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The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

WSU Love Story: Alum names scholarship for late wife, son

John Wiess gives back to Pullman students, community after over 70 years of marriage
John+Wiess+meeting+President+Kirk+Schulz.
COURTESY OF AMY COX
John Wiess meeting President Kirk Schulz.

WSU alum John Wiess had 70 years and 28 days with his wife, Geraldine Wiess, before she passed away. Now, one of the multiple scholarships he set up through WSU is dedicated to her.

John said both he and Gerry were in Greek life and met through a coke date, which is when a new member class from a fraternity and sorority meet up to grab a coke.

He was a junior at the time, and by the end of the year, he realized how special Gerry was to him, so he made plans to meet her parents in Spirit Lake, Idaho, he said.

He spent the better part of a week in town and met her sister and brother alongside her parents, and he said they all got along well. Their senior year, Gerry ended up traveling to Great Falls, Montana, to meet John’s parents.

“My mother was really taken with her,” John said. “She thought she was a really special person.”

After graduation in 1950, John went to work in Great Falls with the city-county bureau for almost a full year and ended up marrying Gerry in 1951.

The two spent their honeymoon in San Francisco, and while they were celebrating, he got called into active duty near the area. So, they continued with their honeymoon before going down the coast to Roberts, California, John said.

Gerry worked as a clerk typist at the base personnel office while John reported for duty, he said. Shortly after the new year in 1952, he was sent to Georgia, so the two went across the country, where their first son was born.

After multiple years of traveling to different countries and states on active duty with three children, John retired in 1989, he said. John and Gerry bought a home in Spirit Lake, which is where he lives now.

Since his retirement, he has established scholarships for multiple family members, he said.

One of the scholarships is established for his late sister-in-law, who was one of the first woman pharmacy graduates from Pullman, he said.

“She graduated with every honor the department had to offer and she was the first on my list,” John said. “She went through on a full-ride scholarship, which I understand was quite unusual.”

The second scholarship he established is for his late son Mark, who worked with a newspaper after he graduated college and had ambitions of being a teacher.

He established a scholarship for Gerry in criminal justice as well, which is now going to a student in the College of Education, he said.

“I’ve talked to her on the telephone, and I’m looking forward to meeting her when I get over to Pullman,” John said.

Amy Cox, College of Arts and Sciences development director, said she was connected to John a couple of years ago when he established the scholarships in memory of his wife and son, and she has been fascinated by his life and travels since they met.

Cox said she never had the opportunity to meet John’s wife, but to have someone travel the world together as a family is special.

“He tears up every time he talks about her,” she said. “That is what’s so sweet and genuine about their relationship because a lot of people don’t make it 70 years, and to be able to spend that much time and have that many years of really caring and loving somebody … is a really sweet story.”

Even though the two were always traveling the world, they remained passionate and loyal to the Cougar community the entire time, she said.

Cox said John and Gerry made a connection at WSU that lasted longer than some people live, and now he is back inspiring new generations of Cougs by supporting them through scholarships.

“Since I’ve met him, he’s established five scholarships here at WSU to support students,” she said. “He really went above and beyond to inspire the next generation.”

John said Gerry was special and they were married for just over 70 years before she passed away, and in the 70 years they were married, they never let an argument or disagreement go beyond the day it started.

“If it wasn’t resolved before we went to bed, we agreed that was it for the day, and tomorrow, we’ll see how we feel about it,” he said. “We never said an unkind or hurtful word to each other.”

John said Gerry was into card games and competitive bridge play, and she collected multiple trophies from her competitive play over the years. She was also on a swim team in Pullman and would take their daughter to swim in the lake in Spirit Lake.

Gerry was also extremely close with her family, John said.

“Her brother had seven daughters,” he said. “Gerry was almost like a mother to those girls, they were that close.”

John said Gerry was into psychology and the afterlife, and has sometimes seen signs that she has visited him from the afterlife.

“I’m very much looking forward to being reunited with her and my family when it’s my turn to pass over,” John said.

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About the Contributor
ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Editor-in-chief
Alexandria started working for the Evergreen in October 2020 as a news reporter and eventually hopped around to the roots/life, opinion and culture sections. She was a copy editor for three semesters beginning in January 2021 and was the Life editor in fall 2022. She was the copy chief for the summer and fall 2023 semesters, and is currently the editor-in-chief for the spring 2024 semester. She is from Tri-Cities, WA, and is always writing in her free time.

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  • Amy CoxFeb 1, 2024 at 8:51 am

    John is the best! Great Coug, generous philanthropist, and wonderful human. Thank you John for all you do for WSU and our students.

  • Julie McAleerFeb 1, 2024 at 8:32 am

    That was a great story and brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for writing stories like that.