The Face of Leadership: A Tribute to JU Alumni Bob Taylor and Marvin Wells

February 8, 2018

To our Jacksonville University community:

In the same way that our personal lives are marked by milestones and key dates, so is the life and development of a university.

  • May 9, 1963
  • September 3, 1963
  • April 2, 1971
  • June 15, 1971
  • October 21, 1988
  • January 9, 2018

While time rolls on, dates like these matter, and here’s why…

Recently, our JU family lost an alumnus who was a forerunner and positive force in helping shape this University into the multicultural, inclusive, international campus it is today. On January 9, 2018, Robert Andrew (“Bob”) Taylor passed from this life, leaving our campus, and others that he attended over the years, forever changed.

It is important to note that he may not have had the opportunity to create powerful change at Jacksonville University if not for the events of May 9, 1963, when our Board of Trustees took a momentous vote for that era and this region: to integrate. Four months later, three transfer students, including Mr. Taylor, became the first African-American students enrolled at JU.

Their first day attending classes was September 3, 1963. Through hard work, courage, and determination, Mr. Taylor and others were integral to fostering racial equality and diversity on this campus. Within seven years of his matriculation, JU’s first integrated men’s basketball team embarked on an unforgettable 1969-70 season, which led to the NCAA Championship game and positive, national exposure for the team that championed healing and acceptance in a time of war, strife, and uncertainty.

On April 2, 1971, JU elected a student body president, as they had done year after year. This time, however, Marvin Wells (‘73) became the first African-American Student Government Association president in our history, and in the history of the state of Florida.

Today, Marvin C. Wells, DMD, leads an oral and maxillofacial surgery practice in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, and is a widely respected and leading expert in reconstructive and orthognathic surgery, dental implants, arthroscopic and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) surgery, and facial trauma. Jacksonville University could not be prouder of the achievements of the highly accomplished Dr. Wells. To celebrate his many contributions to the field and his alma mater, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award of Excellence on October 21, 1988, the first African-American alumnus to receive this honor, and later served with great distinction on the Jacksonville University Board of Trustees.

Of course, Dr. Wells was no stranger to receiving recognition for leadership and service. He was also a student recipient of the Jacksonville University Charles Wells Cup in 1971, and in 1973, the University Award for outstanding service to others. Both then and now, Dr. Wells embodies the distinct JU culture of leadership and service, and today as a dear friend and trusted adviser.

As we thoughtfully reflect on our heritage and history, please join me in celebrating the legacies of these trail blazers — Bob and Marvin. Decades ago, their courage and determination set us on a path we still walk today. Our Office of Advancement is now calling for nominations for the Distinguished Alumni Award of Excellence. Your recommendations are a critical part of continuing this legacy of service and shaping the face of leadership at Jacksonville University.

May we aspire to the same excellence and service they exhibited in helping develop present-day Jacksonville University.

Thank you.

Tim Cost
Jacksonville University
Class of 1981