For 40 years, friends of Chris Wells have kept the memory of their Abington High School classmate alive through a memorial scholarship given in his name. Now the group is looking to make the scholarship program bigger and permanent.
They’re seeking enough donations that the fund can become permanently endowed, eliminating the need for future fundraising efforts and increasing the number of scholarships awarded annually to Abington graduates for years to come.
“Initially we wanted to [offer a scholarship] for 10 years, and then we thought ’Wouldn’t it be nice if we could raise enough money over time that the scholarship would go on forever’,” said Jeffrey Stone, the fund’s president.
A member of the Abington High School Class of 1975, Wells was a standout in the classroom and athletic field. He played four sports, switching from tennis to baseball at one point. He won multiple all-scholastic awards, graduated fourth in his class, attended Dartmouth College. In 2015, Wells was inducted into the Abington High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
This week marks 40 years since Wells was killed in a motorcycle accident in California, leaving his longtime classmates devastated. They immediately set about creating a scholarship fund, and gave the first award a month later at the 1982 Abington High School graduation ceremony.
Over the years, the scholarship fund has given Abington graduates $163,000 to help with their college educations.
“They’ve all done remarkably well,” Stone said.
At $6,000, it’s currently the biggest annual scholarship awarded to an Abington High graduate. Winners must have excelled both academically and athletically, while demonstrating leadership skills.
“One of the things that’s been interesting is that 90 percent of those who get the scholarship and who send me letters after graduation, say that the $6,000 was enough to help them go to their first choice school rather than their second choice,” Stone said.
Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer said scholarship funds like this can change the lives of recipients.
“All scholarships and supports for our students are important and appreciated. They all are a part of making a positive difference in the lives of the students we serve. We all know the cost of a college education is expensive and decisions around college have limits. Some people are more limited than others,” he said.
“The Christopher Wells Memorial Scholarship provides an amount of funding and support that can level the financial playing field a bit for students and families. That can make a difference in going to college or which college a student will decide to attend. That difference can be life changing.”
Friends of Wells originally organized an annual Thanksgiving Weekend basketball tournament, followed by a celebration at the Knights of Columbus. Since 1992, the main event has been the annual Christopher Wells Memorial Golf Tournament, which will be held again this year on June 10.
The fund’s balance currently sits around $455,000. It is managed by American Wealth Investors, which is owned by another one of Wells’ friends. By pushing it up over $500,000, the fund would generate enough interest to distribute $10,000-$20,000 in scholarships annually without dipping into the fund’s principal, according to Stone.
This means instead of one Abington High senior receiving a scholarship through the fund, multiple students could. The criteria would also expand to honor those who excel in the arts or sciences, Stone said.
To help push the fundraising effort over the top, the scholarship committee will match the first $25,000 in donations that come in from the Abington community.
Stone said the fundraising committee isn’t going away, but after 40 years, as classmates start to get older, this is a way to ensure the fund can continue to benefit Abington students in perpetuity.
“We’re doing it in memory of one of our best friends,” he said.
To make a donation to the Christopher Wells Memorial Scholarship Fund, please scan the QR code below with your mobile phone, go into tickets and click on the DONATIONS button.
Past winners of the Christopher Wells Memorial Scholarship
May-82 MATT BURKE
May-83 MARY KATE LANE
May-84 Maura Reilly
May-85 RICHARD DREA
May-86 Elizabeth Burke
May-87 Jonathan Barry
May-88 JAMES CLARKSON
May-89 NICOLE PARENT
May-90 ED REILLY
May-91 KERRI MURPHY
May-92 MEGHAN MEDAIO
May-93 RENEE LAPOINTE
May-94 ANDREW TUTTLE
May-95 KATHLEEN MCLAUGHLIN
May-96 RENEE GAMBEL
May-97 KEVIN NORCOTT
May-98 KIMBERLY MACE
May-99 ANDREA RUSSO
May-00 Brian Minnehan
May-01 Shauna LaPointe
May-02 Melissa Cronin
May-03 Erin Smyth
May-04 Rachel Cronin
May-05 Alexandra Hitchcock
May-06 Lynn Mione
May-07 Kanku Kabongo
May-08 John Bacon
May-09 Jillian Smith
May-10 Emily Welch
May-11 Jessica Golden
May-12 Matthew Crawford
May-13 Jami Dunn
May-14 Brian Nickley
May-15 Troy Panico
May-16 Michael Nickley
May-17 Kaitlyn Rust
May-18 Allison Denehy
May-19 Madison O’Connell
May-20 Lauren keleher
May-21 Elizabeth Roy