Virginia and Al Wehe will receive the ASU Willis Fassett Jr. Individual Award


Article by Anne Branson

alan wehe in black tie tux and virginia wehe on his left in a dark grey and black evening outfit dark background behind them they hold hands in front

The Adams State University Foundation has selected Virginia and Elwyn "Al" Wehe '73 for the 2017 Willis Fassett Jr. Individual Award. Their son, David Wehe, will accept the award at the Annual Donor and Student Recognition Dinner on November 7. Al passed away on April 17, 2017.

The Wehes and their children think of Adams State as part of their "home," since it has played such a huge part in their lives. Virginia said: "Adams encouraged us to reach for our dream, do the best we can, help others, respect and appreciate one another. The university offered us a great community of people to raise our family in, as Alamosa is ASU-centered and full of nice, generous, educated people."

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

David read the letter about the Willis Fassett Jr. Award, the morning of Al's memorial service on May 27. Virginia was speechless and had tears in her eyes, "I believe Al had tears as well and was smiling down from heaven and encouraging everyone to put on green and white and celebrate education."

When Virginia was young, she remembered her parents and their friends discussing the school Billy Adams was going to start. Her uncle was one of the first students of Adams State. "I took piano lessons at Adams State and during WWII lived at Casa Bonita during high school."

She met Al while attending Colorado State University. They eventually moved back to Blanca, and purchased the Blanca Telephone Company from her parents. Virginia taught in the public school and helped Al run the business. Al worked several jobs to make ends meet including irrigating fields, helping his father in Kansas, driving combines and farming their land south of Fort Garland.

"We both grew up learning how tough life can be running our own business, and trying to feed a family," Virginia added. "As our family grew, the kids learned the value of hard work by helping their parents. Every month, bills were made out and the family had a 'lick and stick' party, putting the bills in the envelopes, pasting on the stamps and closing the envelope."

The couple moved to Alamosa in the 70s and lived a block from Adams State. All their children participated in Adams State activities, took classes and were in the summer productions. Their daughter Anne Branson completed her senior year of high school at Adams State. Seven family members have obtained bachelor's or graduate degrees from the university. Their son, Alan, taught computer science after receiving his degree. He later entered the family business, eventually taking over when Al and Virginia retired. The company has grown to include internet, cell phone and television, and now employs a fourth generation, Josh Wehe.

"Al was a gifted journalist that never got to fulfill his dream due to family commitments," Virginia said. After turning 40 he enrolled and completed his degree at Adams State, reigniting his yearning for education. He then attended the Iliff Seminary at University of Denver and the George Washington School of Law in San Diego.

"Al and I knew the value of education and would discuss our hopes and dreams for our children and the community as we took our nightly walk through the Adams State campus." They encouraged their children who shared the same desire for knowledge and have earned degrees in higher education. Al and Virginia made sure all their grandchildren had the opportunity to go to college as well, and have encouraged local children both emotionally and financially.

"Now that Adams State offers online classes, my family is excited to see where the future is going," Virginia said. "With more financial support, ASU can help students achieve their dreams from virtually anywhere in the world."

Virginia and Al's dedication to Adams State was passed along to David and his family, who are very involved in the Grizzly Club and athletics. "All of my family encourages alumni and corporations to contribute to the academic and athletic endeavors of ASU. The tiny school I heard about at the dinner table is now a reality, and has grown to become a university to be reckoned with."

Al and Virginia have always supported institutions, people and their community when they saw a need and when they could. "Al took his duties as a Rotarian seriously, and tirelessly contributed time and funds," Virginia added. The Wehes have donated to La Puente, Tu Casa, the Alamosa Senior Center, Alamosa Community Hospital, United Methodist Church in Alamosa, other churches, the Boys and Girls Club of Alamosa and Casa de las Campanas in San Diego.

"The greatest legacy that Al and Virginia Wehe have is their unselfishness and dedication to enriching other's lives," said Branson. "They have led exemplary lives as role models by respecting others, their way of life and offering help whenever and wherever they could."

Virginia currently lives in California and has four children: Alan '75 (Sandra '83 '89); David (Donna '90 '13); Helen (Jim) Johnson; and Anne Branson and several grandchildren.