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Edna (Ahgeak) MacLean Ph.D.

Photo of Edna (Ahgeak) MacLean Ph.D.
Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Iñupiaq Language


Even as a child, Edna MacLean learned to navigate the complexities of speaking and learning in two languages. Her father, who only spoke Iñupiaq, told her the world was changing and if she was to succeed, she would need to do so in English. His understanding that the future of his children would be considerably different from his own helped to ensure that they all found ways to survive and thrive.

MacLean cites her mother as having defended her when she was physically disciplined by her third grade teacher for speaking Iñupiag in the classroom. When she went home for lunch that day, she hid her bright red ear from the teacher’s harsh treatment under the hood of her coat, fearful her mother would be angry. She was, but not with Edna. The errant teacher did not enjoy the ensuing confrontation.

MacLean began her university education at UAF; then, with the encouragement of faculty there, she transferred to Colorado Women’s College in Denver where she was given a scholarship, a powerful incentive for someone without other resources. She returned to Utqiaġvik for the summers, and there she met her future husband. Upon graduation, she realized she would improve her prospects by getting a teaching credential, which she did at the University of California in Berkeley, where her husband was pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Biology based on research done at Barrow.

After the birth of their second son, the family moved to Fairbanks where her husband had been offered a position at UAF. Shortly after they arrived, she was contacted by Dr. Michael Krauss, then head of the Alaska Native Language Center. Dr. Krauss was among the first linguists to create an awareness of the global problem of endangered languages. He wanted her to help develop programs and teach Iñupiaq to UAF students.

MacLean’s first reaction was to laugh and decline, but he insisted, telling her “It is your duty!” She eventually relented and in 1976, ended up in a job she loved, and one that would expose her to new ways of thinking about language and education. It was during this time that she began learning to read and write her Native Iñupiaq language and to explore the best methods of teaching.

In 1987, MacLean had the opportunity to work in education policy as Special Assistant for Rural Education for the Alaska Commissioner of Education. It was in this role that she saw the poor performance of Alaska Native students since the State had taken responsibility for their education from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She was shocked, and she realized that she would need further education to be able to understand and influence the policies and practices that had created this problem.

MacLean talks about her father’s insistence that his children have a deep understanding of the environment in which they lived. It had been critical to his success and survival as a subsistence hunter and whaler. If he didn’t know the currents and the ice and weather conditions, it could have a huge affect on his ability to provide for his family and, at worst, it could prove fatal.

This way of thinking is clear in MacLean’s pursuit of further education. Only by gaining a deeper and more thorough understanding of how children learn, particularly in communities where the teachers and students have different life experiences and cultural backgrounds, could she help to devise programs and policies that would serve Alaska’s Native youth. And so she sought out institutions where the experts were teaching and researching what she needed to know. She ended up with an M.A. from the University of Washington in Bilingual Education and a Ph.D in Education from Stanford University.

Upon completion of her Ph.D, MacLean was approached by community leaders who were developing a plan for a tribal college in Barrow. Their mission was to create a community college that offered the education and skills people in their community needed for the jobs and opportunities in Barrow. Dr. MacLean assumed the role of President of the developing institution, and under her leadership, in 2003, Ilisagvik College achieved accreditation as Alaska’s only Tribal College, serving the broad educational needs of the people of the North Slope.

The arrival of her first granddaughter precipitated her retirement from Ilisagvik College and move to Anchorage. Here, she was able to concentrate her attention on a long-standing project, the production of a dictionary of her native language. In 2014 this finally came to fruition with publication of the dictionary by the University of Alaska and University of Chicago Presses. The dictionary has been called “a monument of linguistic scholarship” and “a magnificent work of Iñupiaq lexicography”.

Today, Dr. MacLean continues her teaching through a Master Apprentice Program in which she works to help adults wanting to learn Iñupiaq through individualized programs of instruction. She remains involved with a North Slope Borough task force on language, recognizing that it will take a sustained, comprehensive, and strategic approach involving parents, teachers and community members to ensure that the Iñupiaq language endures.

Career Highlights

1976 – 1987   Instructor, Assistant Professor, then Associate Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Developed and taught language courses and B.A. degree program in Iupiaq.

1987 – 1990   Special Assistant for Rural Education for the Alaska Commissioner of Education in Juneau.

1995 – 2005   First President of Ilisagvik College in Utqiagvik, Alaska.

Volunteer Leadership 

1973-83         Member/President; North Slope Borough Commission on History, Language and Culture

1978-83         Inuit Circumpolar Conference Committee on Education

1983-95         Steering Committee for International Cross-Cultural Education Seminar Series in the Circumpolar North

1987-91         Committee on Arctic Social Sciences, Polar Reserach Board, National Research Council

1989-92         Inuit Circmpolar Conference Executive Council, Vice President for Alaska

1996               Member, Rural Educator Preparation Partnership

1996               Volunteer Iñupiaq reader for the Early Education Program at Ipalook Elementary School, Utqiaġvik

1998-2005     National Science Foundation Polar Programs Office Advisory  Committee

1999-2003     Founding member and Chairperson of the Consortium for Alaska  Native Higher Education

2000-05         Alaska Growth Capital Board of Directors

2001-05         Member, Alaska Process Industry Careers Consortium

2001-05         The Foraker Group Operations Board Committee

2001-05         Old Testament Bible Translation Review Committee, Utqiagvik

2002-05         Alaska Humanities Forum board member

2004-2007     Quality Education for Minorities Network, Washington D.C.

2008               Member, Expert working group on offshore hydrocarbon in the Arctic, as

part of project, Arctic TRANSFORM: Transatlantic Policy Options for

Supporting Adaptations in the Marine Arctic 

Honors and Awards

1985               Elected a Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America, recognizing significant contributions to the knowledge of polar and sub-polar regions

1987, 1995    President’s Award for Education, Alaska Federation of Natives

1996               Certificate of Recognition for dedicated service provided to the shareholders of UIC and the People of the North Slope, presented

by Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation

1997               Certificate of Appreciation, presented by the North Slope Borough and Inuit Circumpolar Conference

1999               Educator of the Year: Bobby Andrew Award, presented by the Alaska Native Education Council at the Alaska Native Education Council


2003               Certificate of Achievement for Success in achieving the first fully accredited, Native-controlled college (Ilisagvik College) in the

State  of Alaska for the Inupiat Communities of the North Slope, presented by the Inupiat Communities of the Arctic Slope

2004               Alumni Hall of Fame, Native American Cultural Center, Stanford University

2005               Shareholder of the Year, Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation

2006               Citizen of the Year Award, Alaska Federation of Natives

2006               Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award, Governor’s Awards  for the Humanities

2015                 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation, Barrow, Alaska.

