Professor leaves legacy of mentoring students and faculty
Raymond Wells ’46, professor emeritus of religion and philosophy at SPU, passed away on May 24, 2019, at the age of 94.
Born and raised in Modesto, Calif., Wells transferred into Seattle Pacific College from Los Angeles Pacific College (now Azusa Pacific) and quickly excelled in academics, sang in the
a cappella choir, and played on SPC’s tennis team, softball team, and men’s basketball team — including on the 1945 basketball team, which was the first allowed by the Board of Trustees to compete against other colleges. His fellow students named him Athletic Man of the Year in 1946. That same year, he also served as editor of Cascade Yearbook.
Another highlight for Wells happened during his senior year: He met freshman Marilynn Hayes. They married in June 1947. At New York Theological Seminary, Wells earned another bachelor’s degree and a master’s. Once ordained, he served for three years as pastor of a San Leandro (Calif.) Free Methodist Chapel, before he and Marilyn traveled to Scotland, where he received a doctorate at the University of Edinburgh.
In 1967, Wells returned to Seattle Pacific, beginning what became a 26-year career as a popular philosophy and theology professor. During his tenure, Wells served as chair of the philosophy department and led students on two study abroad trips to Greece and Italy.
A lifelong athlete, Wells was a baseball fan and he regularly played tennis with fellow faculty and staff members, including President David McKenna. Also an avid photographer, Well took thousands of photos over the years of his family and of his and Marilyn’s travels with students.
After retiring in 1993, Wells and his wife moved to Lincoln City, Ore., for 12 years before moving to Warm Beach in 2005, where he was active in the retirement community, including singing bass in the “Beachwood Boys” men’s choir.
Wells is survived by Marilynn Hayes Wells ‘49, his wife of 72 years; children Mark, Matthew, and Sarah Lynn; six grandchildren; nieces Myra Wells Gibbon ’62, Judith Thorsen Enchelmayer ’70; and nephew Carl Thorsen ’74.
His longtime colleague, Steve Layman, professor emeritus of philosophy, shared these memories of Wells:
I first met Ray Wells in the spring of 1986. At that time Ray was chair of the philosophy department at SPU, and I was a candidate for a position in that department. Ray immediately struck me as a kind and thoughtful person — a first impression that was fully confirmed by the test of time.
After I joined the faculty, Ray became an important mentor to me with regard to teaching the SPU students. Ray had conceived and developed a course called “Values, Faith, and Meaning,” a course that about half of the SPU students took in those days. His advice about teaching this course was a great help to me.
Ray was devoted to SPU. He believed deeply in the value of Christian higher education, and he was an enthusiastic advocate of philosophy at SPU. He thought that philosophy, taught properly, could help students understand many faith-related issues. And the course Ray designed, “Values, Faith, and Meaning,” took up a series of important faith-related issues, treating them in a way that I believe was both insightful and interesting to the students.
Ray Wells was a Christian philosopher, a devoted teacher, and a person of exemplary faith and character. Through his teaching, he helped hundreds of students become more thoughtful about matters of faith and morality. And the SPU philosophy department is strong today in part because of Ray’s firm belief in the value of philosophy and because of his advocacy for the philosophy program.