Oct. 19, 1932 – May 1, 2015
Walter Dickens “Jay” Wells, of Clarence, who taught graphic design at SUNY Buffalo State for 25 years, died May 1 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a lengthy illness. He was 82.
Born in Buffalo, he attended Hutchinson-Central High School and was a 1951 graduate of Kensington High School. He enlisted in the Air Force the following year, was stationed in Germany and worked as a cartographer. He then served in the Air Force Reserve.
In Germany, he took college courses in industrial and graphic design. Returning from service, he studied for a year at Pratt Institute and took classes at the Art Students League in New York City.
He received a degree in art education from Buffalo State in 1962 and nearly completed a master’s degree in industrial design and commercial design at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
He taught art for two years at Clarence Junior High School, then was a graphic designer for three years at Nehin Inc. in Buffalo. In 1967, he started his own firm, Graphic House, working with local advertising agencies and industrial clients.
In 1969, he became an instructor in graphic design at Buffalo State, was promoted to associate professor in 1980 and retired in 1994. He served as acting chairman of the design department in 1974.
He started an internship program for design students, placing them at local firms, and led his classes to design and build an inner-city children’s park and playground at Masten Avenue and Northampton Street.
“We were shot at on one occasion while working on the site,” he recalled later. “After exhausting every possible source for more money, I settled the outstanding accounts with my own money. As of September 1973, the park had been to a great extent destroyed by ... vandals.”
He received several awards for his work, notably a corporate identity and trademark for Rigidized Metals Corp., which won the Best in Show award in 1967 from the Niagara Frontier Advertising Associates and received a national award from the trade publication Advertising Age.
He also was selected for the Circle of Honors in the 1972 New York State Craftsmen’s Fair for his jewelry designs.
He worked in a great variety of media, creating paintings, sculpture, collages, jewelry, toys and textile designs.
He enjoyed traveling, went to Central America numerous times and visited every country in Europe. He spent a year in England, teaching at Didsbury College.
He also collected antique cast iron toys and soldiers, clocks, butterflies, cigar band dishes and paraphernalia. He enjoyed classical music and jazz.
Survivors include nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Unitarian Universalist Church, 6320 Main St., Amherst.