Jack N. Wells, '59, Ph.D.
|During the 50th reunion dinner
for the Class of 1959 Jack Wells was the topic of many conversations.
His classmates whispered among themselves that surely by now Jack had
been recognized as an Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus. When
they discovered that he, in fact, was missing from the list, classmates
Karen Peters Frankenfeld, ’59, and Jene Porter, ’59, quickly set into
motion the steps to correct this oversight. The Alumni Association
awards committee agreed and is pleased to add his name to the list of
After starting his education in a one-room Kansas schoolhouse, Wells
excelled at Park, earning a double major in chemistry and biology. This
combination of sciences directed Wells’ career path toward the world of
higher education and research. He earned an M.S. and a Ph.D. in
medicinal chemistry from the University of Michigan and completed
post-doctoral work in organic chemistry at The Ohio State University,
Columbus, Ohio. An assistant professorship in medicinal chemistry at
Purdue University was his next step. He spent nine years in this
position. A year long sabbatical (1972-1973) working with Nobel Laureate
Dr. Earl Sutherland at Vanderbilt University Medical Center convinced
him to make the switch to Vanderbilt, where he was a member of the
Pharmacology Department faculty for 30 years. He retired in July 2003,
as Professor of Pharmacology, Emeritus.
Wells has spent much of his career pursing his interests in research,
especially cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases and adenosine receptors.
For more than ten years, he and his colleagues mapped the adenosine
binding site in the receptor using molecular and chemical experimental
strategies. Wells’ professional goal was “to make breakthroughs that can
be utilized for the betterment of clinical medicine.” His triumph came
with a patent of one of his compounds. His research and contributions to
this field have resulted in more than 80 published articles and such
honors and awards as the Lederle Faculty Research Award and election to
Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Pi Delta Sigma, and Rho
Chi. From 1976 to 1981 Wells was an Established Investigator of the
American Heart Association.
As a professor, Wells was a devoted mentor to 20 Ph.D. students
throughout his career. In addition, he served on numerous committees for
both Vanderbilt University and its Medical School, including the
Biomedical Science Advisory Committee, the Diabetes Research and
Training Center Advisory Committee, the Standing Committee on Medical
Education, the Evaluation Task Force of the Academic Program Committee,
the Advisory Council of the School of Medicine, the Institutional Review
Board and as the Pharmacology representative in the Interdisciplinary
Graduate Program. Wells actively participated in executive, recruitment
and admissions affairs.
Jack married his college sweetheart, Marjorie Crabtree Wells, Class of
1960. They reside in Nashville, Tennessee. They have two sons and two
Jack N. Wells, Ph.D.
Class of 1959
photo in the 1959 NARVA