john w wells headshot

John W. Wells

Emory & Henry College

Dr. John W. Wells became the twenty-second president of Emory & Henry College on July 1, 2019. During his consistent and faithful leadership at Emory & Henry, the college has experienced growth in the overall enrollment of students with historical record enrollment in Fall 2021 and Fall 2022, following strong strategic leadership through the 2020 global pandemic.

A visionary and strategist, Dr. Wells worked closely with the Board of Trustees and his leadership team to execute a three-year strategic plan that included: the creation of a School of Business - hiring a Founding Dean and renovating Carriger Hall from the late 1800’s to house the new and innovative programming; launching a progressive van Vlissingen Career Center with a seasoned director bringing corporate connections to rural Southwest, Virginia; transitioning NCAA athletics from DIII to DII and changing conferences to the South Atlantic Conference; building new and dynamic Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging programming; adding a new outdoor lighted SportsCourt for students; a new Blue & Gold Pavilion for networking and engaging events; supporting students a newly renovated Paul Adrian Powell, III Student Success Center; adding a Walking Trail on campus along with flex days for employees to support mental wellness; and creating a School of Nursing Program with a Founding Dean to support the integration of health sciences on the Marion, Virginia campus plus adding a Masters of Counseling Mental Health program. He is transitioning the traditional mode of teaching methods to hybrid and online opportunities for faculty to meet ever-changing student demand.

Renowned programs for the college include having the only Semester on the Appalachian Trail program where students can earn academic credit; a 22-time nationally ranked championship Equestrian program; a $22 million visual and performing arts center; a 75-acre Barlett-Crowe field station for research in environmental science; a liberal arts-based Engineering Program; and the Appalachian Center for studies and civic engagement.

Emory & Henry is among only 43 colleges in the country named as a “College That Changes Lives” and consistently ranked in Best Colleges, U.S. News and World Report; Washington Monthly; Virginia Living Top Schools and Universities; College of Distinction; Great Value College; and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The college was founded in the hills of beautiful Southwest Virginia in 1836 and is the oldest private college in the region. 

Dr. Wells joined Emory & Henry in 2017, when he was first appointed as provost and dean of faculty after having served as the chief academic officer at three higher education institutions. He served as associate general secretary for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the worldwide United Methodist Church and as executive secretary of the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He served for seven years as executive vice president and chief academic officer at Mars Hill University in western North Carolina, where he provided oversight of the divisions of enrollment, academics, student development and student success. 

Previously, he served as provost for four years at Young Harris College, a United Methodist-related institution located in the mountains of northeast Georgia, and during one of those years served as interim president. For twelve years, he was on the political science faculty at Carson-Newman University where he also directed the university’s honors program and was dean of the social science division. A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Dr. Wells earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Tennessee. He also holds a master’s degree in political science from UT and a bachelor’s degree in history from Carson-Newman University.

His wife, Shannon Earle, joined Emory & Henry College in July 2021 in the Advancement Office having previously served as chief of staff at the University of North Carolina Asheville. The couple has two adult children, Garland and Molly.