Click on the Alumnae’s name for a further details.
A diminutive woman who often dressed as a man and never married, Nellie Cashman was one of Alaska’s original female entrepreneurs, as well as a prospector and an “angel of mercy.” From opening grocery stores and restaurants to wandering the frontier mining camps of Alaska seeking her fortune, she was soon known by all she encountered for her charity, courage, and determination. Nellie was a resourceful woman who knew what she wanted. She was rewarded with modest wealth, but was constantly giving it away to the poor and needy. She was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame in 2006.
Orah Clark was a pioneer school teacher. She was the first Superintendent of the first Anchorage school. She helped establish schools up and down the railroad belt, in Wasilla, Eske, Fairview, and Matanuska. She taught in Unga, Kennicott, Ouzinkie, Takotna, Kiana and Nushagek , ending her 51-year career in Moose Pass. A champion of Native rights, she believed that all children should be integrated in schools to foster individual growth.
Arlene “Buddy” Clay was born in Gardiner Maine, Aug. 2, 1912, to Annie Mayne Palmer and Charles Gordon Palmer. She was raised in Mexico, Maine, and graduated from high school in 1929. She then entered the New England Conservatory of music. She graduated from there in 1934.
Arlene met Earl V. Clay at the conservatory and they married June 26, 1936. They then moved to Manchester, NH, where Earl was the conductor of the NH state symphony. Arlene played trumpet in the conservatory symphony orchestra.
After the war broke out and Pearl Harbor was bombed on the 7th of December 1941, the orchestra broke up. The older workers went into military work and the younger ones joined the military.
In December of 1943 Arlene and Earl left for Seattle by train in response to an ad from the Civil Aeronautics Administration, forerunner of the FAA. After arriving in Seattle, they received six months of training at Boeing field as aircraft communicators and controllers. The Army then flew her and Earl to Nome in a DC3. While in Nome they worked for the CAA as aircraft communicators and controllers. In September of 1944 they transferred to Aniak. Together, they spent 10 years driving dog teams all over the Aniak area. They visited trappers, prospectors and generally explored the rural area.
Upon arriving in Aniak, communication was limited to one telephone at the airport office. As soon as civilians were allowed to obtain ham radio licenses in 1948, Clay received her license, KL707. To this day, Clay has continued to operate her ham radio and, in fact, commented that she selected her retirement home on the basis that “… they let me have my radio with me.”
Arlene and Earl resigned in 1947 from the CAA. Earl died in 1956.
After Earl died Arlene stayed at the homestead, which was about three miles upriver from Aniak. She took two jobs, one as a postal clerk and the other as secretary at the CAA. She commuted to work by dog team in the winter and by boat in the summer.
In 1960 Arlene became the magistrate for the Alaska Courts and was responsible for 12 of the surrounding villages. She served in this position for 17 ½ years. Magistrates had all the power of the U.S. Commissioner. It was during this time that defendants received the right to demand a jury for misdemeanor trials. This resulted in more travel for trials in the villages. The State troopers would fly to Aniak and fly over her cabin at the home site to alert her they were coming and she would get in her boat or dog team and meet them in Aniak.
Arlene Clay was always known as Mrs. Clay. While she didn’t have a degree in law, it was not required at the time. She was known as a tough but fair magistrate judge. One story that circulated concerned a couple of attorneys that came out from Bethel for a hearing. They were dressed in blue jeans and had no ties. She told them that when appearing in her court they were to wear suits and ties or she would hold them in contempt. They got the message and dressed appropriately from then on. She always wore her robe and while court was held in her house in those early days, strict courtroom protocol was required.
Clay retired from the Alaska Court System in 1977 but continued to live in Aniak for many more years. In May, 2012 Clay received the Judge Nora Quinn Award from the Alaska Bar Association which “is presented to an individual Alaskan who has made an extraordinary or sustained effort to assist Alaska’s rural residents, especially its native population, overcome language and cultural barriers to obtaining justice through the legal system.” She was further honored at a reception in Aniak on June 27, 2012, with the dedication of the new courtroom in her honor. The program for this event referred to Clay as “the face of the Alaska Court System during the early years of statehood.”