2015                 Contributions to Literacy (CLIA) in Alaska Award. Alaska Center for the Book, Anchorage, Alaska.

Educational Achievement

Mt. Edgecumbe High School; Sitka, Alaska

University of Alaska; Fairbanks, Alaska; Studies in Mathematics and Economics

Colorado Women’s College; Denver, Colorado; B.A.; Major in History, Minors in Humanities and German

University of California; Berkeley, California; California Life Teaching Credential

Aarhus University; Aarhus, Denmark; Graduate study in Greenlandic Eskimo language

University of Washington; Seattle, Washington; M.A. in Education (Bilingual Education)

Stanford University; Palo Alto, California; Ph.D; Education

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Wilda Marston

Photo of Wilda Marston
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Education, Philanthropy


For almost twenty years, Wilda Marston was the single most unabashed advocate and influential library supporter in Anchorage, serving on the Anchorage Municipal Library Advisory Board from 1978-90. As the moving force behind the new Loussac Library, Wilda was honored by the community’s decision to name the library’s theatre the Wilda Marston Theater. Wilda also served on the federal Depository Library Council and the National Historic Preservation Committee.

Wilda has been a critical factor in the growth of libraries in Anchorage and indeed all of Alaska. She provides a wonderful example of the difference one person can make in the life of a community.

Janet (Walker) McCabe

Photo of Janet (Walker) McCabe
Categories: 2016 Alumnae, Historic Preservation, Justice System Reform


Janet McCabe has made significant contributions to Alaska in her profession as a community planner and in her civic involvement in justice system reform, preservation of Alaska’s history, and community engagement in public issues.

McCabe grew up in Massachusetts, where her father, Joseph Walker, started the first criminal lab in the state in 1934. As a chemist, he demonstrated that scientific evidence could eliminate the guess work of crime scenes and provide evidence about perpetrators, such as shooting distance, chemical residue of bullets, identification of blood type, and the use of finger prints to identify a criminal. He frequently took his young daughter, Janet, to court to listen to the use of scientific evidence in criminal cases. He told her its use made the criminal justice system fairer. That lesson has remained with her for her entire life.

Professional Accomplishments
She graduated from Smith College and did an internship her senior year with the Boston City Planning Department, where she developed her interest in planning. When she and her husband, David McCabe, came to Alaska in 1960, she worked for the Fairbanks City Planning Department reviewing zoning and subdivision regulations. That practical experience assisted her with her graduate studies in City Planning at Harvard.

Returning to Alaska with a Master’s Degree after the 1964 Earthquake, McCabe found opportunity as a community planner with the Alaska State Housing Authority, where she worked in small villages, such as Yakutat, Goodnews Bay and Kwethluk as well as larger communities, such as Palmer, Sitka and Ketchikan.

In 1973, McCabe had the opportunity to work on a statewide scale as Staff Planner for the Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission. The commission was established to study issues about federal, state and Native owned lands and to make recommendations to the U.S. Congress to be used in drafting the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which was adopted in 1981.

When the Commission ended its work, McCabe was selected by Secretary of Interior Udall as Regional Director for the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service (HCRS), which strengthened her interest in the preservation of Alaska History. She later shifted to the National Park Service as Special Assistant to the NPS Regional Director.  Her assignments there focused on intergovernmental projects such as the development of the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers, the acquisition of Kennicott Mine as part of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and liaison with the Alaska Visitors Association. Her emphasis throughout her planning career was to bring diverse voices into the discussion of public policy issues. She retired from the National Park Service in 2000.
McCabe received the YWCA Woman of Achievement award in 2005. Her nominator wrote, “Normally, retirement means taking time for oneself, relaxing and enjoying the fruits of free time. Janet made the opposite choice: retirement meant taking on new projects and devoting her free time to them. Retirement for Janet meant working harder and being paid nothing.”
Volunteer Accomplishments
Since 2000 Janet has been a full-time volunteer with community service organizations, primarily in fields of therapeutic justice, reduction of criminal recidivism, cultural and historic preservation for the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm region and civic engagement with Alaska Common Ground, which engages Alaskans in respectful conversations about public policy issues through community forums.

Partners for Progress – Therapeutic Justice
McCabe’s goal to make the court system fair to all led her to join with Alaska District Court Judge Jim Wanamaker and the Municipality of Anchorage to start Partners for Progress, which is a nonprofit with a goal to reduce unnecessary incarceration. She has Chaired the Board of Directors since 1999.

They initiated Alaska’s first therapeutic court for substance abusing offenders, the Anchorage Wellness Court. These courts are run using teamwork between the judges and lawyers, cooperation with the offender, and a supportive, treatment-based program.  Public protection is enhanced because participants in the therapeutic courts overcome their addiction and become functioning members of the community.  Through the efforts of Partners for Progress therapeutic courts are now operating in Anchorage, Fairbank, Bethel, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Partners worked to provide legislative information and education contributed to a series of laws that strengthened and expanded the therapeutic court program, culminating in 2006 with the passage of AS 28.35.028 that established a consistent sentencing system for therapeutic courts and included felony DUI and drug offenders for the first time. Legislation is now in place making the courts an integral part of the Alaska Court System.  And through the efforts of Partners for Progress, Alaska is recognized as one of the states with exemplary therapeutic programs.  A report published in 2005 by the National Drug Court Institute and the National Judicial College cited the Anchorage Wellness Court as an example to other courts considering establishing a therapeutic court. (“DWI / Drug Courts: Reducing Recidivism, Saving Lives” by C. West Huddleston, Director, The National Drug Court Institute and Robin Wosje, Program Attorney, The National Judicial College.)

A graduate of Anchorage Therapeutic court said,
“Before, when I was in trouble, it was the State of Alaska against me.  In this court program, the judge, the case coordinator, the treatment provider, the prosecutor, the defender and myself – are all working together against my addiction.”

