Indiana University Bloomington

His personal touch was always there

Harvey G. Phillips, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Music

Shortly after my arrival on the IU campus in the fall of 1971 I met Chancellor Wells at the first of many social functions associated with every new academic year. He greeted my wife and me with genuine warmth and concern. He wanted to know about our children and hoped we would enjoy the city of Bloomington and being part of the IU family. Such cordial personal interest from the IU chancellor made a deep impression. I was delighted to learn that he had been a baritone (tenor tuba) player in his youth (I treasure the photo he sent with his baritone at around age 9), and his baritone mouthpiece was proudly displayed in a glass case in the hallway approaching his office.

Over the 23 years of my faculty tenure Dr. Wells was one of my most staunch supporters. In May 1973 he cheered the First International Tuba Symposium-Workshop and the founding of Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association (T.U.B.A.) in the IU Musical Arts Center. In October 1973 he congratulated our first Octubafest series of concerts. He often attended annual Octubafests at Tubaranch, sometimes seated in his wheelchair at the table and sometimes, when on a tight schedule, he would have his car pull up to the crowd and he would eat a plate of food while seated in the car. The first year the city of Bloomington sponsored Octubafest on the Seventh Street garage, Dr. Wells served as Honorary Burgermeister at the invitation of Mayor Tomilea Allison and myself.

In 1974 I scheduled the first TubaChristmas celebration for December 22 in the New York City Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. As a warm-up for NYC I decided to have tuba players dress in Santa Claus costumes for a downtown concert on the Monroe County Courthouse steps and, courtesy of Mayor Frank McCloskey, recruited the Bloomington City Fire Department to provide transportation for the Tubasantas. Dr. Wells expressed regret that, while he still had his Santa suit, he could no longer play the baritone; otherwise he would have liked to participate in our Bloomington concert. Dr. Wells attended many receptions and celebrations at Tubaranch (Second International Brass Conference, 1984; International BrassFest, 1994).

Dr. Wells always had a positive outlook, and now, even in his absence, his presence will always be felt by those who loved and admired him. His personal touch was always there in everything he did. Most telling to me was the letter of welcome and congratulations he sent my son when he learned Jesse had chosen to return to Bloomington to open his medical practice. That letter hangs framed in a place of honor in Jesse's office. Dr. Herman B Wells will ever live in our hearts and memories. No other could fill the void he leaves in our lives.


From Remembering Herman B Wells, 1901-2000: www.heraldtimesonline.com, March 24, 2000

Thanks to the Bloomington Herald-Times for allowing Digital Wells to publish these excerpts from their archive.