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UW Crest with engineering background
October 31, 2022

Marion Gilbert Wells: 2022 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient

Written By: Staff

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Marion Gilbert Wells

Marion Gilbert Wells BSMetE ‘81
Founder and managing partner, Human Asset Management

We are honoring Marion as a metallurgical engineer, entrepreneur and passionate mentor who has driven positive change in manufacturers’ corporate culture, customer relationships and sales, and championed a more diverse STEM talent pipeline.

How did you decide on your major?

We had a very education-focused household. My older sister was in med school. When I told my parents I wanted to be an art major, they asked me to reconsider. We had a family friend who worked at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and he invited me for a tour of the scanning electron microscope lab. He put a piece of steel underneath the microscope and magnified it to 1,000 times. If you’re an artsy kind of person, you see the grains structure blow up and go “wow.” He said if you really like this, you should consider majoring in metallurgy. At the time, the University of Wisconsin-Madison had a minority engineering program, and they were recruiting solid candidates who might have an interest in engineering. I said, Okay, I’ll come.

Which engineering professor made the greatest impact on you?

Frank Worzala, who was the department chair at the time. While he wasn’t one of my professors, he was certainly an ally and advocate. He spent countless hours with me making sure that I was in tune and on track. Another guy and I were the only minorities, and he was just a good-natured person who recognized the need to provide us with support. In doing so, he met us where we were at. He had a good spirit, a good conscience, and he wanted to see us succeed.

What are your best memories from your time at UW-Madison?

One of my all-time favorite memories is Halloween. The parties and the enthusiasm around celebrating Halloween was off the charts. It really gave us a chance to get out and celebrate and have fun on campus. Graduation was a great memory because it was the culmination of hard work and hard effort. As a department, we would hold an end-of-year party for all the seniors, we would have our pictures posted in the hallways, and then we would go out to the Memorial Union together and celebrate each other.

Any hobbies?

I do a lot of genealogy, looking into my family history, and trying to piece that puzzle back together for my family. Because you don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you came from. It gives you a sense of self, it gives you a sense of understanding of where you come from, and it allows you to see the purpose in your being on the planet.

Any family members you’d like to mention?

My biggest success is raising three outstanding young adults with my husband. My oldest is Zachary Wells, my middle is Gordon Wells and my youngest is Gabrielle Wells. And each of them are trailblazers in their own right. My husband has been very supportive and has encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I think the key to success really is having great support and knowing it takes village to help you achieve your dreams.