January/February 1997 WSU Alumni News

Most Likely to Succeed

Brian Wells '87 is the 1996 WSU Young Alumnus Award recipient.


Brian L. Wells '87 was named Senior Most Likely to Succeed the year he earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from Wichita State.

To no one's surprise, he's lived up to the accolade.

"Brian's always been very goal-oriented," says one of his three older sisters, Paula Patterson of Kansas City. "He's the kind of person who can take a project and run with it. He has a real knack for looking at all sides of something and making the most of it. Even though I'm older, I sometimes call him for advice."

Recently promoted to the position of executive director for CARSTAR Automotive's CHICAGOLAND Business Group, Wells is responsible for coordinating the company's marketing and advertising efforts in Chicago and the surrounding region. CARSTAR is the nation's largest collision repair franchise.

His sisters — Patterson, Diane States and Cindy Holcomb — lightheartedly accept a measure of the credit for their brother's successes.

"I'm pretty sure Brian developed his leadership qualities in response to us," Patterson says, laughing. "When he was young, we used to tie one end of a rope to our bike and the other end to a wagon and Bo — that's what we used to call Brian.

"Anyway, we used to drag him around like that, until one day the wagon tipped over and we ended up dragging him. I remember taking him in our backyard to clean him up and talk him out of telling on us."

With episodes like that, Patterson adds, it's no wonder her younger borther learned to take the lead not only at work, but in many church, school and community projects.

Wells, who relocated to Chicago from Kansas City to accept his new position at CARSTAR, is enjoying his new environs.

"I like the accessibility to a variety of cultures," he says. "I've always like diversity, and here you have the Gold Coast and the exclusive high-rises along Lake Shore Drive, and there are Polish communities and Little Italy and so many others. It's all great."

Wells is less enthusiastic about Chicago's bitter-cold winters, but, he says, he's adjusting.

A native Wichitan, he assembled an impressive list of accomplishments as a student at WSU. He was active in the Association of Collegiate Entrpreneurs, Beta Theta Pi, the Inter-Fraternity Council, the Student Alumni Association and the Student Activities Council. He also earned the honor of being named a Senior Honor Man, was a member of Mortar Board and participated in the Emory Lindquist Honors Program.

"Going to WSU exposed me to people and ideas I wouldn't have come in contact with otherwise," Wells says. "WSU opened up my world. Getting involved with my fraternity stands out because it taught me social skills and pushed me to excel in other areas. And the friendships I made are still very important to me."

Jeff DeGraffenreid '88, a Wichita attorney and one of Wells' fraternity brothers, says, "Since his graduation from WSU, there have been two constants in Brian's life. One is his dedication to Wichita State."

The second? DeGraffenreid doesn't pass up a chance to tease Wells about his notoriously poor driving record: "Luckily for Brian, he moved to Chicago, a place full of horrible drivers. He can now blend into the crowd."

Poor driving notwithstanding, Wells earned a master's degree in business administration in 1989 from the University of Texas at Austin, where he became an avid Longhorn fan — not, however, to the point of losing his allegiance to the Shockers.

With graduate degree in hand, he returned to Wichita to work at Cessna Aircraft as a materials cost analyst. He then moved to Topeka, Kan., to help manage a fitness center. Although he values the business experience he gained from that enterprise, he learned the situation wasn't right for him. He resigned — and headed out for adventure with two close friends he'd met at WSU, Mark '87 and Dana '87 Bolar.

"We talked him into backpacking with us across Europe," Dana explains. "Brian is such a fun-loving person. We knew we'd have a great time."

The trio explored Europe through "the back door," as Dana puts it, staying off the usual tourist pathways, soaking up local color and stopping to rest at rustic hostels. "It was an eye-opening experience for all of us," Dana says.

For Wells, one of the defining moments of the trip came while visiting Italy: "I remember standing in this beautiful village, watching some boys kick a soccer ball against a wall of a huge, old cathedral. I remember thinking, 'They don't know me from Adam.' I realized how big the world is and how petty our own concerns can be. It was a small thing, but it put things in perspective for me."

Shortly after returning to the United States, Wells took a job at CARSTAR in Kansas City. He also found himself actively renewing his already strong ties to Wichita State and its alumni.

"Brian has a lot of Shcoker pride," Dana relates. In Kansas City, that pride was translated into serving as president of the local WSU alumni chapter.

"Brian is a leader, very outgoing and friendly," says David Gerards '91, a member of the Kansas City Alumni Chapter board of directors. "He did a tremendous job with our chapter. He got people excited about WSU."

During Wells' tenure as president, the chapter revived its alumni golf tournament; intiated "Wheatshocker Wednesdays," information get-togethers held the third Wednesday of each month; organized a scholarship-development committee; and expanded its active membership base.

"I've always wanted to help raise the spirit of the university," Wells says about his chapter work. "I still bleed yellow and black, and I think we Shockers have a lot to be proud of."


One is a 1987 graduate who hasn't let time or distance dull his enthusiasm for his alma mater.


A Printer's Printer

Edward W. "Pete" Armstrong '42, who earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Wichita, is chairman and principal owner of McCormick-Armstrong, Wichita, and has been selected as the 1996 WSU Alumni Achievement Award honoree.

Good for WSU

E. George Fahnestock '69, the 1996 WSU Alumni Recognition Award honoree, is an avid Shocker fan.

A True Gentleman

Michael P. Tilford, former associate vice president for academic affairs at Wichita State and dean of the WSU Graduate School, is posthumously recognized as the 1996 WSU Faculty Recognition Award honoree.

Call Her 'Mom'

LaVona Spender '71/71/74, WSU University College advisor and instructor, is the 1996 Distinguished Service Award winner.

Most Likely to Succeed

Brian Wells '87 is the 1996 WSU Young Alumnus Award recipient.