Recognizing that achieving a significant reduction in incarceration and criminal recidivism will require a more comprehensive approach, Janet and other members of the Board expanded their mission to encompass support for “therapeutic justice” programs that go beyond the therapeutic courts and include sentenced offenders under the Department of Corrections. To implement this change she and Partners’ board and staff: Initiated a grant-funded program and signed an agreement with the Department of Corrections to coordinate with probation officers to provide temporary housing assistance to probationers who are reentering the community and striving to become employed and self-sufficient.Collaborated with Alaska Common Ground, the Department of Corrections, the Mental Health Trust and others to sponsor a successful Cost-Effective Justice Forum including national experts on the subject. The program incorporated extra outreach measures to involve State Legislators. Collaborated with the Anchorage Chief of Police, the Municipal Prosecutor, members of the Alaska Court System and others to plan and open Alaska’s first 24/7 Sobriety Monitoring test site on July 23, 2011. The site helped maintain the sobriety of participants who would otherwise lose custody of their children, and provided a useful example of a method of protecting the public against DUI while reducing incarceration.

In 2013 Janet led a successful effort to obtain a funding for Partners Reentry Center and worked with others to greatly expand an existing collaborative effort to reduce recidivism through reentry assistance. National research showing that combining employment with other types of assistance is most effective in cutting recidivism. Thus, the program combines employment services with transitional housing, basic needs assistance, and case management, counseling and mentoring. Opened in August 2013, Partners Reentry Center was assisting 30 to 50 reentrants a day by January, 2014.

Historic Preservation
In 1999 McCabe initiated the formation of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm Corridor Communities Association (KMTA CCA). The primary purpose was to establish a National Heritage Area (NHA) to give Congressional recognition to the outstanding and nationally significant scenic, historical and cultural values of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm region, and to provide funding for local efforts to preserve these resources. The federal law creating Alaska’s first NHA was enacted in 2009. As President of KMTA CCA, McCabe managed a federal grant to prepare the management plan for the new NHA and to assist with locally initiated projects. With the help of an excellent Program Manager and community leaders throughout the region, this work has resulted in completion of over 35 National Heritage Area projects, ranging from School District approved curricula and student field trips on NHA history and culture to historic preservation and museum development projects.

As a Board Member and Treasurer of the Association, she helped obtain and manage a grant that provided funding for historic preservation projects, museums, oral history collections and public pavilions in the seven communities of the mountainous region between Bird-Indian and Seward.  A recent accomplishment is the publication of “Trails Across Time”, a book by Kaylene Johnson providing a vivid history of this scenic and historic region of Alaska.

Hope and Sunrise Historical Society – McCabe and other like-minded people initiated the Hope and Sunrise Historical Society to help preserve Alaska’s Gold Rush history. The organization has flourished, building a museum and working with others to restore an historic mining camp and schoolhouse on the museum campus in the village of Hope. In 2009 McCabe chaired a committee that obtained a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation and restored Hope’s original log cabin schoolhouse to its 1904 appearance, complete with Victorian wallpaper and the voice of the schoolteacher describing the school and reading his students a story from McGuffey’s Reader.

McCabe served as Chair of the “We Are Alaskans Committee” of Alaska Common Ground . Working with Esther Wunnicke and a group of people who wanted to combat racism in Alaska, Janet led an effort to use television media to celebrate the diversity of Alaskans. The “We Are Alaskans” Committee has coordinated with Al Bramstedt of Channel 2 to produce two award-winning television Public Service Announcements. The Committee’s plan is to expand this effort to create a series of PSAs celebrating cultural diversity in Alaska and highlighting the message that Alaskans of different races and ethnic backgrounds share a common human bond.
As a member of Commonwealth North, McCabe served on the Executive Committee for the Urban Rural Unity Study and helped write the report.

She also served on Board of Directors, Anchorage Festival of Music and represented the Festival on the Board of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts while the Festival was a Resident Company. In this capacity, she and Manju Bhargava organized the “World in Alaska” performances, a series of Sunday afternoon events that showcased the dance and music of a wide variety of cultural groups. These performances frequently included both children and adults and were designed to encourage more widespread use of the Performing Arts Center as well as to share the cultural arts of the community.

McCabe has also been involved in her neighborhood by serving as the President of the Downtown and South Addition Community Councils and the Harvard Club of Alaska. She also served on the Board of Directors of Alaska Common Ground for decades.
Ms. McCabe has been honored by many organizations for her contributions and accomplishments. Among the Honors she received are:
Recognized by the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Certified Planners as an APA Charter Member

Award of Distinction, Anchorage Federal Executive Association, 1988, for leading the development of Alaska Public Lands Information Centers

Certificate of Appreciation, Commonwealth North, 2000, Urban Rural Unity Study

Outstanding Service Award, Alaska Bar Association, 2002

Woman of Achievement, YWCA, 2005

Jay Rabinowitz Public Service Award by the Alaska Bar Association, 2014

Janet McCabe has been married to her greatest supporter, David McCabe since 1960. Together they have raised their daughter, Sarah and two sons, Mitchell and David. The McCabes are happy to be the grandparents of three wonderful children.
As her life in Alaska has reflected, Janet McCabe believes that women should get involved in their communities and practice giving back.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Marie (Nick) Meade

Photo of Marie (Nick) Meade
Arnaq, Yup’ik name 1947
Categories: 2015 Alumnae, Culture, Yup’ik Language


Marie Meade stated, “I am a modern Yup’ik woman living a contemporary life in Anchorage, the biggest city in Alaska, while remaining connected to a long lifeline of Yup’ik women who were strong and determined in their ways.

Meade is Yup’ik Eskimo from Southwest Alaska. She was born and raised in Nunapicuaq, a village of about 300 on the tundra between the Kuskokwim River and the Bering Sea. Her late father, Upayuilnguq, was from the Kuskokwim River bay area, and her late mother, Narullgiar, was from Nelson Island. Marie graduated from Bethel high school and attended the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. She received most of her knowledge of Yup’ik language and culture from her parents, family and community.

In 1970 Meade was chosen by her community to teach the first bilingual program in her village under the Bureau of Indian Affairs school. In preparation for teaching first graders in their language, which she spoke fluently, she learned how to read and write Yup’ik at the Alaska Native Language Institute in Fairbanks. After teaching for a year, she went back to Fairbanks and worked at the Yup’ik Language Workshop creating curriculum and teaching materials for Yup’ik language instruction. There she worked with colleagues such as Irene Reed. She found this experience exhilarating and exciting – to create a written language. She used traditional stories that she had learned from elders, who illustrated them with pictures using a “story knife” in the mud of the Kuskokwim River.

She recalled going to spring camp and to fish camp, to sitting in her mother’s lap sipping tea and listening to the stories of elderly women. They often called Meade “grandmother” because she was named for her grandmother, who had died before Meade’s birth. The ebb and the flow of seasonal activities on the tundra became the foundation of the materials she developed for her Yup’ik language classes.

