Campus News

Bowdoin Appoints Allen Wells to Howell Professorship of History

Story posted April 30, 2001

Bowdoin College has named Allen Wells, professor of history, to the Roger Howell Jr. Professorship. This new professorship was established by the Board of Trustees in memory of Roger Howell Jr. of the Class of 1958, Kenan Professor of Humanities, and the tenth President of Bowdoin College, in recognition of his personal and professional devotion to the College, its students, faculty, alumni and friends.

"With the establishment of the Roger Howell Jr. Professorship, we honor a man who was an outstanding student, a beloved and respected teacher and one of the leading historians of his day," said Robert H. Edwards, president of the College. "No one ever evinced a greater love for the liberal arts or for Bowdoin, which he led as president for nine years, than Roger Howell. Allen Wells is superbly qualified to be Bowdoin's first Howell Professor of History."

Wells was named to the Bowdoin faculty in 1988, awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in 1990, and promoted to professor in 1992.

"I cannot think of a better choice to inaugurate the Roger Howell Professorship of History than Allen Wells, who embodies in so many ways Roger's deep commitment to scholarship, to undergraduate teaching, and to Bowdoin College as an institution," said Craig A. McEwen, dean for academic affairs. "This chair particularly recognizes Allen's prominence as an historian of Latin America, most especially Mexico. During his thirteen years at Bowdoin, Allen has played a central role at the College in helping to build the Latin American Studies Program, in chairing the History Department, and in serving as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs."

Professor Wells is the co-author or co-editor of four books, including The Second Conquest of Latin America: Coffee, Henequen and Oil During the Export Boom, 1850-1930 (University of Texas Press, 1998), and Summer of Discontent, Seasons of Upheaval: Elite Politics and Rural Insurgency in Yucatán, 1876-1915 (Stanford University Press, 1996), which was named an Outstanding Academic Book for 1997 by Choice.

He is the author of two dozen articles, book chapters and essays on the history of modern Yucatán, Mexico and Latin America. The article "All in the Family: Railroads and Henequen Monoculture in Porfirian Yucatán," which appeared in Hispanic American Historical Review, won the Joseph T. Criscenti Prize for the best article published in 1992 by a member of the New England Council of Latin American Studies. He was co-author of "Summer of Discontent: Economic Rivalry Among Elite Factions During the Late Porfiriato in Yucatán," appearing in the Journal of Latin American Studies, which won the Sturgis Leavitt Prize for best article published in 1986 by a South Eastern Council of Latin American Studies member.

From 1995-96 Professor Wells held an appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science, Princeton University, through a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. He was the recipient of a 1995 Advanced International Research grant from the Joint Committee of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies with funds provided by the NEH; received an American Philosophical Society grant to conduct research in Mérida, Yucatán, in 1986; and made a corresponding member of the Academia Yucatanense de Ciencias y Artes, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico in 1985.

Wells is currently working on "Partners in the Tropics: General Trujillo, the United States and the Dominican Republic Settlement Association, 1937-1961," a book telling the unique story of a thousand European refugees, the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo and American officials who together worked to erect an agricultural colony in the Dominican Republic.

In addition to contributing to Bowdoin's Latin American Studies Program, chairing the history department, and serving as associate dean of academic affairs, Wells has served the College by chairing the Reappointment, Tenure and Promotion Appeals Committee from 1996-97, and the Faculty Affairs Committee in 1993.

A graduate of the State University of New York at Binghamton, Wells earned his master's degree and doctorate from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Roger Howell Jr. (1936-89) became Bowdoin's tenth president in 1969 at the age of 32, and at that time was one of the youngest college presidents in the nation. As president he instituted major innovations in academic programs and policies at the College. Under his leadership the College began to admit women undergraduates, expanded its enrollment from 950 to 1,350 students, eliminated College Board entrance examination requirements, established Maine's first Afro-American center and developed an academic program in Afro-American studies, developed a highly sophisticated computing center, inaugurated a Twelve-College Exchange Program with other leading liberal arts institutions, instituted procedures for undergraduate participation in College governance, and maintained a balanced budget despite inflationary pressures. He stepped down as president in 1978 to return full time to teaching and research.

An internationally known scholar, Howell's specialty was the history of Tudor and Stuart England. He taught courses in all aspects of British history as well as in English literature and society, and was instrumental in establishing an interdisciplinary major in English and English history at Bowdoin. He was one of the few Americans to have taught English History at Oxford University. He was author of several books, among them significant biographies of Sir Philip Sidney and Oliver Cromwell, founded and edited the British Studies Monitor, and wrote scores of important essays on British history. At the time of his death in 1989, he had nearly completed a major work on changing historical assessments of Oliver Cromwell; this work was later completed by editor R.C. Richardson and published as Images of Oliver Cromwell: Essays for and by Roger Howell (1992-93).

As a distinguished student at Bowdoin, Howell was elected to Phi Beta Kappa junior year, graduated summa cum laude with highest honors in history in 1958, and was named a Rhodes scholar. He earned B.A., M.A., and D. Phil. from St. John's College, Oxford, and taught at Johns Hopkins University and at Oxford's International Graduate School before his appointment to the Bowdoin faculty in 1964.

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