In 2011, Clay moved to a Wasilla retirement home where she is able to put up her ham antennas, and she continues to participate every night on the ham sniper net. She checks everyone in each Thursday night.
“Aniak Courtroom Dedicated to Magistrate Clay” ,Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, July 14, 2012 “99-year-old Ham radio operator still tuned in”, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Oct. 30, 2011 http://jukebox.uaf.edu/site7/p/378, Project Jukebox, Digital Branch of UAF Oral History Program, Judges of Alaska, Arlene Clay
Carol Comeau has led Alaska’s public education system to be responsive to the needs of all children, particularly those who have difficulty achieving academic success in the classroom. While the majority of her career was based in Anchorage as a teacher, principal, administrator, and ultimately in 2000, the Superintendent of the Anchorage School District, she also directed the Alaska Association of School Administrators in the effort to increase state funding for all schools in the state.
During Carol’s service, she appealed to the community as a whole–to citizens who don’t have children, businesses, and service organizations to act on our mutual responsibility to be involved with kids in order to produce caring, competent and involved adults.
With a master’s degree in Vocational Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage, and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Education conferred by Western State College of Colorado, Carolyn Covington has always been a strong advocate for innovative and inclusive education in Alaska. She began her professional career as a teacher in Whittier, then taught high school in Palmer and ended her professional career as assistant professor at Mat-Su College (UAA).
Covington was successful in receiving grants to develop a district-wide Diversified Occupations program in the Mat-Su Borough School District and another, the Skill Center, providing open-entry, open-exit classes at Mat-Su College. These two programs made it possible for her students, primarily women, to successfully develop office occupations and related skills to complete high school, earn an associate’s degree in Office Occupations and move on to job placement or further education.
Covington was a founding member in 1980 of the Valley Women’s Resource Center, the first resource and shelter in the Mat-Su Borough for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. As a political activist, she served 29 years as secretary of the Alaska Democratic Party and ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature in 1998. She is a tireless volunteer and board member of many non-profit organizations and continues to be a strong political voice in the community. Both in education and community service, Covington is known for her advocacy for women, the disabled and other persons with special needs. She is described as a “model feminist and human being” and was nominated for teaching young women “the way to self-actualization by role-modeling her equal-rights values every waking moment of her life.”
Covington’s service to the community is extensive. In addition to being a charter board member and having filled every executive board position for Valley Women’s Resource Center, she helped to organize the Mat-Su chapter of P-Flag, was a charter member of Mat-Su Coalition for Choice, served on the board and as president of the board of Valley Hospital Association, and served as a board member and secretary of the Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union. For 15 years, Covington has served as secretary-treasurer of Valley Residential Services, which provides housing for low-income and other persons with special needs. Radio Free Palmer, a young community radio station, has profited from Covington’s expertise as treasurer and volunteer.
Covington also maintains financial records for Church of the Covenant, Mat-Su Senior Services, Mat-Su Democrats and Valley Christian Conference. She is also pianist for Church of the Covenant in Palmer.
Covington has received several awards from the Alaska Democratic Party in recognition of her service and achievements: the 1996 Mat Su Democrat of the Year Award; 2002, “Queen Bess” Award given to women for service to party, state, and nation; 2004, Alaska Democratic Party’s Lifetime Achievement Award; 2012, Outstanding Service Award on the occasion of her retirement as secretary. However, Carolyn would say that her greatest achievement is the love of her husband and their large family.
As the eldest child of the Rev. Ralph Carson and the granddaughter of another Baptist minister, Kit was inspired by the power of their sermons. When Kit was in high school, her family settled into Bloomington, Ill., — a community with old oaks, beautiful buildings and a strong history. Kit was a successful student, following the model of her family. She excelled in speech and drama, and was a star in many of the college theater productions at Illinois Wesleyan, her alma mater. Clearly, she was inspired not only by the skillful speech she saw in her father’s sermons but by the commitment to community which her parents instilled in their children. With the tenor and strength of her father’s sermons as a backdrop, Kit employed her voice and stage skill to move mountains, including giving testimony for statehood before Congress, and testifying before the Anchorage City Council on many community causes.
