Born in Manila in the Philippines, Jose S. Velasquez immigrated to the US at age 17, just in time to pick up a high school diploma in Clovis, New Mexico. He was immediately drafted into the Vietnam War. He served the US as an Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division and Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LLRP), returning to civilian life after receiving two Purple Hearts.
Jose attended City College of San Francisco, where he and his girlfriend, Maria, were student activists, fighting for civil rights. He married Maria, the love of his life for 45 years. Although PTSD was a barrier to his academic success, he found both joy and success in the printing business until he retired. At age 67, he was diagnosed with PTSD-related early onset dementia, which quickly led to physiological complications. He shared his last breath with the world on October 19, 2018.
Jose spoke about his experiences as an Filipino soldier in the US Army delicately. He shared inspirational stories with Western's Filipino American Student Association, keynoting one of their first heritage events; served as a panelist for Wing Luke Museum's Looking Like the Enemy panel; and he's featured in the book A Different Story: Stories of Asian Pacific American Veterans.
His constant energy and athleticism fueled participation in a variety of activities. He coached multiple generations of both boys and girls soccer teams, ran multiple marathons, biked the Seattle to Portland ride four times, and loved to golf and bowl. He wrote poetry for PTSD healing and read incessantly. He was dedicated to his church and extended family.
A committed lifelong learner, he soaked in new information, thought deeply, and led with genuine curiosity, often sparking critical debate. He then masterfully defused debates with comforting humor and foundational connections. His love of Filipino history, teaching and learning, action, and critical conversation, ground this scholarship in student voice, activism, and academic pursuits.
This scholarship will support students aspiring for higher education at WWU with a preference for Filipino students transferring from a community college and fighting for educational equity like Jose always did, awarded through the Whatcom Community Foundation. Thank you.