The Fairbanks opportunity was also the time for this village woman to manage the freedom from very strict parents at home. While arranged marriages were still common in the early 1970s, Meade resisted the idea. She met and married the father of her two sons who was stationed in Fairbanks with the U.S. Army. Two years later they all moved to Bethel where Meade was employed by the Kuskokwim Community College to teach Yup’ik. She recalls teaching now world-famous Corey Flintoff, then a young public radio announcer, how to pronounce Yup’ik words on the radio.

While her children were growing, Meade discovered the positive energy of Yup’ik dance – much of which had been stamped out by missionaries in the 1960s. She learned the graceful motions that accompanied the drums and found dancing to be life-giving.

In 1990 Meade went to an international conference in Fairbanks and was asked to take the place of another Alaska presenter, who was supposed to address Native “literacy.” With some hesitation, Meade volunteered a presentation about Yup’ik women’s fancy parkas with a slide show and the use of many Yup’ik terms to describe different parts of the clothing and its history. Ann Fienup-Riordan, an Alaska anthropologist, was present at this presentation. Their meeting initiated two decades of partnership in the documentation of Yup’ik culture, language and practices. Their first joint project was the Yup’ik mask exhibit in 1996 -1997.

Meade, Riordan and other museum professionals assembled the traveling mask exhibit called “Agayuliyararput; Our Way of Making Prayer” that opened in Toksook Bay in 1997 and traveled to Anchorage, New York, Washington, D.C. and Seattle. They prepared a book to accompany the exhibit titled, Kegginaqut, Kangiit-llu/Yup’ik Masks and the Stories They Tell, which was published with Meade’s translation of the elders’ interpretations of the masks.

Their next project included traveling to Berlin, Germany with a delegation of Yup’ik elders and educators from Bethel who were joined by cultural anthropologists and museum professionals at the Berlin Ethnologisches Museum to examine and interpret an unprecedented 2,000-item collection of Yup’ik material culture gathered in Alaska in 1883. The team produced a book describing and interpreting the contents of the collection, entitled, Ciuliamta Akluit / Things of Our Ancestors: Yup’ik Elders Explore the Jacobsen Collection at the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin. Meade translated the findings of the elders for the publication. It records the elders’ perspectives on the moral underpinnings of Yup’ik social relations.

In addition to these projects, Meade has been an instructor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where she teaches Central Yup’ik language, Yup’ik orthography and Alaska Native dance classes. She dances with the world-traveled Nunamta Yup’ik dance group.

In 2002, Meade received the Alaska Governor’s Award for Distinguished Humanities Educator and in 2014 received the Meritorious Service Award from University of Alaska Anchorage.

Meade has taught thousands of people about the culture and language of the Yup’ik people of southwest Alaska. Her teaching materials and publications are distributed internationally. She shares her knowledge, wisdom and insight with other indigenous elders from across the globe. She has traveled with Alaska elder and healer Rita Blumenstein to meetings of “The 13 Indigenous Grandmothers,” a group of wise indigenous women from across the globe who encourage teaching indigenous languages and seek a peaceful condition for the earth and her inhabitants.

Her work has been shaped by her experiences with family and community. Meade’s Yup’ik name, Arnaq, means “woman.” Her childhood was always in the company of elder women who showed her the way of being Yupik. This included the care and preparation of food, fish camp, spring camp, gathering berries and greens and being the heartbeat of a family.

Meade is the mother of three grown sons and many grandchildren. She dances with healing grace, trusts her intuition and has a grateful and open heart. When asked about advice to young women, she said: “Come to know yourself. Learn to own yourself. Trust yourself the way you are and follow your feelings.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Jennifer “Jane” Wainwright Mears

Photo of Jennifer “Jane” Wainwright Mears
Categories: 2020 Alumnae, Culture, Education, Music


Born at Fort Walla Walla, Washington on St. Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1880, Mears was the second of three children, the second eldest daughter of a family with a strong military tradition.  Her father, Major Robert Page Wainwright (1852-1902), was a U.S. Army officer and West Point graduate, class of 1875.  He fought Indians on the western frontier and commanded a cavalry squadron in the Battle of Santiago in the Spanish-American War.  He died in 1902 while on active duty in the Philippine Insurrection.  Her brother, Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV, the commanding general of Filipino and U.S. Army forces in the Philippines (1941-1942), led delaying tactics on Bataan and Corregidor during World War II against superior Japanese forces.  The military base at Fairbanks, Alaska was named in his honor.

Little is known about Mears’ early life.  She studied music and voice at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and planned an operatic career.

Mears met her future husband, Frederick Mears, while he was stationed as an Army Lieutenant at the Army Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  In 1907, she married Mears at Fort Clark, Texas.  She accompanied her husband to Panama, where he spent the next eight years building the Panama Railroad and coping with a multitude of problems involving the building of the Panama Canal.  They lived in Cristobal, Panama, near Colon.  In Panama, their daughters were born, Josephine “Jo,” in 1908 and Elizabeth “Betty” in 1910.  In April 1914, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Frederick Mears to the Alaskan Engineering Commission.

Mears arrived in Ship Creek in May 1915 with her two daughters, Jo and Betty.  While they awaited completion of a cottage, the family occupied a plank-floor tent of their own, cooked over a wood stove, and burned kerosene for light.  Their home, AEC Cottage No. 6, was built on Government Hill atop a bluff to the north of the terminal yards.  In January 1917, the Mears family moved to AEC Cottage No. 29, a two-story residence overlooking Cook Inlet, across the flats of Ship Creek and up C Street toward West Second Avenue.

Mears took wholeheartedly to the Alaskan lifestyle.  She accompanied her husband, who was at ease in the out-of-doors, on wilderness outings and held her own in marksmanship.  Her family enjoyed sharing the wilderness with visitors and official dignitaries, often taking them hunting, fishing, and camping.  For those who had never been to Alaska, it was the experience of a lifetime.

Through her husband, Mears helped convince the federal government a school should be built with federal funds.  Since Anchorage was a federal government boomtown, the AEC had to accept the responsibility for public education.  In 1915, the AEC designed and built the school, now known as the Pioneer School House.  Federal funds were allocated under the Alaska Railroad Act for construction of a two-story building, located at Fifth Avenue between F and G Streets, on the School Reserve, a full square block platted by the AEC.  After the second school was completed (1917), the school was moved across the street (southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and E Street).