As a young college graduate, Kit traveled to Ketchikan, Alaska, to visit a childhood friend who had married a coast guardsman stationed there. In Ketchikan she was asked to do a radio show for “shut ins”, using her voice as an inspiration to others. Short months after arriving, she met Edwin Crittenden, a young Coast Guard lieutenant. They were married within the year. After World War II, the couple returned to “the states”, but their love of Alaska brought them back to Anchorage in 1949. They raised their family of six children and numerous Irish setters in the home Ed designed for them below 15th and F Streets. It was this union of Kit, Ed and Alaska that provided the background for her achievements. Kit was awed by the physical beauty of Alaska. Married to an architect, they were committed to bringing the beauty of the physical world to the growing city of Anchorage. This was to be the basis from which she was able to inspire community leaders to see what Anchorage could be: a city beautiful enough to “match its mountains”.
In the KSKA “Forget-me-Not” interview Kit provided, she describes how she was able to use her vision and speaking skills to persuade city officials to redesign the proposed expansion of C Street – elevating it to pass over the Chester Creek greenbelt instead of bisecting the land with a large road.
“I could see that we had to have more trails, so I began to make the case to citizens and leaders from all over town. We could not have the children and bikers walking up and over C Street with cars rushing by; we needed an underpass for safe trails. As I spoke with people, they would say, ‘I believe in that, I will vote for that, we WILL have that!’ Soon, we formed the Citizens Committee to Save Chester Creek Greenbelt Park, and our group was able to win our case in court. At the time, the city manager said, ‘If we are going to have pedestrian underpasses at C Street, we are then going to do it for all the roads that are built over the Chester Creek greenbelt’.
Never paid for her work, Kit devoted endless hours to inspiring Anchorage mayors and other elected officials to envision the beautification of Anchorage as well as the preservation of its historic buildings through wise planning and development. Historic preservation of a community that was only 50 years old was a radical notion in 1970. In 1974, the late Lucy Cuddy wrote: “New York has Ada Louise (Huxtable, then-architecture critic for the Wall Street Journal and outspoken advocate for preservation of New York’s historic landmarks); Anchorage boasts Kit. We are proud!”
Kit will be remembered for her role in the creation of the Chester Creek greenbelt, as well as the preservation of the Oscar Anderson House at Elderberry Park, establishing the Urban Design Commission and the Anchorage Historic Preservation Commission, which she chaired for ten years. Most recently, she authored “Get Mears!” a nationally recognized biography of Col. Frederick Mears, who supervised the construction of the Alaska Railroad. He was also responsible for the planning and the design of the town site that became Anchorage. Kit’s significant efforts all carried the honorable objective of bringing the people of Anchorage to a sense of our community’s beauty and history. Whether providing testimony to Congress for statehood or arguing for the preservation of historic homes, Kit had a vision that was infectious. With her skills and tenacity, she inspired us to work toward a community that celebrates its beauty as well as its past. Kit was a pioneer for community involvement. Her accomplishments show that with a strong vision, tempered speech and firm persistence, a voice for beautification and preservation can be heard. Kit Crittenden made Anchorage a better place to live.
Created from her family’s personal memories and experiences.
Marvel Crosson learned to fly in San Diego, California. She followed her brother, Joe Crosson, to Alaska in 1927, where she received the first aviation license issued to a female pilot in the Alaska Territory. The press nicknamed her “Bird Girl” and “Pollyanna of the North” in honor of her exploits, which included setting a new altitude record for women in 1929. Marvel died in August, 1929, when her parachute failed to open properly after the plane’s engine quit.
Betty Jane Puckett (later spelling her name Betti) was born July 21, 1924, in O’Neill, Neb., to Fay and Nellie Puckett, grew up in Nebraska and earned a liberal arts degree from Doan University. The consummate educator, Betti started out teaching high school biology, English and Spanish. In the early 1940s, she pulled up her Nebraska roots and moved to Seattle to take on a new career in banking at the Bank of California. It was while living in Seattle, that she met the love of her life Alaska attorney Dan Cuddy, on a blind date, and that blind date wove into a marriage that lasted 62 years – from 1948 until her death in 2010. The Cuddys spent their honeymoon on the new Alaska Highway making their way home.
Betti’s community leadership in Alaska began in the 1950s when she was a young mother, and she volunteered as a Girl Scout leader and secretary/treasurer of the Anchorage Women’s Club. She then held a seat on the organizational committee for what became Alaska Pacific University.
