U of M instructor dies in Milwaukee of apparent COVID-19 complications

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 22, 2020 9:22 PM CT | Published: March 22, 2020 9:10 PM CT

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A University of Memphis criminal justice professor died over the weekend in Milwaukee, apparently of COVID-19 complications.

<strong>Lenard Wells</strong>

Lenard Wells

Lenard Wells, 69, had been in a Milwaukee area hospital since March 14 and had been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Fox6 News there. The TV station said Wells, who traveling from another state when he was hospitalized, had underlying medical issues.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper also reported Sunday that Wells died Saturday of COVID-19 complications.

Coronavirus daily blog, March 22: Miss. reports 18 cases in DeSoto County

The medical examiner’s office there confirmed the death Sunday but did not identify a cause. 

Wells was with the Milwaukee Police Department for 27 years and was known as an advocate for African Americans in the department.

At the U of M since 2013, Wells taught in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Department Chairman KB Turner told faculty in an email about Well’s death that he was saddened by the news.

Dear Criminal Justice Faculty, Staff and Students:

I am saddened to announce the passing of Dr. Lenard Wells on Saturday, March 21, 2020.

During his tenure at the University of Memphis as an instructor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Dr. Wells touched the lives of many students. He was well known for his compassion and dedication to the impartation of knowledge and providing guidance to his students regarding their future careers and life. 

Dr. Wells was an insightful instructor, a researcher and a supportive colleague in the department. Many students benefited from his leadership as he worked tirelessly in creating the “Mock Crime Scene” and perfecting the “Mock Law Enforcement Interview Board.” It was a rarity not to observe students in his office seeking his sage advice.

Dr. Wells began his career with the University of Memphis in 2013 as an instructor of criminal justice. Prior to his arrival at the University, he was appointed by then Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin to serve as the Parole Board Chief. Dr. Wells was also a retired lieutenant with the Milwaukee Police Department after an illustrious 30-year career

His untimely passing will leave an indelible void for some time to come. He will be sorely missed by his family, students and colleagues. 

Wells retired from the Milwaukee Police Department as a lieutenant. While with the police department, he earned a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in public administration – both from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

He earned a PhD in Leadership, Learning and Service from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.

Courses Wells taught at the University of Memphis included Corrections in America, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Prevention and Deterrence of Crime and Crime and Public Policy.

Wells’ former student, Kathryn Abigail McLain, was sad to learn of his passing and said he was helpful to her during her undergraduate criminal justice studies at the U of M.

“Dr. Wells played an influential role in helping me to find my passion for law,” McLain said. “I was lucky enough to have him teach several of my criminal justice classes. He was by far my favorite professor from undergrad. He had such enthusiasm to teach and the kindest heart.”

His experiences in law enforcement were used to teach students, McLain said.

“He inspired me to help others, and when it came time for me to go to law school he wrote my letter of recommendation,” she said. “He has remained one of my references to this day and will forever remain in my memory.”

In a Facebook post, U.S. Rep. Gwen S. Moore, D-Wisconsin, praised Wells calling him “a friend and a brother.”


COVID-19 University of Memphis
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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