PROVO, Utah – The Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce announced today that Alan and Karen Ashton are the recipients of this year’s prestigious Pillar of the Valley award. This is the Chamber’s highest honor and recognizes those who have contributed in extraordinary ways to the business, civic, social, educational, or cultural climate of Utah Valley.
“There are few in Utah Valley who haven’t been influenced in some way by the Ashtons,” said Rona Rahlf, chairwoman of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce. “They have pioneered technology businesses, have added to the culture and quality of life in our community, and have quietly funded health, education, and arts projects, not only in Utah Valley but around the world. Above all, they have shown us the value of hard work, generous hearts, and a spirit of community.”
After 14 years as a professor of computer science at Brigham Young University, Alan Ashton was named “Outstanding Professor of the Year” by the graduating computer science class of 1986. During that time, Ashton teamed up with graduate-student Bruce Bastian to create the word-processing sensation, WordPerfect. In 1987, Ashton was named president and CEO of WordPerfect Corporation, helping the company grow to more than $700 million in annual sales, employing more than 5,000 employees. In 1994 WordPerfect was sold to Novell and, after two years on Novell’s board of directors, Ashton stepped down in order to spend more time with his family and help the community in other ways.
“Who could have ever guessed the community impact of WordPerfect Corporation when Alan and Bruce began developing their word processor in the basement of the Orem City offices back in 1979,” muses Steve Densley, president of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce. “That company was a huge boon to the Utah County economy for many years and continues its effects today in the dozens of spin-off companies that emerged.”
As an expression of gratitude to the community, Alan and Karen developed Thanksgiving Point—a place of beauty, recreation, and learning. With its 55-acre world-class garden, dinosaur museum, children’s farm, cooking and gardening classes, and championship-caliber golf course designed by Johnny Miller, the Utah County destination welcomes over 1.5 million people each year.
Driven by Karen’s love of children, the Ashtons were also instrumental in raising funds to help build a children’s wing at the Orem Public Library. These fund-raising efforts led to the creation of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in 1990, now the second-largest storytelling festival in the nation, drawing thousands of visitors from around the world.
Alan and Karen have served on various university and community boards and are tireless in their service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including three years of missionary service in Canada where Alan presided over the Canada Toronto West Mission.
“The Ashtons have received numerous professional, community, and service awards for their far-reaching contributions and achievements, but those don’t begin to scratch the surface of what they have contributed,” said Rahlf. “Only those who work for them know the breadth of their philanthropy.”
Alan and Karen are parents to 11 children, with 51 grandchildren. Alan says, "If I look back on my life and some of the temporal successes I've enjoyed, they pale in comparison to what has happened with my family—with my children and grandchildren.”
The Pillar of the Valley award will be presented to the Ashtons at a gala celebration Friday, March 23, 2012 at Thanksgiving Point’s Show Barn. Guest mingling begins at 6:30 p.m. with dinner served promptly at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event may be purchased by calling the Chamber office at 801-851-2555 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce
The Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce stimulates valley-wide business establishment, growth, and development by facilitating business-to-business and business-to-community relationships. Through opportunities focused on networking, community involvement, information and education exchange, and government relations, the Chamber reaches out in support of Utah Valley business.
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Director of Public Relations and Marketing
Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce
Office: (801) 851-2560