WSU Love Story: Alumus names scholarships for late wife, son

John Weiss shaking hands with Kirk Schulz.
John Wiess meeting President Kirk Schulz.

WSU alumus 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 graduating in 1950 with a degree in police science, 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 son Mark was born.

After many years working for the federal government as a law enforcement specialist, raising three children, and traveling to different countries and states, John retired in 1989 and he and Gerry moved to Spirit Lake.

Since then, John has established multiple scholarships named for family members, including the Tracy R. McClintock Scholarship, in honor of his daughter, and the John Wiess Scholarship in Criminal Justice. Both are housed under the College of Arts & Sciences.

Amy Cox, College of Arts and Sciences development director, connected with John a couple of years ago when he established a scholarship in memory of his daughter and has been fascinated by John and Gerry’s life and travels ever since.

“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. Cox observed that 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 John, he’s established five scholarships here at WSU to support students,” she said. “He really went above and beyond to inspire the next generation.”

One scholarship honors his late son Mark, who worked with a newspaper after he graduated college and had ambitions of being a teacher. Another is named for his late sister-in-law, Lorraine Tschetter, who was one of the first woman pharmacy graduates from Pullman and “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.”

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 and 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.

By Alexandria Osborne, The Daily Evergreen