April 21, 2014 — Vol. 30 No. 14
Idaho State University will award an honorary Doctor of Engineering to Jack R. Wheatley, benefactor to Idaho State University and other universities and former northern California real estate developer, at ISU Commencement May 10.
"The Wheatley family's vision and generosity has changed the lives of scores of individual students and helped transform the Idaho State University campus," said Arthur C. Vailas, ISU President. "We are grateful for the many scholarships that Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley have provided, and for the trees, gathering circles and other campus beautification projects that the Wheatley family has made possible that will make ISU a welcoming place for students for generations to come."
Jack Wheatley has roots in Southeast Idaho, growing up in the small agricultural community of Robin, about 30 miles south of Pocatello. His family moved to Pocatello in 1941 so Jack could attend high school. He attended Idaho State University in 1945 for one year. He then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. Upon graduation, Wheatley returned briefly to Idaho before his military assignment in Korea. In 1950 he served in the Corps of Engineers, building roads and bridges.
Wheatley began his career in the construction business in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1956 with his eldest brother, serving first as vice president and then president of the company. The same year he took control of his company, he ran for Palo Alto City Council, becoming mayor in 1970.
Wheatley's public service has been wide-ranging. He has served as president of the Stanford Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, as director and trustee on the Stanford University Hospital Board, and since 1986, as a director of San Jose's Tech Museum. He was instrumental in the creation of the Alumni Center at Brigham Young University.
Jack and his late wife Mary Lois, who passed away Jan. 4, 2013, have donated more than $1 million to ISU and are in the ISU Foundation's highest donor recognition category, the Gem Legacy Diamond Society. The couple raised six children - John, Victoria, Elizabeth, Robert, Charles and Mary Margaret - and have 32 grandchildren, and 31 great-grandchildren.
Wheatley has been a substantial supporter of scholarships for Idaho State University, beginning with awards for students from the Marsh Valley area and branching out to encompass students from any area. More recently, his area of interest at ISU has been the University's landscaping and beautification needs.
Many ISU campus beautification projects are either completed or underway that the Wheatley family has funded since 2010. Completed projects include the creation of four landscaped, illuminated brick and stone campus entrance markers; the creation of a veterans' memorial at Cadet Field; the planting of hundreds of trees throughout campus; and the creation of two seating circles in the Hutchinson Quadrangle.
Upcoming projects include a new planter along Cesar Chavez Avenue in front of the ISU Administration Building, a landscaped berm and other improvements in front of Reed Gymnasium, and more tree plantings and landscaping at several campus locations.
"Jack Wheatley not only understands business, engineering and construction, but his knowledge of landscaping principles, especially as related to the university culture and environment, is spot on," said Laura Vailas, ISU First Lady. "One of his goals is to help us transform our campus into one that is truly inviting, one that complements the great natural beauty that surrounds it. Every time I meet with Jack, I learn something more. He is an educator beyond all else. We are all his beneficiaries."