PROVO — Alan and Karen Ashton are this year's beneficiaries of the Pillar of the Valley award, the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce announced in a statement.

The award is given to those who have contributed in significant ways to the business, civic, social, educational or cultural climate of Utah Valley, according to the Chamber.

"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."

The Ashtons will be given the award on March 23, at Thanksgiving Point's Show Barn.

Alan Ashton was named BYU Outstanding Professor of the Year by the graduating class of the computer science program in 1986, after 14 years of teaching computer science. Ashton worked with graduate student Bruce Bastian to form WordPerfect. Alan was named CEO and president of the company, helping it generate more than $700 million in annual sales, with more than 5,000 employees.

In 1994, Novell purchased WordPerfect. Alan served on Novell's board of directors for two years before stepping down to spend more time with his family.

"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," said Steve Densley, Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce president.

The Ashtons formed Thanksgiving Point, a 55-acre garden, dinosaur museum, golf course and children's farm. Thanksgiving point attracts over 1.5 million people annually.

The couple helped raise funds to build a wing for children at the Orem Public Library, according to the statement by the chamber. This led to the formation of the Timpanogas Storytelling Festival in 1990, which has become the second largest storytelling festival in the U.S.