Former East Valley School District Superintendent Chuck Stocker has racked up hundreds of hours of volunteer time over the decades. Now 73, he regularly leaves his Newman Lake home bound for a variety of meetings and gatherings.
In recognition of his longtime work in the community, Stocker has been named the 2011 Harry E. Nelson Citizen of the Year by the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce. He will receive his award at the organization’s annual gala in January.
“I was totally surprised,” Stocker said of hearing about the honor. “I really have no idea who nominated me or how that came about.”
Stocker, who won the Chamber’s volunteer of the year award several years ago, said he views the award as recognition of his community service. “This is really a culminating award,” he said.
Stocker is chairman of the Inland Northwest Blood Center board of directors, serves on the Valley Hospital advisory board, is a member of the Valley HUB board and the Chamber’s education and government affairs committees. He also is heavily involved in his church, Redeemer Lutheran, and has been involved with Spokane Valley Partners and the Sunrise Rotary Club for years.
In 2010 he and wife Lu led a group of volunteers to Bogota to teach women how to quilt. “I’ve always been pretty active,” he said. “I’m just a great believer in we all have to give something back to our community and make it better.”
It’s a philosophy that can be traced back to his youth in Snohomish, Wash., where his dairy farmer father was a regular volunteer in community activities. After Stocker graduated from Washington State University and spent two years in the Army, it was a philosophy that was also encouraged by the Central Valley School District, where he started work as a teacher. He earned a master’s degree in education from WSU and received his principal credentials, but never used them. He was mentored by his principal at Central Valley High School, Bill Ames Sr., who recommended him for an administration job as the curriculum director. “One day he was my boss and the next day I was his,” Stocker said.
His 24-year career at Central Valley included 13 as assistant superintendent for administration. He moved on to be superintendent of the Freeman School District for four years before taking the top job at East Valley. He was there for seven years before retiring in 1998. He retired again in 2009 after several years of working part-time in community relations for Inland Power and Light.
There are several highlights that Stocker likes to look back on. He was involved in the early promotion of the WSU medical center. His Rotary Club started a scholarship program. He was on the Valley Hospital board when St. Luke’s Rehabilitation was launched. East Valley’s Continuous Curriculum School was begun under his leadership.
“I don’t know if I can say I have necessarily a favorite,” he said. “There’s always been something where I felt we have helped make a difference. There are just niches where I can point that good things happened.”
But Stocker doesn’t want to be seen as a one-man band. He points to the support of his wife and four grown children along with the help of others over the years. “You don’t do these kinds of things by yourself,” he said. “When the opportunity is right and the correct people are involved, usually the right things happen.”
Stocker apparently has no plans to retire from his community work, but he has learned that it is OK to say “no” sometimes. Stocker said he tries to focus his volunteer efforts on kids, health care and his church. “You just can’t do everything,” he said.