ASU Foundation to honor Rich Gehlbach, Class of 1959

(11-04-2016)

A long-time and enthusiastic supporter of his alma mater, Rich Gehlbach, Adams State Class of 1959, embodies the "pay it forward" philosophy. He will be honored with the ASU Foundation's Willis Fassett Jr. individual award at the Annual Donor and Student Recognition Dinner, November 10.

Gelbach belongs to the Adam State University Legacy Society, having included his alma mater in his estate plans. He and his wife, De, also established the ASU Alumni and Foundation Office Scholarship, which is open to full-time students who are graduates of San Luis Valley high schools with a minimum GPA of 2.5. They have also made donations to the Friends of Music and the Grizzly Club, as well as unrestricted gifts.

"I am so proud of what the college has become, its growth and progress," he said. "It is such a privilege to support my college. I feel compelled to help all I can. And I hope others of my generation feel the same, before it's too late."

Gelbach said he first began donating small amounts to Adams State because "I wanted to see my name in the A-Stater, along with classmates. As those amounts grew, Lori Laske suggested that we could sponsor a scholarship. 'Oh, no,' I thought. Those are for other people.'" But he soon came to see the advantage of endowing a scholarship.

"I shudder to think of what my life would have been without my Adams State education," Gehlbach said. His father died when he was ten, leaving his widowed mother to raise four children. He grew up in Denver and attended Manual High School. "I don't remember college being mentioned around my house growing up. It seemed out of the realm of possibility," he recalled. "Near the end of the summer of '55, a friend at my church said, 'Why don't you come to college with me?'" And he did, despite never having heard of Adams State or Alamosa. "After seeing the town, I would have returned home immediately. That changed after one week. After a short time it seemed everyone knew everyone!"

Gehlbach played football that fall and received a tuition waiver for singing in the choir. "In the year that followed, I wouldn't have left for anything."

After earning a B.A. in business education, he taught for a year on the Navajo reservation in Kirtland, New Mex. A death in the family cut that career short, and he later entered the insurance field, in which he worked for 45 years. The Gehlbachs now live in Olathe, Kan.

By Julie Waechter