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WELLS, Robert Douglas (1933-2018)

WELLS, Robert Douglas ‘Rob’ (1933-2018)

'Rob' Wells in his cousin, Len Creek's Tiger Moth at Nhill Aviation Museum, 2018.

'Rob' Wells in his cousin, Len Creek's Tiger Moth at Nhill Aviation Museum, 2018.

Staff member, 'Rob' Wells was a much respected teacher of Woodwork and Technical Drawing at the Geelong College from 1 January 1975 until 1994. He returned to the College in a part-time capacity in 2001 and only retired once again in 2016.

In 1994, he donated a crafted timber table, the Wells Memorial Table specifically for use in the enclosed foyer in the Memorial Wing as a retirement donation to the College. He also repaired and restored a bedroom side table from the original Mackie House furnishing of 1939 which he also donated to the College Archive Collection.

Rob' was born at Nhill, Victoria on 8 September 1933, gained his Intermediate Certificate at Brunswick High School, and completed a five year apprenticeship, winning several best apprentice awards. He worked for a joinery firm for 9 years and then 5 years as a self-employed builder before completing two years teacher training at Hawthorn Technical Teachers College gaining his T.Tr.I.C. He then taught in the State System for 11 years at Essendon and Corio Technical Schools before commencing at Geelong College.

'Rob' also participated in many community agencies. He was a former President of Apex and a former Director of Co-operative Housing Societies within the Kardinia Housing Society Group, and an active member of the Methodist Church.

'Rob' Wells passed away on Sunday 4 November 2018, aged 85 years.

In 1994, the Geelong College Principal, Dr Turner, in farewelling him commented: 'Mr Rob Wells - with his passion for fine wood, excellent craftsmanship and gentle manner - retires after 20 years with us. Many students who have passed through the Austin Gray Centre will remember the sense of pride and achievement they gained as they successfully made from scratch a fine piece of furniture.'

His colleagues spoke glowingly of him following his death: 'He was a respected teacher of woodwork at the Austin Gray Centre for 20 years before retiring in 1994 and taking up an interest in lawn bowls and travelling throughout Australia and overseas.

'Rob’s skills in working with timber went back to the days of his apprenticeship with his father, and his depth of knowledge was invaluable to the teaching of Design Technology at the College.

'Rob' was a Master Craftsman, taking pride in his work, no matter whether it was machining a piece of timber or assisting a student to create a project. 'Rob' was the consummate gentleman and great communicator who would always give of his time freely to anyone who sought his knowledge and advice. During his service to the College, 'Rob' was a key member of staff at the House of Guilds.

Many staff, students and members of the Geelong community benefitted from 'Rob’s gentle and kind nature, with 'Rob' helping them to create and explore their creative skills and interests. The Geelong College community is very grateful for the many years of dedicated service that 'Rob' gave the school, and the many lives that were impacted by his generosity and sincerity.

His contribution to the College will live on through his hand-crafted gift to the College in 1994 which is displayed permanently in the War Memorial.'

Ad Astra in 1994 published an affectionate interview with 'Rob' upon his retirement:

Rob Wells and Catherine Gray, daughter of the late Austin Gray, watch Wes Cordingley cut cloth for a chair at the Austin Gray Centre.

Rob Wells and Catherine Gray, daughter
of the late Austin Gray, watch Wes Cordingley
cut cloth for a chair at the Austin Gray Centre.

Rob Wells with his passion for fine wood, excellent craftsmanship and gentle manner, came to the College in February 1975.

He came from the State Technical system where he was a Trade Instructor and qualified in Building Construction Grade 1, 2 and 3.

Rob says his teaching methods have not really changed over the years. Woodwork is a 'doing' subject and while he demonstrates the skills and techniques, he says the important part is to let the students 'have a go'.

At College, students always start with good quality, dressed wood and have to develop their own design. They choose which technique and tool they want to use to achieve the result they want. One of the high points of Rob's time here has been to see students walking out of the room with a professionally completed piece. He commented that most Year 11 students go out with furniture that most tradesmen could not do as well. He builds on their skills developed in years 9 and 10, and asks them to design their own project. Rob has especially enjoyed working with the girls who he feels want to learn, persevere and aim
for higher standards.

Rob has a philosophy that neither lack of suitable material nor money should deprive a student of doing a challenging project. If they can manage it within the constraints of the workshop, they should have the opportunity to have a go. As the teacher, he would help in difficult projects but he never does the students ' work for them. The facilities at the College encourage good craftmanship. Rob has taught adult classes as well and because he has experience in all areas of building, many members of the community pop in and ask him for advice on small jobs they are doing.

He has many memories of the place and in particular remembers being invited to have dinner one night at the table and chair Dr Roebuck made in his classes! He is also proud that timber salesmen tell him the quality and complexity of work they see here is better than in most places.

He leaves us to travel, do small jobs and have time to talk to people. His generous and caring teaching will be missed by us all.’

Sources: Principal's Newsletter Term 4 1994 p5; Ad Astra December 1994 p13; The Age (Melb) 10 November 2018; Colleague tribute from Phil Taylor, Rob Kaylor-Thompson and Greg Smith (Arts); Ad Astra December 2018 p61.
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