Floyd and Cordelia Higel will receive the ASU Willis Fassett Jr. Award


Floyd, Cordelia, Darrell Higel, Rebecca Hill and Deirdre Steinsberger

Floyd and Cordelia Higel, pictured with their children, Darrell, Rebecca Hill (standing), and Deirdre Steinsberger

Over the last ten years, Floyd (Dale) '55 and Cordelia (Sue) Higel have generously donated to Adams State University. Their contributions have benefited the Kay Watkins Scholarship, the Chemistry Gift Fund, and the Alumni Scholarship Endowment. Their unrestricted gifts benefit the institution in a variety of ways.

The Higels will receive the Willis Fassett Jr. Award at the Annual Donor and Student Recognition Dinner on October 29, in the Adams State Student Union Building banquet rooms.

"I have a high regard for Adams State," Floyd said. "What Adams State gave me I try, in some measure, to give back to the institution in hopes other people will benefit as I did.

The Willis Fassett Jr. Award is given by the Adams State University Foundation to individuals who have been strong supporters of the university. The award is named for the late Willis Fassett Jr., who was a long-time president of the Foundation Board of Directors. The award includes the Buffalo Chant bronze, created specifically for the Foundation by the late William Moyers '39, Adams State alumnus and famous Cowboy Artist.

Inner strength

Due to health issues, the Higels cannot attend the awards dinner. Their daughter, Rebecca Hill, will accept the award on their behalf. "I am in awe of how generous my parents are," Hill said. "The valley means so much to my dad. He wants to see good things happen there." She remembers visiting Alamosa for the first time and understanding the challenges her father faced financially, his mother was a single parent. "I didn't know how difficult it was for my dad."

Hill, a research statistician, has seen data on children raised with the same disadvantages of her father and respects how he beat the odds. "He succeeded because of his inner strength and tenacity, and courage." Her mom understands how much the valley means to him. "They make donation decisions together."

Growing up in Alamosa, Floyd planned to attend the "hometown" college. After his freshman year, his family moved to California, where he continued his education at a junior college. He returned to Adams State for his final two years, graduating with a degree in chemistry. "I always knew I wanted to be a chemist."

Honest and Dependable

At that time, Floyd said he could work during the summer and pay his tuition for the academic year. "Back then, college was not nearly as expensive."

A fellow student and friend, Dr. Kay Watkins, emeritus professor of chemistry, admires Floyd's honesty and integrity. Watkins said Floyd excelled academically and always worked, even in high school, to assist his family financially. "Dale (Floyd) is a really good friend. He has a photographic memory and is a hard-worker."

While attending Adams State, Floyd appreciated all his professors, especially Tom Thompson, chemistry; Dean Lyman, English; and Dr. James Craft, emeritus professor of biology. "The work the professors gave me made me a better person. They were knowledgeable about their subjects and I learned a lot from them both personally and academically. I would stack my education at Adams State against any university."

After college, Floyd served in the Army. While he was stationed in Germany, a soldier's cousin asked about sharing her address with any enlisted man who might be interested in corresponding. Although Floyd described himself as "shy" he started writing Cordelia. When he was released from duty, Floyd met Cordelia in person and six months later they were married. He attended law school at Kansas State University, and according to Watkins, scored very high on all his tests in law school.

Love of profession

Floyd worked for the US Patent & Trademark department, retiring after 43 years. He was a patent examiner in organic chemistry, with a specialty in azo dyes in fabrics, clothing, and carpeting. "I loved that job. It suited my talents." As a child, Hill remembers questioning her father about his work. "He approved the color orange for the original Volkswagen Beetle."

In 1984, Floyd was the first, and only, patent examiner invited by the Swiss and German Patent Lawyer Association to Europe to tour manufacturing facilities. "I had a reputation as an extremely strict man to get a patent from." His two-week visit included tours of plants in Switzerland, Germany, and France.

While employed with the government, Floyd received the US Department of Commerce Bronze Medal for Superior Federal Service in 1978 and the Silver Medal for Meritorious Federal Service 1987.

His devotion to his job reflects his dedication to his family and his alma mater. Tammy Lopez, executive director of the ASU Foundation nominated the Higels for the Willis Fassett Jr. Award. "I was surprised to learn we had been awarded the Willis Fassett Jr. Award," Floyd said. "I am still in awe."

Generosity benefits San Luis Valley

Along with supporting Adams State, the Higels donate generously to other local nonprofits including the SLV Habitat for Humanity and the SLV History Museum. "The history of the San Luis Valley is very important," Floyd said. Dorothy Brandt, SLV History Museum director, said the Higels are "wonderful people" who "saved" the museum many times.

She praises the couple for helping preserve the history of the San Luis Valley for future generations. "Dale (Floyd) and Sue (Cordelia) are average people doing great things. They have made a world of difference to the museum. I am very proud of them." Floyd's bronze and silver award certificates hang in the museum.

Floyd expresses his continuing "love" of the San Luis Valley. "I wish I could live there now." He shows his pride in his roots by financially contributing to causes he feels strongly about. "I have been blessed all my life. I want to give back and provide others in this life with a chance."

The Higels live in Frankford, DE. They have three children (Hill, Darrell Higel and Deirdre Steinsberger), six grandchildren and four great grandchildren. His grandson, Michael Hill '01 '13 and his wife, Mena '02, Hill, are Adams State alumni.