An advocate for well rounded education, Betti organized the Treasures of Sight and Sound (TOSS) in the 1960s. TOSS was the self-funded predecessor to the Community Schools Program, which paved the way for local theater productions. For almost six decades, Anchorage children who’ve turned a cartwheel, played an instrument, sang a song or acted out a scene on stage can thank Betti Cuddy for the chance to do so. She and the program received a Gold Pan Award from the Greater Anchorage Chamber of Commerce in 1972. “I just thought the schools should be teaching more than the ‘three Rs’,” Betti said. After Community Schools took over from TOSS, Betti became a prolific patron of the Anchorage arts, especially the theater. She became a board member for the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and that group’s Symphony Committee.
During the late 1970s, Betti sat on the State Board of Education, and continued to be a prolific patron of Anchorage arts, especially the theater. She served as a board member of Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and that group’s Symphony Committee. A lifetime member or the Anchorage Women’s Club, she helped form the organization’s FREE Committee, a grass-roots women’s only political advocacy effort in the 1970s. Cuddy was named honorary chairwoman of the YWCA Anchorage Academy of Woman Achievers. At the university level, Betti played a major role in the renovation of the Lucy Cuddy Center on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus and helped develop a renewed focus for the university’s culinary arts and hospitality programs through remodeling the facility and retooling the curriculum. “She was an ardent supporter of UAA’s Lucy Cuddy Hall and a tremendous fan of the Culinary Arts, Hospitality, Dietetics and Nutrition Program,” said Tim Doebler, the program’s UAA Director. “She will be greatly missed and her kindness will always be remembered. This program and facility would not be what it is today if it hadn’t been for her. I feel like I’ve lost a co-worker.”
In her most recent years, Betti Cuddy was a supporter of the Cuddy Family Midtown Park near the Loussac Library in Anchorage. When completed, the park will include a covered stage and seating area for outdoor theatrical venues, amenities Betti felt were important to encourage community performances. In honor of her efforts as a supporter, a landscaped area of the park was designated “Betti’s garden.” On Aug. 16, 2001, one of Cuddy’s granddaughters was killed by a drunk driver. In the aftermath, Cuddy devoted herself to battling alcohol abuse by facilitating communication between parents and children on the subject. Above all of Betti Cuddy’s community activities, however, she considered her most important role was as a wife to Dan, and mother to their six children: Betsy (David) Lawer, David (Kathy) Cuddy, Gretchen Cuddy, Jane (Gary) Klopfer, Lucy (Mark) Mahan, and Laurel (Fred) Stutzer.
Many believed Betti’s greatest strength was her unusual ability to organize people and get them moving in the same direction. She consistently displayed this ability throughout a lifetime of service in Alaska, and she instilled her views on community service in all her children.
Betti Cuddy impressed everyone with initiative and a take-action approach to address problems or fill needs she witnessed in the community. When she saw something she thought needed to be done, she did something about it. Betti was always reluctant to “toot her own horn.” But her forthrightness and willingness to sacrifice her own time and money provided a great example of community involvement to countless women.
http://www.fnbalaska.com/44.cfm?id=173 — Obituary
http://www.adn.com/2010/01/13/1092462/arts-patron-education-leader-betti.html – Obituary
http://www.newsminer.com/view/full_story/5554466/article-Anchorage-arts-patron-Betti-Cuddy-dead-at-85 — Obituary
Lucy Evelyn Huie Hon was born of German and Scotch-English parentage, a fifth-generation American, to Daniel Hon (1860-1929) and Margaret Pamelia Gaines Hon (1867-1939) on Aug. 2, 1889, in Waldren, Scott County, Ark. Her grandparents were farmers, her father a lawyer and a judge. The oldest of four, her siblings were: Mabel Fairfax Hon Woods (1892-1975), Mildred Foster Hon Murry (1897-1967) and Daniel Gaines Hon (1898-1950).
Cuddy graduated from college in 1911 and became a teacher. “I didn’t want to go to the University of Arkansas. … I wanted to go west. … My father told me what to do and I did it,” she is quoted as saying in an Anchorage Times article.
