Lael Morgan

Lael Morgan

1936 -

Achievement in Education/Journalism

A former drama major at Emerson College in Boston, Lael swapped her stage dreams for a degree from Boston University in public relations and communications. Not content with such a mundane degree, she went on to study detective work at the Nick Harris Detective School in Los Angeles and still holds a private detective’s license with the State of California. Lael’s early career included a stint as reporter for the Malden Press in Massachusetts before she moved to Alaska in 1959. After moving into the far north, Lael worked as secretary for the founding vice president of Alaska Methodist University, became an account executive for Alaska Advertising Agency and then advertising and public relations manager for Caribou Department Stores in Anchorage. During this period, Lael also served on the board of the Anchorage YMCA, worked on CARE and United Way campaigns, helped write the Fur Rendezvous magazine, served as a judge for the Anchorage Little Theater group, and volunteered for Anchorage’s annual heart clinic for Native children. Lael also has worked for the Juneau Empire, the Fairbanks Daily News Miner and Jessen’s Weekly, while freelancing for the Tundra Times and other publications around the state. In 1968, Lael began a five-year career at the Los Angeles Times, then returned to Alaska for assignments with the Tundra Times, National Geographic, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Alaska Northwest Publishing. In 1988, Lael joined the Department of Journalism and Broadcasting, University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she taught writing, photography, and multimedia for thirteen years.

Over her career of more than five decades, Lael has spent time in Alaska’s Native villages. Working for Alaska Magazine during one three-year period, her assignment was to visit every Native village qualifying under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Of those 220 villages, she visited all but 13. To get her stories, she went on Eskimo hunting trips to the Siberian shore, served four times on Eskimo whaling crews on the moving ice of the Chuckchi Sea and Arctic Ocean, braved exposure to grizzlies and polar bears, bitter cold, tuberculosis, and all the other extremes that Alaska Natives faced. When Lael first came to Alaska, virtually no newspaper in the state would carry news of its indigenous people She became focused on their problems and their future. Although she never thought she would see an equitable settlement in her lifetime, she began covering the Alaska Native Land Claims movement, eventually leaving a well paying job at the Los Angeles Times to work at minimum wage and less for the Eskimo/Indian/Aleut newspaper in Fairbanks. Her voice, mingled with those of other reporters who dared to risk their necks and their livelihoods by reporting what was initially a very unpopular cause, did, indeed, make a difference.

In 1971, Lael won the Best Photo Feature of the Year Award from the Los Angeles Times. The following year she won awards from Rockefeller and Alicia Patterson Foundation to fund study of Alaska Natives during a year of transition. She was winner of the Dean’s Award, College of Communication, Boston University in 1987, and a Faculty Merit Award at University of Alaska three years later. Lael has sixteen published non-fiction books, the majority of which are Alaska based. In addition, she is a partner in and acquisitions editor for Epicenter Press, Alaska’s foremost publishing company, which she founded with G. Kent Sturgis in 1988. In the 1980s, Lael was appointed to the Fish and Game Board – the first woman to ever serve on the Alaska Fish and Game Board and the first woman ever fired. Her book, “Good Time Girls of the Alaskan Yukon Gold Rush” won her the title of Historian of the Year for Alaska in 1998. “Art and Eskimo Power: The Life and Times of Alaskan Howard Rock,” a book she wrote in 1988, was recently included in a listing of the state’s best nonfiction books, and was republished by University of Alaska Press in 2010. Chicago Review Press has slated her history titled “Wanton West: Madams, Money, Murder”, and the “Wild Women of Montana’s Frontier” for publication in June of 2011, and Epicenter Press is publishing her biography of a Candle-born Inupiat, “Eskimo Star: From Tundra to Tinseltown, The Ray Wise Mala Story”, in the spring. Although currently residing in Maine, Lael remains heavily invested in Alaska where she serves as acquisitions editor for Epicenter Press. In addition, she is coordinating the Ray Wise Mala Film festival in conjunction with the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Alaska Native Land Claim Settlement Act managed by the ANCSA@40 EVENTS Committee.

References Morgan Books

January Magazine

Jan. 20, 2011 Profile

University of Texas Arlington

Alaska Dispatch

Dec. 24, 2008