Mears was the principal organizer of the Anchorage Woman’s Club (AWC), and served twice as president.  The public subscription money raised by the Anchorage Woman’s Club, with a small grant from the territorial government, was a temporary solution to the dilemma in providing for public education in Anchorage, which was not solved until the following year.  The members of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce volunteered to fund construction of a school building.  Classes in the first public school opened on November 15, 1915, with one hundred students and four teachers, with Orah Dee Clark as principal.  The four-room structure was built in less than a month by the AEC, in the late summer of 1915.  The school lacked paint, running water, restrooms, a satisfactory heating system, and a solid foundation.

The AWC had an interest in education, home economics, art, and literature, and represented those directions taken in club work.  They also formed the first Parent Teacher Association.  By the summer of 1917, Anchorage’s population had grown to over five thousand and school enrollment stood at over two hundred.  By the fall of 1917, the AEC built a new, larger school (Anchorage Public School), a $45,000, two-story frame building located on Fifth Avenue between F and G Streets.  This second school was used for elementary and secondary classes until it was torn down and replaced by Central Grade School, which later became the Old City Hall Annex.  As a result, public bonding was not required to finance school construction until 1928.

Educated in the fine arts and music, Mears devoted herself to the Anchorage community.  She inspired community participation in musical and theatrical performances and often held rehearsals for local musicians and theatrical groups in her living room, accompanying them on her Steinway piano.  These amateur performances were the beginnings of cultural activity in Anchorage.  

During World War I, Frederick Mears resigned from the AEC and left the Alaska Railroad project to enter active duty in France.  The people of Anchorage held a gala farewell banquet and reception for Frederick and Jane Mears on January 3, 1918 in the Anchorage Labor Temple.  After the Armistice, Frederick Mears resumed his work on the Alaska Railroad, taking over as chairman of the AEC and chief engineer to complete the railroad.  In July 1923, Mears, with his family, left Alaska for Seattle to start work for the Great Northern Railroad.  He became chief engineer in 1925, remaining in this capacity until his death in 1939 at the age of sixty.

Jane Wainwright Mears died on December 17, 1953, in Los Angeles, California.  

The first school, known today as the Pioneer School House, was later used as the Pioneer Hall by the Pioneers of Alaska.  The AWC, on its fiftieth anniversary in 1965, spearheaded a drive to save the original building and to relocate it to its present site in Ben Crawford Memorial Park at Third Avenue and Eagle Street.  Owned by the Municipality of Anchorage, the building is managed by the AWC.  The building is a community gathering place and is used for meetings of various groups, school tours, and for special occasions.  The Pioneer School House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Mears Junior High School (now Mears Middle School) in Anchorage was named in honor of Mears in 1965 in recognition of her work to establish public education in Anchorage and in the development of the Anchorage public schools.


Anchorage Woman’s Club Records.  Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage;

Crittenden, Katherine Carson.  Get Mears!:  Frederick Mears:  Builder of the Alaska Railroad. Portland, OR:  Binford & Mort, Publishing, in cooperation with the Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage, Alaska, 2002. 

File:  Mears, Jane Wainwright.  Cook Inlet Historical Society.  Legends and Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, Project Research Files, Box 8 (2017.004).  Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum. 

Frederick Mears Family Papers.  Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage;

Parham, R. Bruce.  “Mears, Jane Wainwright.”  Cook Inlet Historical Society.  Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940; 

Pioneer School House,” (AHRS ANC-244), Anchorage, AK.  National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service; 

Vera K. (Kingeekuk) Metcalf

Photo of Vera K. (Kingeekuk) Metcalf
Categories: 2019 Alumnae, Advocacy for Native Peoples, Education


Vera K Metcalf is an educator, researcher, and effective advocate for rural, northern Alaska Native people.  She steadfastly works to protect the subsistence lifestyles of Alaska Native people and preservation of their traditions and languages, as well as for the resources that are fundamentally important for the rural, primarily Native communities across the Arctic.  Since 2002 Metcalf has been the executive director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission, and since 2011 an executive committee member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.  For both groups, she works with northern Native people to document traditional ecological knowledge and promote research for responsible decision-making.  She represents the two commissions at national and international forums, including the Indigenous People’s Council on Marine Mammals, the Arctic Marine Mammal Coalition, and the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee.  She also is a commissioner on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, on an advisory panel of the North Pacific Research Board, a member of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, and an advisor on Native affairs for the Marine Mammal Commission.  

Metcalf was born in 1952 and raised in Savoonga (Sivungaq) on St. Lawrence Island in northwestern Alaska.  A good student, she was hired to be the kindergarten teacher’s aide at the then BIA-run school there.  For the early grades at the school, the teacher prepared the lessons, and the aides taught them in the Yu’pik language because that was what the children knew.  Metcalf met her husband Bob when she attended an education conference, and several years later moved to Nome and married him.  They have a son, Matthew, who lives with his family in Anchorage.  Bob moved to Nome from Pennsylvania in 1977 and worked as a pilot.  “It wasn’t long though before I met an amazing person who became my wife, Vera,” he said. “Beyond our life together, the greatest privilege that I have had is being included as part of her incredible family on St. Lawrence Island.”

When she moved to Nome, Metcalf worked in bilingual education and starting in 1994 for the Bering Straits Foundation in Nome.  She also attended college and earned her bachelor’s degree in rural development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1999.  In 2002, Metcalf became director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission with Kawerak, Inc. and is in that position today.  She facilitates meetings of the 19 commission members.  Metcalf is widely respected among her people, and by state, national and international colleagues and decision-makers for her knowledge of Arctic wildlife resources and national and international wildlife laws and regulations.  Her position papers, letters, and presentations on proposed regulations, legislation, and polices exhibit a depth of knowledge and understanding of issues, and clearly present positions and recommendations.  Currently, the Eskimo Walrus Commission recognizes that poaching of elephants for their tusks has endangered the animal’s survival, but Metcalf is working to ensure Alaska Native people can continue to harvest walrus, carve the ivory, and legally sell the carvings.  The Bering Sea walrus population currently is healthy, but Metcalf works closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists to monitor it as there is less sea ice annually. 

Of special importance to Metcalf is what she has done for the people of St. Lawrence Island. Metcalf coordinated the repatriation of over 1,000 ancestral remains to the people from the Smithsonian Institution.  In the course of that work, she collaborated with Igor Krupnik of the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History to author Akuzilleput Igaqullghet = Our words put to paper, a sourcebook on St. Lawrence Island heritage and history published in 2002.  For this work, she was recognized with a Before Columbus Foundation award in 2003.  She again worked with Krupnik to compile and edit Neqamikegkaput / faces we remember: Leuman Waugh’s photography from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, 1929-1930, published in 2011.  

