Bethune Cookman Band Director Recognized

February 21, 2008 · Print This Article

Donovan Wells calls himself a country boy who grew up fishing and tending patches of vegetables on the family farm in Virginia, even earning money for school by packing hams in Smithfield.But the director of bands — including the Marching Wildcats — at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach has reached out far beyond the banks of Virginia’s James River, and not only with his music.

This month, he’s among the ambassadors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) featured in a free booklet titled “Profiles in Pride: March of the Mighty,” available at all Wal-Mart stores. Kraft, the other project sponsor, ensured the booklet’s food element, and Wells contributed the Crispy Fried Fish recipe he and his father have always used.

Editors chose marching bands as the focus of the ninth “Profiles in Pride” Black History Month publishing project to salute them “as highly regarded symbols of school spirit and showmanship — and for their exemplary work as ambassadors of their schools’ powerful legacies.”

On the page devoted to Wells and the high-profile Marching Wildcats, he answers a question about how being a band member instills lifelong values. Ask him about his fish recipe, and he immediately goes to the source of many of his lifelong values, his father, P.D., a model of a hard worker.

“My mom was the cook, but, when it came to frying fish, my dad did that,” he said recently by phone from his office on campus. “He had two other jobs, but he was also a commercial fisherman, working nets and pulling crab pots in the Chesapeake Bay.”

The senior Wells, now 73, also worked for the federal government as a nuclear welder and served as a minister.

Whenever Donovan Wells, 45, visits his parents in Virginia or they visit him and his family in Florida, it’s time for a fishing expedition.

The huge James River, where tidal waters extend far into Virginia, requires bottom fishing, more like deep-sea fishing. Wells wasn’t used to seeing the bottom, and certainly never saw the fish until he caught it.

Here in Florida — and in Mosquito Lagoon, one of his favorite fishing holes — “you sight cast for them,” Wells said. “If the fishes’ skills are better than yours, you won’t catch them.”

Some of his favorite fish are spots, red snapper and grouper. “But I really love crabs,” he said. “I always loved the water, anything to do with the water. I get that from my dad.”


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