Engineering lecturer Herbert C. Wells, the first person to teach engineering at UNLV, will retire this month after 40 years at the university.
"Herb has really been a mainstay throughout the 40 years," said William Wells, dean of UNLV's Howard Hughes College of Engineering.
"He's been a stalwart of the program - and the students' friend. "He's been very student-oriented and has been their friend and counselor, always giving them good advice," the dean said.
Paul Villaluz, a senior majoring in civil engineering, said Herbert Wells is known among engineering students for always being available to counsel them or just to chat. "Herb's the one who always has his door open. If accessibility could be a fault, I guess you could assign it to Herb."
So popular is Wells among his students, said Villaluz, that they honored him with a surprise at this year's Pacific Southwest Regional Conference, an annual 18-university competition attended by UNLV. The students representing UNLV at this year's conference donned specially designed T-shirts with Wells' photo on the front to honor their teacher and friend.
Perhaps not surprisingly, when Wells is asked what he will miss most about UNLV, his reply is immediate and emphatic - "The students. It's a real easy question.
"They're a very pleasant bunch of people to know," said Wells, who rattles off the names of students who were in his classes decades ago and who can instantly pull a 1962 grade book from his desk drawer to double check a date. Wells, who keeps in touch with many former students, plans to teach part-time even in retirement.
Though he's taught at UNLV since 1957, teaching wasn't originally part of Wells' career plan.
After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in geology and a master's degree in mining engineering, Wells took a variety of engineering jobs, eventually moving to Southern Nevada to work for Timet.
While there he was asked to teach a surveying class at UNLV, which at that time was a branch of the Reno campus known as the Southern Regional Division of the University of Nevada. One class grew into more classes. "I started teaching and found out that I seemed to have a way of making people learn. My job is to make people learn, not to teach."
In 1961, Wells joined the faculty on a full-time basis. He was one of eight people teaching all of the university's science, math, and engineering courses, and was the only engineer among the eight.
Slowly, but surely he added more and more engineering and related classes to UNLV's catalog. He also was instrumental in building the library's early collection of engineering books.
During the years he has held a variety of positions at UNLV, including chairman of the department of science and mathematics and of the department of engineering, geography, and geology, as well as director of the school of science and mathematics. But, Wells says, it's working with the students that he likes best.