Metcalf has received awards from the Bering Straits Foundation in 1997, and a WINGS Women of Discovery Sea Award in 2008.  But to her, the highest honor is having the respect of the people of St. Lawrence Island and their acknowledgement of her dedication and work for them.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Jo (Hayenga) Michalski

Photo of Jo (Hayenga) Michalski
Categories: 2016 Alumnae, Education, Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy


Jo Michalski is recognized as one of the most successful business women in Alaska and is a highly-respected philanthropist and fundraiser. She is also very well known for her years of community involvement and leadership capabilities.

Michalski was born in Wisconsin and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. From a very young age, it was apparent to those around her that she had the leadership tendencies needed to be a success at whatever she tackled. Elected the first girl to be president of her high school’s student council, it wasn’t long before these leadership qualities set the pattern for her life and contributed to her and her sister, Jane Hayenga, being inducted into the Alaska Business Hall of Fame.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Political Science, she taught ninth grade Social Studies for the Minneapolis School District. It was during this time that she met her husband, Peter, on a blind date, and as they say “the rest is history”. Peter was attending the University Of Minnesota’s law school and they were married in 1969.

Unknown to them at this time, Alaska was on the verge of becoming a major player in the energy world with the advent of Prudhoe Bay and the Trans Alaska Pipeline. John Havelock, then Attorney General for the State of Alaska, didn’t have enough attorneys on staff to handle all the additional work this new industry imposed upon the State, and he sent his team to the law schools in the rest of the country to find good people to recruit to come to Alaska to work on Alaskan issues.

The Michalskis were intrigued with the offer to come to Alaska and so something so different – it would be a grand adventure for them. In 1971 Peter signed a two-year contract to work for the Department of Law in Juneau and that was all it took – by the end of their contract, they were “hooked” and committed to building a good life for themselves in Alaska.

While in Juneau, Michalski learned about a vacancy in the Alaska Department of Education to help develop a statewide curriculum for environmental education in Alaska through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Since she had worked on curriculum development issues while teaching in Minneapolis, this opportunity fit both her and the State very well. For three years, she traveled all over Alaska, conducting environmental education workshops for the schools.

At the end of their two-year contract, they decided to move to Fairbanks where Peter continued his work in the Fairbanks District Attorney’s office. Michalski took her Department of Education job with her to Fairbanks, frequently traveling between Fairbanks and Juneau while at the same time working on her Masters’ Degree in Secondary School Administration at the University of Alaska (she received her degree in 1976). Her plan at that time was to prepare herself for a job as a High School Principal.

While working for the Department of Education, Michalski was responsible for organizing the first Governor’s Conference on Environmental Education in Alaska under Governor Egan. Several years later she helped organize the second conference under Governor Hammond.

Their first son was born in Fairbanks and shortly after that, the family moved to Anchorage and Peter continued working with the Department of Law. Their second son was born in Anchorage. Michalski’s plan was still to pursue a career in Anchorage with the school district as a principal, but that goal never came to fruition. Instead, she found that she really enjoyed being a businesswoman and this set the course for the next thirty-two years of her life.

Michalski’s younger sister, Jana Hayenga, moved to Anchorage from Minnesota in 1979. Their maternal grandmother had recently died and left them each some unfinished quilt tops. They were unable to find the supplies they needed to finish the quilts in Anchorage, so – on a whim – they decided to open their own quilting store. At that time, quilting supplies had to be ordered from the Lower 48 and they thought there was room in the market for their business. They opened the first quilt shop in Alaska.

They knew that many folks in Anchorage enjoyed quilting and it seemed like this would be a good business idea. After numerous attempts to get bank loans – all unsuccessful – they determined to go forward with their plan anyway and with help from their family, their first business venture got underway and they launched Country Classics. And – it was a success!

Starting a business was a big change from the craft fairs the two sisters had been doing, plus teaching school and raising a family. However, it was a start and they provided a comfortable local spot where quilters and others could come for supplies and advice. It was a hit and it filled a need and this has been the guiding principle for all the retails stores they opened and operated since.

It was during the start-up of this first business that Michalski discovered not only did she like being a retailer, but more importantly, she liked making money! She firmly believed that a business could only be successful if it was making money and making a profit – and she was right.

Making a profit enabled Michalski to stock excellent goods in her retail stores, to pay her employees a fair and decent wage and to give back to the community. Michalski says “if you are in business to make money, to make a profit, then you are going to line everything else up correctly. You are going to buy the right inventory, you will hire the right employees and train them correctly. You are a better retailer because this is your guiding principle”.

In addition to Country Classics, Michalski and her sister owned four other stores together: Alaska Book Fair Company from 1988 to 1996; Classic Toys from 1985 to 1998; Flypaper from 1996 to 1999 and Once Upon A Time from 1988 to 1996. Michalski also separately owned two fashionable boutiques – Classic Woman clothing, which she opened in 1990 and Portfolio clothing, which she opened in 2000. She sold both of these stores in 2012.

In balancing her life between family and career, Michalski said the secret was in running a successful business so that she could hire good staff who would free up her time to spend as needed with her family. Both of her sons helped and worked in her businesses as they were growing up, and even though they followed their father’s footsteps in becoming lawyers, both have expressed an interest in opening a retail business.

Asked about her relationship with her sister during all these ventures, Michalski said it was simple:
“My sister and I got along very well because we totally trusted each other to handle the various responsibilities we had”. She said she could not imagine having anyone else as a business partner. When they first started their joint businesses, they would meet every day to go over their daily schedules and jobs. She also credits the Calais Company with part of their success – she said they were incredible landlords who helped them immensely.

Michalski said she loved being in business and being around people and the challenges this provided. She never was hesitant about wanting to go into work and said she loved challenging herself to do better and be better at what she was doing. In the retail industry, “it is easy to challenge oneself and to measure your success – all you have to do is look at your bottom line to make sure you are exceeding your last financial statement!” She also said that if it wasn’t fun, she wouldn’t do it.

In her businesses, Michalski credited great staff with her success. In her thirty-two years of retails business she never once advertised for employees. They would come to her. She provided a fair and equitable wage and was one of the forerunners in the Alaska retail world to offer her staff with flexible hours for working. She claims that retired teachers and nurses made very good staff because they had the innate ability to multi-task – something that is crucial in a retail environment.

