Wasatch High School’s football stadium, with its black and gold seats, elevated press boxes and entrance tunnel, is impressive — but not as impressive as the two men it is named for. Dan Wright and Ron Tree were two of the greatest teachers and coaches who have ever served and mentored the students and athletes of Wasatch County.
A building usually showcases peoples’ names either because they’ve accomplished something memorable or they’ve contributed substantial amounts of money to its creation or renovation. In this case, the dark-gray capital letters that spell out the Wasps’ stadium name aren’t over-bearing or attention-drawing, symbolic of the kind of people these men were. Wright and Tree were two modest men who enjoyed doing what they did best — love and encourage students.
Dan Wright graduated from Wasatch High School in 1949. He returned to WHS as a teacher and coach and was influential in the lives of his students for 22 years. Throughout those years, he coached football, track, basketball, wrestling and baseball. He taught physical education and math and was also a counselor.
Over the years, Wright inspired many young athletes to became teachers or coaches. One such athlete was Ron Tree. Tree graduated from WHS in 1969 as the student-body president. He played football at Brigham Young University for four years, including in 1972 — LaVell Edwards’ first season as head coach.
LaVell Edwards was one of the most successful college football coaches of all time. He guided BYU to a national championship in 1984 and in 2000, the year he retired, BYU’s stadium was renamed in his honor. Edwards commented on one occasion that the hardest working player he had coached was Ron Tree. After graduation, he spent two different stints at WHS in which he either coached or assisted with wrestling, football and track. He also taught physical education, health, career education and driver’s education.
Notably, years ago, Tree tried to get the stadium named after Coach Wright. The community was understandably heartbroken when Tree unexpectedly passed away in May 2005. Wright had the honor of attending the stadium’s renaming ceremony, formerly known as Booster Stadium, in the fall of the same year.
The bleachers and field were rebuilt in 2012, (one year after the current high school opened) and Wright passed away in 2014, leaving behind many admirers in the community.
Neil Carlile, WHS class of ’71, played football, basketball and ran track for Coach Wright. He wrote this condolence after Wright’s passing: “A person serves in many capacities and roles in one’s life, but the roles of ‘Teacher’ and ‘Coach’ are among the most profound titles one could have. Coach Wright exemplified both of these titles and so many more. He leaves a service and mentor legacy in the Heber Valley community and at Wasatch High School that cannot be measured.”
“He was always positive, a builder of people, a man of strong and consistent standards, and among the finest of examples. His words often come back to me: ‘do your best,’ the classic ‘don’t get your [daubers] down boys,’ and so many other words of encouragement in the wins and losses on the sports field and in life.”
Likewise, there were two mottos that Tree lived by and tried to instill in his students: “Stand up for what’s right, even if you’re standing alone,” and, “There are things in life I can’t control, but my attitude and actions are two that I can.”
These two men were known for their kindness and keeping things in perspective. They both knew people were more important than wins and losses, and that the game of life is won by how we treat others. In that way and so many others, these men were champions.
As the Heber Valley continues to grow and memories fade away, fewer and fewer people will know how Dan Wright and Ron Tree influenced life in the Heber Valley. They epitomized why people love to live here. Hopefully their names proudly displayed on the front of our football stadium will help us remember what’s most important in both life and in our community.