d.m. Colin Wells (obituary)

This is Susan Treggiari’s obituary of Dr. Wells as it appeared in the Canadian Classical Bulletin (used with permission):

Colin Wells died on 11 March, at Bangor in North Wales, with his family around him, after a short illness. He was born on 15 November 1933. After Nottingham High School, where he was very well taught, he went up to Oriel College, Oxford, to read Lit. Hum. After taking Honour Moderations, he interrupted his studies in order to do his military service, during which he was stationed in Egypt and enjoyed early-morning riding in the desert. Returning to Oxford, he completed his Greats work. At this stage, he was especially interested in philosophy. But he nearly opted for a military career. Instead he began his teaching at Beaumont, an appropriate choice as he had become a Roman Catholic at 21. In 1960 he married Kate Hughes, daughter of the novelist Richard Hughes. He was asked by Fr. Etienne Gareau O. M. I. to accept an appointment at the University of Ottawa. After two years’ teaching and the birth of a son, Christopher, Kate and Colin returned to England so that he could start a doctorate in Roman Archaeology under the supervision of Ian Richmond. The seed for his work on the frontiers under Augustus was in an essay he had written as an undergraduate for P. A. Brunt, his tutor, who was a major influence. Another son, Dominic, was born during their two-year stay in England.
Colin served the University of Ottawa with energy, enthusiasm and vision. He was one of the pioneers of an interdisciplinary Classical Civilisation course. He served as chairman of the Department of Classical Studies / Département des Etudes anciennes (overseeing a period of growth) and as Vice-Dean and was secretary to an important committee which reviewed the structures of the university. Concurrently he was editing Echos du monde classique / Classical News & Views. At the same time, he was active in research and participation in learned societies. The Wells house in New Edinburgh was a centre of hospitality for classicists and other guests from all over the world. After over a quarter of a century, he regretfully left Ottawa in 1987 to take up a new and exciting post in Texas as Distinguished Professor at Trinity University, San Antonio. Here, with a new culture to explore, an office big enough for most of his books on Roman history and archaeology and a strikingly elegant house designed for entertaining, he and Kate entered upon a new period of their lives, making new friends while maintaining old contacts. Teaching continued to fascinate and pre-occupy him until he was seventy. At that point, they came back to their house in Oxford, before moving definitively to a house in Normandy, which offered a barn which could become a library. He had always loved France.

An able administrator, Colin served many organisations in the course of his career: the AAH, AIA, APA, CAC, Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautores, the Limes Congresses (he only missed one congress) and others. He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Visiting Professor at Berkeley. He was Visiting Fellow at Brasenose (1973-4) and ever after, as a member of Common Room, enjoyed the hospitality and communal life of the college.

The German Policy of Augustus, the fruit of his work on frontiers, came out in 1972. It was followed by the exceptional introduction, The Roman Empire (1984), which has delighted and stimulated undergraduates ever since. An impressive production of articles in history and archaeology went on all the time, the rhythm accelerated recently, as the history and archaeology of northern France seized his attention. From 1976, initially with the late Edith Wightman, Colin was directing the Canadian team excavating in Carthage, an involvement which continued for over twenty years. His lectures on the dig, delivered in his inimitable style, will be long remembered. He was happily engaged in writing a short history of the Roman army and had just finished the first chapter. A book on the hellenistic period was in view.

A man of manifold interests and warm sympathies, Colin Wells made the most of his exceptionally full life up to the end. He will leave a big gap in the many circles to which he belonged.

All of us offer our sympathy to his wife, sons, grandsons and the whole family.

The funeral will be held on 18 March and there will be a memorial service in July.

Elsewhere:

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One thought on “d.m. Colin Wells (obituary)

  1. Jean-François Beaulieu says:

    I am a former student of professor Wells. He taught me Classical Archaeology at the University of Ottawa , Ottawa ON Canada in the 1980s. A memorial service will be held at the Notre Dame Basilica on Sussex Street on Sunday April 25th 2010 at noon. This memorial was organized by emeritus Ottawa University Professor Michel Roussel. Former students, friends and colleagues will able to pay their respect.
    If people can come to Ottawa Ontario C anada this Sunday please do so.

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