George H. Welles, Jr., 1953

Minister, Humanitarian
George Welles arrived at Vermont Academy in September 1951 at the behest of his father. Born and raised in Norwood, Massachusetts, George had never heard of Saxtons River, but his father, who ran a wool company, often called on the mills in Saxtons River and surrounding communities. When George’s father was transferred to Europe, he felt George needed a structured environment in which to finish high school, and matriculated him at Vermont Academy. George embraced the opportunities at Vermont Academy, and during his two years in Saxtons River, he excelled as a student, athlete, and citizen. During commencement exercises in 1953, George was inducted into the Cum Laude Society, awarded the Barrett Medal for all-around achievement in academics, athletics, and citizenship, and won a total of six varsity letters in football, hockey, and baseball.

George went on to Williams, where he graduated in 1957. After four years as a prep-school teacher and coach, George entered Virginia Seminary, graduating in 1964. The years he spent there were a profoundly influential time in the history of our nation. As a young theologian, studying and living near Washington DC, George was keenly aware of the pulse of Washington, and that the world was quickly getting smaller. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the “Race to the Moon,” civil rights, President Kennedy’s assassination, and the start of the Cold War were some of the events Americans experienced at that time.

In 1963, George and his family participated in the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech. After that, George began to dedicate his life to others. Through his ministry, and his personal commitment, George has established, led, and participated in countless volunteer and community service organizations. Adoption advocacy, family planning, citizen forums, non-profit housing, elder hospices, Alzheimer’s associations, AIDS victim housing and advocacy, diversity alliances, ABC (A Better Chance) programs, urban ministry, and legislative advocacy are just some of the activities with which George is involved. George’s life has been filled with selfless acts.

In 1965, he accompanied several young clergymen to Selma, Alabama, to join Martin Luther King Jr. in his march for voters’ rights. In 1988, George was nominated for Bishop of Massachusetts, and withdrew after the second ballot to support the election of the country’s first woman bishop. In addition to three children of their own, George and his wife of 43 years, Annie, have adopted four children and one granddaughter. These children are diverse racially, culturally, and religiously. In addition, George and Annie have also served as guardians to two generations of children of their best friends, who died 14 years ago. The tenets that guide George’s life are simple “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi. “Each person must live their life as a model for others.” – Rosa Parks “We must learn how to walk the earth as brothers and sisters.” – Martin Luther King Jr. “If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.” - Mother Teresa. As an Episcopal minister, George Welles understands and embraces the human spirit.

For the last 40 years, he has been at the forefront, both personally and professionally, of the human and civil rights movements that have affected our country. By confronting the patterns and practices of the society he seeks to improve--whether it is sexism, racism, pollution, or classism--George challenges us to consider the lives of those around us, and to help make them better.
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