On a bustling overpass in San Antonio, Texas, a few hundred people, including Josh and Holly Siler, belt out the refrain “Fight, Fight, Fight for Washington State.” The group of loyal Cougar football fans sings the WSU fight song as they all march toward the Alamodome, the site of WSU’s Alamo Bowl game in December 2018.
“That was such a special, memorable experience,” Holly said. “Once the pregame party shut down, the chanting and singing started. It was so, so much fun.”
The Silers, who met as students at WSU in 2000, celebrated the Cougs victory and their wedding anniversary in the historic Texas city.
“That whole trip will stick with us for a long time,” Josh said. “It was a great display and reminder of Cougar camaraderie.”
The passion the couple has for WSU goes well beyond traveling thousands of miles to watch WSU football. The 2002 WSU graduates met on the Pullman campus after they were set up by friends. They were engaged before graduation.
“WSU is just sort of who I am, and it aligns with my core values,” Josh said.
Josh, who grew up on a farm in St. John, Wash., still helps his dad with harvest each summer. Holly, a native of Wilbur, Wash., also grew up on her family’s farm. She participated in special events that involved her interest in fashion and raising food and supplies for people in need in Eastern Washington. This region is where they’re from, and the place they love most.
Their life-changing experiences at WSU helped lead Josh and Holly to career success and solidified their desire to give back to the institution they love.
Now approaching their 40s, the couple has made it a priority to help current and future WSU students.
“We were exploring ways that we could have an impact right away,” said Holly, who was an Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles major.
Helping students graduate
One way the Silers accomplished this goal was by establishing a fund to help students who may have unforeseen expenses, like family emergencies, that could keep them from crossing the finish line and earning their degrees.
“Removing relatively small hurdles, that are huge roadblocks to a student, is important to us,” Holly said.
In addition to helping those students facing immediate need, the couple has also included a bequest to WSU in their estate plans.
“It’s really important to both of us to think about giving opportunities to those who may not otherwise have had them,” said Holly, chief project officer with the non-profit hunger-fighting group Second Harvest. “We don’t plan to have children ourselves, but we still want to have an impact on future generations. Giving to WSU is a great way to do that.”
While estate planning may still be a few years off for many young couples, the Silers are also proof of how valuable the donation of one’s time can be. Both Holly and Josh serve on the CAHNRS Student Experience Advisory Council (SEAC).
“We’re at a stage in our careers where we’re hiring recent graduates,” Holly said. “We can contribute by seeing gaps between what employers need and what students may be learning in class. We can tell WSU about those gaps and help students have a leg up as they start their careers.”
Josh, who earned a degree in Agribusiness, said he makes SEAC a priority on his calendar working as a senior vice president at Northwest Farm Credit Services. And he feels rewarded helping current students through SEAC and other mentoring in WSU classes.
“It’s eye-opening how so little of my time can have such a big impact,” Josh said. “And it’s really brought back my commitment to WSU. There are so many ways to give back to this university and affect people’s lives.”