Although she never felt as if she was challenged with a “glass ceiling”, she did recall her early attempts at getting bank loans as one of the real challenges she had in starting her retail career. It was probably these naysayers that can be credited with challenging her to pursue her dreams in spite of their inability to understand what she was attempting to do.

Asked to discuss a highlight of her career, Michalski said “Being inducted into the Alaska Business Hall of Fame. Very few women and fewer retailers ever get this acknowledgement and my sister and I were honored to receive this recognition.”

Michalski’s mother was a prominent political figure in Minnesota; she was the first woman to run for statewide office and she worked for the Minnesota House of Representatives for more than twenty years. She ran Senator Hubert Humphry’s congressional office and worked on both his senatorial and presidential campaigns. With this family background in politics and politics being such a personal thing in Alaska, I asked Michalski if she ever toyed with the idea of running for public office, she replied that “although she had been asked to run for public office, it was never the right place or the right time”. She further said she got too busy being in business to run for public office.

Volunteerism and fundraising for organizations to which she belongs has always been part of Michalski’s life. She said from her very early years she was tagged as a leader and these activities have always been a part of whom she is.

Michalski has held leadership positions with various non-profit organizations including the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Public Media, Camp Fire Alaska, the Anchorage YWCA, the Bunnell Arts Center in Homer, Alaska Junior Theater, the League of Women Voters and the Alaska Community Foundation. She recently finished ten years as a trustee on the University of Alaska Foundation Board and served two years as board chair. She says that “volunteer work in Alaska is sort of a curious animal. Once you become involved and active, you are asked to do other things. If people find out you are willing to sit on a board, they want you to sit on their board also. Once you get started, it just takes on a life of its own.”

Since retiring, she is spending more of her time with development and fundraising activities for the various organizations she is a part of. “I find development fundraising to be the most interesting. It is the most significant job that board members are asked to do – to raise money for the organization and to watch over how the money is spent. I’ve always enjoyed the fundraising element of volunteer work and that is something not everyone is comfortable with. A lot of people go onto boards and dread that part of it” she says.

Michalski has a real gift for fundraising for the organizations in which she is involved. She shared her philosophy – “I don’t mind asking people for donations. I don’t mind when others ask me for a donation. I’m old enough that I can say ‘yes’ and determine at what level I am willing to give, or I can say ‘no’, but good luck in your fundraising. Other people that I might ask for donations from have the same ability to make a yes or no choice. The key to fundraising is to never take it personally. There are hundreds of wonderful, deserving organizations in our state. All of them need to raise money for their case, but everyone cannot support everything.”

Michalski is a very generous person. She financially and personally supports many organizations throughout Alaska. “We give back to the community,” Michalski says. “If you are a business person and you live in this community and it is where you make your money, it is imperative that you give back to the community.”

Since both Michalski and her husband are now retired, they are looking forward to traveling and seeing places around the world they had only seen before in pictures. “I want to go and see places that I never thought I would ever be able to see”, she says.

Awards Received:

1997 Athena Award presented by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
1998 Outstanding Small Business in Philanthropy Award – given by the Association of
Fundraising Professionals (awarded to Jo and her sister Jana Hayenga)
1998 Woman Entrepreneur Award given by YWCA of the United States
1999 Gold Pan Award for Outstanding Community Service presented by the Anchorage
Chamber of Commerce
2001 Women in History Month Citation, Alaska State Legislature as an “Outstanding Businesswoman
In Alaska”
2002 YWCA Women of Achievement Award
2006 Philanthropists of the Year Award presented by the Association of Fundraising
Professionals (award to Jo and Peter Michalski)
2011 Alumni Achievement Award for Business and Professional Excellence presented by the
University of Alaska Fairbanks Alumni Association
2015 Inducted into the Alaska Business Hall of Fame presented by Junior Achievement of Alaska,
January 2015

Biographical information written and compiled by Gail Philips, January 2016

1. 2016 Nomination form submitted by nominator Sharon Richards
2. Telephone conversation and review with Sharon Richards, January 2016
3. Alaska Business Monthly – “Longtime Alaskans Inducted to the Business Hall of Fame”,
September 2014
4. Alaska Business Monthly – “Jana Hayenga and Jo Michalski”, January 2015
5. UAF Alumni Association – 2011 Alumni Achievement Awards, Fall Quarter, 2011
6. The Statewide Voice – “Q and A Conversation with Jo Michalski: Ravenclaw”, November 2012
7. Betty Hayenga Obituary – Janssen Funeral Home – Anchorage, Alaska March 2008
8. Personal Interview with Gail Phillips, January 2016
9. Personal emails with Gail Phillips, January 2016
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Lael Morgan

Photo of Lael Morgan
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, 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.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Lael Morgan Books


Emily Morgan  

Photo of Emily Morgan  
Categories: 2013 Alumnae, Community Service, Health


Trained as a registered nurse and a public health nurse by the Red Cross in Wichita, Kan., Emily Morgan was responsible for administering the serum that was brought to Nome via the famous Iditarod Serum Run for the diphtheria epidemic of 1925. She was named the “Angel of the Yukon” for saving the Natives of Nome from the “black death” during that epidemic, according to Wichita newspapers. Her work stopped the spread of that deadly disease to other villages in the Arctic during one of the greatest health crises Alaska has ever seen.

During the First World War, Morgan had a commission in the Army Reserve Nurses Corps. She served for three years in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, England and Australia. While working back home as the first public health nurse in Wichita, she asked for missionary work, which brought her to Alaska for 15 years: the Jesse Lee Orphanage in Unalaska, the Maynard-Columbia Hospital in Nome and the hospital in Barrow. Morgan performed her job in Nome under the harshest of conditions – an epidemic in a rural Alaska village, a race to bring serum by dogsled delayed by blizzards, rising numbers of diphtheria cases and a serum that then had to be safely unfrozen before it could be used with patients.

A volume of biographies of Kansas notables described Morgan’s role:

While waiting for the antitoxin to arrive, Miss Morgan ministered to the ill through the long days and nights, never faltering as she added new dignity to the name of nurse.  

Morgan was called back to Nome while on furlough in Kansas in 1928 to help fight the smallpox epidemic in northern Alaska. Before leaving Alaska, she was in charge of the Barrow Hospital when the bodies of Wiley Post and Will Rogers were brought in from their plane crash on August 15, 1935. Post, a famous American aviator, and Rogers, celebrated as “America’s favorite Hollywood actor” just the year before, were on a vacation to Alaska and crashed just after takeoff near Point Barrow.

