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Wells, Bernice Roberts Moreland



  • Existence: December 31, 1940 - January 23, 1990

Biographical Information

Bernice Roberts Moreland Wells was born in Arkansas. Marianna, Arkansas, where she grew up, was still segregated at that time, and she recounted her experiences attending the segregated Robert Moton High School where she graduated 3rd in her class in 1958. In her autobiography, Wells discussed how her experiences in the segregated south and as a migrant farm worker ultimately shaped her perspectives, her drive, and her commitment to amplifying the voices of Black students.

Wells followed her older sister north to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where she intended to work until she was old enough to enroll in the army so that she could get money to go to college. While there, she met her first husband with whom she had her son Michael in 1962. They separated when Michael was still an infant, which inspired Wells to enroll at the Champaign School of Practical Nursing to earn her Licensure as a Practical Nurse to better support herself and her son. She graduated and earned her certification in 1966. Wells worked for some time as a nurse's aid at Burnham City Hospital before enrolling at the school. After completing her certification, Wells worked at Carle Hospital until 1969.

In 1969, Wells applied to and was accepted to the University of Illinois, where she intended to purdue a degree in social work. While enrolled at the university, she received a number of scholarships, including the first AAUW Ida King Stevens award. Wells reminisced that although her sister completed one year of college, Bernice was the first to earn a college degree in her family. She received her BA in social welfare from the University of Illinois in 1973.

After receiving her degree, Wells worked at Parkland College as an Outreach Specialist before moving on to Western Illinois University. At Western Illionis, she was tasked with running a new program that would help "minority" students adjust to college. Wells reflected that the program seemed to have been designed to keep Black students segregated from the rest of the student body. While at Western Illinois, she also earned an M.S. (1976).

After finishing her two year contract and her Master's, Wells accepted a postion in the Purdue Division of Finanacial Aid in 1976. She hoped that it would provide a more fulfilling experience for her as well as provide opportunities for her son. At Purdue, Wells was a fierce advocate for students of color, but clear that her position was created to support all students at Purdue. She also advocated for the equitable treatment of staff and faculty of color at the University. Wells met her second husband, Elvin Wells, while at Purdue and they married in 1980. Wells remained in her role at Purdue until 1988 when she was diagnosed with terminal ALS. Over the course of her career, Wells remained committed to researching the specific needs of first generation Black college students to determine how the university could better serve them and ensure their success. Bernice Wells died in 1990 at the age of 49.


Wells, Bernice Roberts Moreland. 1988. A Quilt: An Autobiography. West Lafayette: Bernice Roberts Moreland Wells.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Bernice Roberts Moreland Wells papers

 Collection — Box: Communal Collections 44, Placement: 03
Identifier: MSF 451
Scope and Contents Wells, Bernice Roberts Moreland Wells (1988). A Quilt: An Autobiography.
Dates: 1988