In 1916 the husband of a friend was the superintendent of schools in Valdez and sent her a cablegram offering her the position of principal to the upper level students – five high school students and three eighth graders. So after teaching school for five years, Cuddy left her family home by herself, traveled from Fort Smith, Ark., across the continent by train for four days and four nights, to Seattle, Wash., and then embarked on a seven-day boat trip to Valdez. She immediately fell in love with Alaska. When reminiscing, she used to say that as she walked down the long wooden walkway from the boat to town, the thing she remembered most was that it was 11 o’clock at night and it wasn’t dark yet, there were waterfalls and everything was so quiet. It was so peaceful.
Valdez was a bustling town of only 500, four men for every woman. In the 1970s she told an audience at the Anchorage Museum that she ate at a boarding house where there were about a dozen men and she was the only woman but not one of those men was someone you would want to marry, in fact, most would “bore the life out of you.” She would eventually meet Warren Cuddy, a young law graduate from Puget Sound College, and said he was worth the wait.
In many of her interviews Cuddy liked to tell the story of Warren’s proposal to her. She says a woman who was “quite the social dame” of Valdez asked her whether Warren had proposed yet. When Cuddy said no, she suggested that maybe if she would quit her incessant talking he might be able to get a sentence out and ask her.
Lucy Hon, 27, and Warren Ninde Cuddy, 30, were wed in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Ark., on Aug. 15, 1917. They returned to Valdez afterwards.
After a couple of years passed, the Cuddys had two boys, David Warren, born in 1919 and Daniel Hon, born in 1921. She claimed that the babies were the most important things that ever came into her life.
United States President Warren G. Harding and Vice President Herbert Hoover visited Alaska to mark the beginning of the railroad in 1923. Cuddy, normally a woman with impish humor, was tongue-tied as she presented the president a bouquet of blue flowers – historians question whether they really were forget-me-nots as many stories claimed.
In 1933 Warren Cuddy, a Republican, was Valdez District Attorney but politics changed that. He lost his job when the Democrats came to power. The family moved to Anchorage. He set up his law practice and she set about raising the boys. During the next few years, he purchased bank stock and by 1941 he had controlling interest and became the president of First National Bank.
World War II brought tragedy into their lives. Both her sons went off to war but only Dan came back. David was killed in action behind enemy lines in Anzio, Italy. “It was horrible,” Lucy Cuddy later recounted. “He was so against the war. But it was the war and it was your duty.”
Always a woman with lots of energy, she was a driving force in community affairs and helped organize the USO, the Girl Scouts of Anchorage, started the Nurses’ Aide program during WWII, helped found the Cook Inlet Historical Society and volunteered for the Red Cross, which she did most of her life.
She became a bank board member in 1949 and was elected to the office of board secretary. In 1951, upon her husband’s death of a heart attack at 65 years of age, son Dan took over the day-to-day banking, also serving as president, and Lucy Cuddy became chair of the board, a position she held until her death. It is said that she helped guide Alaska’s second-largest financial institution through booms and busts, earthquakes and floods, and expansion across the state.
In the same year she was appointed to the Board of Regents for the University of Alaska, 1956, she was named the chair of the Greater Anchorage United Fund Drive (now the United Way). She received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Arkansas in 1961, the third woman at the time to receive the honor. In 1972 the Anchorage campus community center of the University of Alaska was named Lucy Cuddy Hall.
In an article honoring her 90th birthday, the Anchorage Times says, “She is inseparable from this community. She inspires the best that dwells in the hearts of each us.” The same paper, two years later, in an article about her death called her “The Grand lady of Anchorage.”
Lucy Cuddy was laid to rest in the Anchorage Municipal Cemetery, Masonic Tract 9, Row 2, Lot 15.
- An interview with David Hayes, staff at First National Bank Alaska
- Anchorage Times, March 12, 1982, page 1 & 3
- We Alaskans, Anchorage Daily News Magazine, May 16, 1981, pages 7 & 13
- Arkansas, County Marriages Index, 1837-1957
- Lucy Hon Cuddy Dedication, The Teller, 1982, page 1
- Lucy Cuddy papers, Archives & Special Collections Consortium Library, UAA, Collection number HMC-0095,
- In Memorial http://www.muni.org/Departments/health/cemetery/Pages/honored.aspx