Scholarship Honors Alum’s Life, Friendships and Courage in the Face of ALS
Wells Black ’94 graduated from Davidson College a different person from when he arrived. He blossomed on campus, according to those who knew him best—he learned the value of real friendship and how to laugh at himself.
The student later became the teacher, imparting lessons on living and dying with grace, good humor and kindness.
Black died last year from complications of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. In his final months, a group of Wildcats decided to honor their friend and his courageous fight by setting up the Wells Black ’94 Scholarship at Davidson College.
They were able to share the news with him the week he passed away.
“Wells figured out later in life that Davidson was where he felt the most comfortable,” said Chris Frampton ’94, one of the scholarship’s founders and one of Black’s closest friends. “It was where he felt he belonged. We actually all feel that way—it’s absolutely true.”
Black was a political science major, a Kappa Alpha brother, a heavy metal guitarist and a member of the Davidson football team until he was injured and could no longer play. He went on to become a lawyer and always took very seriously the things he cared about most.
“Wells was an intense individual when we met him,” said Chris Reinking ’94, a scholarship founder and Black’s close friend and football teammate. “It felt like he entered Davidson with a mindset that it was all about him and how he was going to chart his own path in the world. He quickly realized close friendships were important, and we all challenged each other to think differently. The ways he grew at Davidson actually ended up serving him well after his diagnosis. What never changed was the commitment to what he loved: his kids, friends, law, music and Davidson.”
Black knew something was wrong when he couldn’t get a firm grip on his guitar pick. In fact, he suspected ALS.
“Much like his commitment to everything else in life, Wells fought ALS longer and harder than we ever could have expected,” Reinking said. “His caregiver told us Wells was the seventh person he had cared for with the disease, and he said to us after he died, ‘I can tell you right now the world has never seen someone like Wells Black when it comes to fighting ALS. Pure force of will.’”
Following his diagnosis, Black reconnected with classmate Alex Faulk ’94. The pair stayed in touch through social media thanks to a shared love of triathlons, but the friendship became more serious after their 25th Davidson reunion.
“You know how people leave a reunion and everyone says they’ll keep in touch?,” Faulk said. “I truly meant it.”
They did more than keep in touch. Faulk and Black soon made their relationship official and later became engaged to be married. As often as possible, she would travel from her home in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, to his home in Greenville, South Carolina, to help care for the love of her life.
“Wells wore ALS with grace—not every moment of every day, of course—and he truly lived life through it all,” she said. “He found love, and he found a way to thrive in spite of being in this very vulnerable place. He brought out the very best in me, and I hope I did that for him.”
When he no longer could talk on the phone, Black would text often, telling his friends how much he loved them and how grateful he was for their relationships.
“The legacy this scholarship creates is not only the legacy of Wells but also the legacy of the kind of friendships Davidson creates,” Faulk said. “He was humbled and honored that his friends would do this for him, so it wasn’t as bittersweet as it could have been if he died before learning about what they did.”
Chris Frampton and Chris Reinking set up the scholarship alongside Yvette Pita Frampton ’95, Harrison Roberts ’94 and Steven Shores ’94.
“Because we had so much advance knowledge of Wells’ passing, we immediately started talking as a group about what made sense in terms of honoring and remembering him,” Frampton said. “And, we agreed we had to do it so he knew about it. It has significantly more value that way. It was already going to be meaningful to us, but this way it was meaningful to him, too.”
The scholarship will support students with demonstrated financial need, for whom Davidson would be a challenge to afford without assistance. In doing so, the fund celebrates Wells’ deep connection to Davidson and to those who helped him become the best version of himself.
“We have such gratitude to Wells and what he was able to teach us about how to fight and how to be comfortable with where you are and what’s been given to you,” Reinking said. “We wanted to acknowledge how deeply impactful Davidson was for Wells, both as a community and as an experience, and how much we want that for other people.”