, well’,” Hustoles said. “It’s so much easier to figure out what’s the reason we’re having this dispute and what is the solution, that’ll make for a wonderful chancellor in this really weird place where they make brandy out of wine.”
Other staff and faculty have had other different bonds with Wells, as one staff shared a bond of friendship and witnessed Wells as a great mother as she was willing to wear colors from a competing school after her daughter lost a bet. Many female staff and faculty also gave thanks to Wells as they thanked her for her mentorship, her mindfulness, and humanizing the work environment as she encouraged them to be who they are.
The celebration ended with a farewell speech from Wells as she promised her speech would be shorter than Davenport’s for once. “President Davenport, I’m really honored to become the fourth person on your leadership to become a president or a chancellor,” Wells said, “There has not been a single day in the past six and a half years where I have not learned from you, directly or indirectly in multiple ways.”
She also poked fun at Davenport as she shared a story from one of her experiences at the President’s fall retreat, she said, “President Davenport, toward the afternoon got up to make some remarks, picked up the clicker for advancing the power point slides, thought it was a handheld microphone and stood there talking into it before he realized what was going on.” She continued to thank other leadership she had the honor to work with as she shared stories of white elephant gift giving, her love for movie references and jokes over the years, her humorous experiences in the community as one time she unknowingly illegally threw away her boxes in a dumpster and was told to take them out in below zero weather.
Wells still sees growth at MNSU, and despite all her work there, there is still a lot that can be done. “While we accomplished much and had so much fun, there’s work yet to do. We’re a university, as David Jones often said, we’re a continuous learning institution. Student success must remain a top priority for our university, it’s the core of our mission and future.”
To end her speech, Wells shared a quote from Ella Fitzgerald “It isn’t where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts, “Wells said. “Thanks for the memories, and bon voyage, as we all go into new adventures.”
Header photo: President Richard Davenport and former Provost Marilyn Wells embrace at her farewell celebration. Wells will go on to serve as the new chancellor for Penn State Brandywine beginning Jan. 13 and was joined by friends and colleagues this past Wednesday to celebrate her success. (Andrew Bravo/MSU Reporter)