Alumni Profiles     

Jack N. Wells, '59, Ph.D.
      Distinguished Alumnus,  201
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 Distinguished Alumni.

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 grandchildren.



Jack N. Wells, Ph.D.
Class of 1959

photo in the 1959 NARVA