Pittsburg State mourns death of longtime supporter, alumnus

  Tuesday, March 20, 2018 2:00 AM
  News, Alumni

Pittsburg, KS

Pittsburg State mourns death of longtime supporter, alumnus

Pittsburg State University is mourning the death of Alan Whetzel, a longtime supporter and alumnus who died March 18, 2018. He was 81.

Whetzel was an active supporter of his alma mater and, together with his wife Roberta, instrumental in helping the university improve the lives of its students and community.

PSU President Steve Scott said the Whetzel’s generosity was borne out of a genuine desire to help students.

“Alan was selfless, genuine and dedicated to his family,” said Scott. “He and Roberta were partners in every sense of the word. Their love for this university was exceeded only by their love for one another. Together, they moved our campus forward and made a positive difference in the lives of countless student-athletes. Our university is grieving along with Roberta and her family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time.”

The Whetzel’s provided the lead gift for the Garfield Weede Renovation Project which included John Lance Arena, supported the construction of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, and provided scholarship support for student-athletes. 

After updates to John Lance Arena, the facility was renamed John Lance Arena/Whetzel Court in honor of their family’s support.

“Alan and Roberta had a clear vision for what the arena could be,” said Jim Johnson, director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “It’s fair to say that without Alan and Roberta our student-athletes, and our community, wouldn’t enjoy the facilities we have today.”

Alan Whetzel

Alan and Roberta’s love for Pittsburg State and its athletic programs dated back to 1958 when they first met on a PSU basketball trip.

“Alan was playing for John Lance at the time and Roberta was a cheerleader,” said Johnson. “They often spoke about that meeting and what a difference Coach Lance made in their lives. It was always a treat for me, our players and our coaches to see them courtside at our games. Our hearts go out to Roberta and the family.”

Alan became a two-time letterman for the Gorillas while playing for John Lance, and later coached alongside the PSU hall-of-fame coach. Roberta was a cheerleader, active on campus, and an ardent supporter of athletics.

Alan spoke of the importance of his time as a student-athlete in 2012 during an interview following the announcement of his and Roberta’s lead gift to the Garfield Weede Renovation Project.

“I learned the importance of teamwork, leadership and preparation,” said Whetzel. “For Roberta and me, our lives really began at Pittsburg State University. We want to help students have the same type of wonderful experiences we had and have the tools they need to be successful.” 

Alan earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from PSU in 1960. Roberta earned her Bachelor of Science degree in physical education in 1959. They both taught and coached before founding digital office supplier, Business Systems Inc. in 1970.

Alan served on the PSU Foundation Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2010. Alan and Roberta, in 2013, received the Ralf J. Thomas Distinguished Service Award from the university and, in 2014, were inducted into the PSU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Services are being coordinated by Downing & Lahey West Mortuary in Wichita, Kansas.

Visitation with family will take place from 5 to 7 p.m., on Thursday, March 22 at Downing & Lahey West in Wichita, Kansas. A Memorial Service will be held at 11 a.m., on Friday, March 23 at Eberly Farm in Wichita.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Silverback Fund of Pittsburg State University at www.pittstate.edu/silverback or to the CurePSP organization at www.psp.org.