Wells College

Wells College is a private liberal arts college in Aurora, New York. The college has cross-enrollment with Cornell University and Ithaca College.

Wells College
Official Seal of Wells College
MottoHabere et dispertire (To have and to share)
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Endowment$24 million
PresidentDr. Jonathan C. Gibralter
ProvostDr. Cindy J. Speaker
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Location, ,
United States
301 acres (1.22 km2)
AthleticsNCAA Division IIINorth Eastern Athletic Conference
Colorsred and white          
NicknameThe Express

Wells College is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is about an hour from Syracuse and Rochester and a half-hour drive from both Ithaca and Auburn. It is within the Aurora Village–Wells College Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The college has an average student body of 450, with a student to faculty ratio of 9:1. It has five residence halls and seven academic buildings.


Wells College tower

Wells was established as a women's college in 1868 by Henry Wells, founder of Wells Fargo and the American Express Company. Wells had the building for Wells Seminary constructed on property he donated. On August 9, 1888, the College's main building burned to the ground. The building was replaced in 1890 by the current Main Building, designed by architect William Henry Miller.

In 1906 Henry Wells' 1852 mansion, Glen Park, was purchased by the Alumnae Association and given to the College for its use. It is now operated as a residence hall for upper-class women.

In 1965, Walter Netsch designed the Louis Jefferson Long Library. The design of this award-winning building inspired two other buildings on campus, Barler Music Hall and Campbell Art Building.

In 1886, Frances Folsom, Wells Class of 1885, married President Grover Cleveland and became the youngest First Lady of the United States. She was the only First Lady to have her wedding in the White House. She was the first among them who was a college graduate. Frances Cleveland (later Preston, after her second marriage) served on the College's Board of Trustees for 50 years. She helped bring the College to national prominence.


After 136 years as a women's college, Wells announced on October 2, 2004 that it would become a co-educational institution in 2005. Students protested on campus against the change.[1][2][3] Some parents of students also became involved in the protests.[4] Some of the students said that their protests were patterned after ones at Mills College in the early 1990s.[5] A website called Wells for Women was established to organize support.[6] After the college's decision to adopt coeducation was approved by its board, students filed a lawsuit, which the courts rejected.[7] The college adopted coeducation in 2005.

Financial difficultiesEdit

In 2020 the president of Wells College, Jonathan Gibraltar, sent a letter to the college community reporting that financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the College's future, writing, "If New York State continues its mandate that our campus remain closed through all or part of the [2020] fall semester, Wells simply will not receive enough revenue to continue operations."[8][9] Because Wells College receives about 15% of its operating revenue from its Italy-based study abroad program, a COVID-19-related postponement or termination of that program has also been identified as having a significant, negative impact upon the College's financial standing.[10]


University rankings
Forbes[11] 649
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[12] 124
Washington Monthly[13] 159

In 2016, U.S. News ranked Wells at 174 (tied) among liberal arts colleges nationally.[14]

Wells College is strengthening its off-campus study programs (most notably in Florence, Italy.) It has created centers in sustainability, business and entrepreneurship, and book arts. Undergraduate students are required to participate in at least two off-campus internships during their time at Wells.


Athletics are offered with half a PE credit earned for each season completed.[15]

A member of the Private College Athletic Conference throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Express sports teams of the college captured four consecutive conference championships in women's tennis (1977–78, 1978–79, 1979–80, 1980–81).[16] They also won titles in women's bowling (1978–79, 1979–80). Wells, which officially became an NCAA Division III institution prior to the 1986–87 athletic season, joined the Atlantic Women's Colleges Conference prior to the 1996–97 athletic season. In 1996, the Wells women's soccer team captured the school's only AWCC championship title. Wells offered six intercollegiate athletic sports: field hockey, softball, women's lacrosse, women's soccer, women's swimming and women's tennis.

As part of the Board of Trustees decision to begin accepting men to the traditionally all-women's college, Wells in 2005 incorporated men's soccer, men's swimming, and men's and women's cross country into their athletic cadre.

Prior to the 2007–08 academic year, the Express teams were invited to join the North Eastern Athletic Conference and compete against 14 other schools in the East Region. By joining the NEAC, Wells can compete for conference championships with the added benefit of receiving an automatic qualifier in select sports to participate in the NCAA tournament.

Since joining the NEAC, Wells has captured six separate conference championships. Men's swimming won the first league title in 2009–10, and earned a second title in 2012–13. Women's swimming have won three consecutive conference championships, during the 2011–12, 2012–13, and 2013–14 seasons. Men's basketball, who won the NEAC championship in 2010–11, was the first team from Wells to participate in the NCAA Tournament.

As of the 2015–16 athletic season, Wells offers 16 NCAA Division III varsity sports, including field hockey, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's volleyball, men's and women's cross country, softball, baseball, and women's tennis.

In the 2018-2019 season the Wells Men’s Volleyball team made it to the Elite 8 (Quarterfinals) in the NCAA Division 3 Men’s Volleyball Tournament before falling to Stevens Institute of Technology.

Honor CodeEdit

Wells has an honor code to which all students subscribe. By signing the Honor Code, Wells students pledge "not to lie, cheat, steal, deceive, or conceal in the conduct of their collegiate life".[17] Wells allows students to have take-home exams, and to work in their residence hall rooms, at the library, or on the dock by the lake, rather than only in classrooms.

Notable alumnaeEdit

Notable facultyEdit


  1. ^ Tarby, Russ (2002-06-14). "Trustees greeted by angry students". AuburnPub.com. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  2. ^ Spohr, George (2002-06-14). "Students stage sit-in to protest". AuburnPub.com. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  3. ^ Barton, Noelle (2002-06-14). "Wells students not going home". AuburnPub.com. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  4. ^ Barton, Noelle (2002-06-14). "Angered Wells parents feel left out". AuburnPub.com. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  5. ^ Spohr, George (2002-06-14). "Wells students' sit-in patterned after Mills". AuburnPub.com. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  6. ^ "Wells for Women". Web.archive.org. 2009-10-27. Archived from the original on October 27, 2009. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  7. ^ Wogan, Lisa. "When Wells Run Dry: Another women's college opens the door to men". Ms. Magazine. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  8. ^ Rocheleau, Kelly (2020-05-08). "Wells College in Aurora warns it may close if students can't return in fall 2020". Ithaca Journal. www.ithacajournal.com. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  9. ^ Brean, Berkeley (2020-05-26). "Wells College president: Without students on campus we 'cannot afford to reopen'". News 10 WHEC. WHEC-TV LLC. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  10. ^ Whitford, Emma (2020-05-15). "Frank Assessment From a Private College". Inside Higher Ed. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  11. ^ "America's Top Colleges 2019". Forbes. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  12. ^ "Best Colleges 2020: National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  13. ^ "2019 Liberal Arts Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  14. ^ "Wells College Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2016-11-02.
  15. ^ "Wells College Athletics - Wells". www.wells-express.com.
  16. ^ "Wells College Athletics History". www.wells-express.com.
  17. ^ Wells Computer Services (2010-06-15). "Honor Code". Wells.edu. Retrieved 2011-08-13.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 42°44′43″N 76°41′53″W / 42.7452°N 76.6980°W / 42.7452; -76.6980