Spier is Willis Fassett, Jr. Award recipient


Article by Linda Relyea

Her life may not have panned out as Patsy Spier once imagined, but her persistence and ability to move forward despite tragedy placed her in a position to help others and reach out to strangers. Her generosity has extended to Adams State students and the institution itself. In honor of her many commitments to the campus community; Adams State College Foundation will award Spier with the Willis Fassett, Jr. Award on November 3 during the Donor Recognition Banquet.

When asked words of advice to current students, Spier replies, "graduate," and become involved in issues that are important to you. "What you do affects everyone around you." Spier, who received her master's in education from Adams State in 91, lives by these words. For 20 years she and her husband, Rick, '88 '91 shared their passion for adventure and experiencing different cultures, they taught for 12 years in Peru, Sudan, Brazil, and Indonesia. In his memory, she continues to educate those in need, outside the traditional classroom.

In 2002, during an outing in the Papuan Province of Indonesia, the Spiers and their school's entire teaching staff were ambushed on a mountain road. Rick was one of three killed. Three years later, Spier established a scholarship in Rick's memory. "He valued education for its power to help individuals achieve their dreams." The scholarship was created to provide others the opportunity of a higher education.

Paying it forward

For years Spier worked tirelessly to bring Rick's killers to justice. Her efforts were recognized by the FBI when they awarded her with the 'Strength of the Human Spirit Award,' in a ceremony at FBI Headquarters. The FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III, presented Spier with the award. "The FBI was there for me," she said. She praised the organization and their many agents. "I am the FBI's most enthusiastic fan."

Spier accepted a position as a victim outreach specialist in the Justice Department's Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism. She assists American victims of terrorist attacks to understand their rights when their case is prosecuted in a foreign judicial system.

She said the work fulfills a part of her, "because of what was done for me." The team of individuals that she works with do what they can to let victims know they are not alone. "The US government is doing all it can to pursue justice for victims." She appreciates those that she works with and learns something every day from working with them. "Many of them have been doing this work a long time and I am blessed to work with such a talented and dedicated group of individuals."

Her experience as a classroom teacher taught Spier perseverance and patience, something she now finds useful in her new career. "It is always a goal of a new office to listen and pay attention."

Keeping goals in mind

Her most valuable lesson has been to stay true to your goal, to what you want to achieve. "Do not put a time limit as to when you will reach your goal. Always be willing to try one more thing to achieve that goal. If you can do that, then you will know that you did all you could and won't look back with regret." She exhausted everything she could think of to reach her goal of bringing her husband's killers to justice. Her final attempt was to make an appeal directly to the Papuan people, who by all accounts were harboring the lead shooter of the terrorist attack. Even before she landed to address the people, the man responsible turned himself in. "Your last effort might bring you to your goal, you never know."

Spier finds inspiration when others take the extra step to become involved. She admires the quality in people that prompts them to help others with their journey, not by taking on the quest, but by aiding in their search. "That is what was done for me."

Being an educator was Spier, and Rick's, first passion. She was K-8 certified and had the pleasure of teaching all those grades, her favorite was first grade. "I loved teaching them to read and I loved it when the light bulb went on, they gave that 'I got it' look."

Devotion to Rick

Spier believes Rick would be very proud to have provided an opportunity for young people to receive a higher education. "I hope students take advantage and apply." Although priority is given to students from Dove Creek, Cortez, Sheridan High School in Denver and Wray High School, anyone who desires a higher education can take advantage and apply.

Along with the scholarship in Rick's name, Spier also honored his memory by donating to Adams State Foundation Walls in Halls. A plaque with a photo of Rick hangs in the Student Union Building across from the busy One Stop Student Services. The caption includes, "Rick was known for his patience, sense of humor, and enthusiasm for teaching."

Spier is honored to receive the Adams State Willis Fassett, Jr. Award. She will attend the banquet with her 11-year-old nephew, Ryan. "He is such a joy in my life." While she was recovering from the gunshot wounds received during the attack that took Rick's life, she stayed with her brother and his family in Denver, who provided her with much needed support. At the time, Ryan, then three, would come to her room in the morning to wake her up. "He helped me smile and laugh again."