Morgan was born in Butler County, Kan., on March 7, 1878, the daughter of pioneering farmers and one of seven siblings. She graduated from Leon High School in 1897 and taught school before entering nurse’s training. She never married and died in El Dorado, Kan., in May of 1960 at the age of 82. She also served as a missionary nurse in Panama before nursing in New Zealand when World War II broke out in 1939.  She had traveled to New Zealand on a furlough to visit and minister to an ill sister, but it was unsafe to travel, and she remained at her hospital post long after the war ended.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Additional Resources: 

Blizzard delays Nome relief dogs in the final dash. (Feb. 2, 1925). The New York Times (reporting news from Nome, AK, Feb. 1, Associated Press.)  

Emily Morgan – “Angel of the Yukon.” (1980). In The Kingdom of Butler – Her People. Lawrence P. Klintworth (Ed.) El Dorado, Kansas: Butler County Historical Society, pp. 150-151.

Emily Morgan of El Dorado Risked Life to Save Hundreds in Dread Diptheria Scurge. Wichita Eagle Magazine, May 19, 1957.

Hurries to Alaska. The Topeka Capital, December 23, 1928.

Heroine of Nome Epidemic in Public Service 50 Years. Wichita Morning Eagle, Aug. 2, 1947.

The official website of Will Rogers. (retrieved from February 3, 2013. )

Ruth E. Moulton 

Photo of Ruth E. Moulton 
Categories: 2013 Alumnae, Community Activism


Ruth Moulton was born in l931 in Portland, Maine, and grew up on the family apple orchard in the small town of Standish, Maine. Her family wrote: “As a girl, she read Jack London’s ‘Call of the Wild’ and was so inspired that she and her dog started right off for Alaska. She got only a short way down the road when Grandpa Moulton caught up with her and brought her home.”

Moulton graduated from the University of Maine in l952 with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and in l957 from Columbia University with a Master of Arts in Public Law and Government. She taught at a Maine high school, then after visiting Alaska in l959 and “feeling at home” the minute she stepped off the plane, she moved here permanently in l960.

Moulton taught English, history and social studies for several years at East High School, later worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and, in between, had a number of other jobs, including researcher and taxi driver. In l973 she returned to Harvard University for a Certificate of Advanced Study in Learning Environments. For many years, she supported herself as an independent tax-preparer.

Moulton is remembered as a community activist and as an outdoorswoman. She was an active hiker and explorer all her life. She climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She hiked the Chilkoot Pass three times and bicycled all over Alaska. At 75 and just diagnosed with cancer, Moulton hiked seven miles to a cabin on Resurrection Pass carrying a 35 pound pack. “She loved to organize her friends lives,” recalls John Blaine. “She would set up hiking trips over Resurrection Pass. She would arrange solstice parties where we would burn red underwear and everyone who came had to write a poem. She made people feel more active, more alive, more involved.” 

Moulton was a member of the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and a longtime resident of the Fairview community where she “lived the town-meeting philosophy” engrained in her New England upbringing as a tireless neighborhood advocate. Her efforts for the protection and safety of her Fairview neighborhood and for all neighborhoods; her appreciation of community councils as grass-roots democracy in action; her advancement of parks, trails, gardens, viewed in terms of civic responsibility, were her hallmarks. Moulton was strongly supportive of the not-yet-built extension of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to Potter Marsh and when she learned that an inland route was under consideration, she rounded up 5,000 signatures in support of the coastal route. She is credited with successfully involving hundreds of men and women in community projects she believed were important.

“Ruth never badgered anyone to help her,” Blaine says. “She was just always so sure. She would say ‘I am going to do this. Will you join me?’ She never hesitated to lead; she never complained about how difficult things were for her. She just set out to accomplish whatever it was that needed doing. She persevered through daunting opposition. She provided a strong role model for many men and women in Anchorage who learned from her example how individuals affected by governmental actions could play an effective part in governmental processes.” 

Moulton’s legacy is her persistent long-term championship for the creation and protection of Anchorage’s Town Square Park. The saga begins in l965 when Anchorage voters approved an Anchorage Garden Club-initiated petition for a city park where the Egan Convention Center now stands. The voters approved – but no action was taken. In l981 the Assembly approved building a convention center at that site. Moulton publically stated that such an action would be counter to the public vote. A lawsuit was brought to stop the convention center, but failed. Undaunted after losing the lawsuit, Moulton led a successful petition drive to reestablish the park. The Municipality responded with an alternative proposal to move the park one block south. The proposal passed, but nothing more happened.

In l984 Moulton led another petition drive to put a Charter Amendment on the ballot to set aside Block 51 (the present site of Town Square Park) for a park. The Ballot Measure passed with 75 percent of the vote. In l985 Block 51 was still being used as a parking lot. Moulton led another public crusade that resulted in legal action. This time it was successful and work began in earnest on the park.

In l987 the work on the park was halted because buildings remained on Block 51. Moulton’s group of park enthusiasts again threatened legal action and the necessary demolition was begun. She worked for two years with the Town Square Advisory Committee on the design and development of the Town Square Park that we have today; but organized another petition drive that stopped a road from going through the park.

At the time of her death, Moulton was working on an advisory committee to Mayor Mark Begich (now U.S. Senator Begich) regarding proposed changes to Town Square. Mayor Begich is reported as telling her, with a smile, that any changes would need her approval to go forward.

In an Anchorage Daily News article after her death, Mayor Begich was quoted as saying in reference to the Town Square Park: “Without Ruth Moulton, I don’t even think it would have existed.” 

Moulton was named a YWCA Woman of Achievement in l994 for her lead role in the establishment of the Town Square Park and her accomplishments in civic action.

In a 2005 article on “My Favorite Parks,” Moulton wrote:

Every town needs a central place, some sort of ‘town square.’ Such a place serves to create and solidify a community identity; it helps create a ‘there’ there, if you will. And while adding valuable open space and softness in the midst of hard surfaces and structures, it serves many other purposes, some of which are important, even basic, to a good community.

“Its openness makes it a place of refreshment in all seasons as it brings in light to the center of the city; there are gorgeous flowers in the summer and ice skating in the winter; there are autumn colors in our brief fall, and that optimistic, almost joyous, bright green in spring. It provides a bit of respite during a brief walk from corner to corner, and a calm retreat during a lunch-hour spent reading, half-dozing in the sun. 

“As important, it serves as a place for people to gather – to watch fireworks in celebration or to light candles in mourning; to listen to a military band or to petition their government; to celebrate a holiday season or a culture community; to meet in silent commemoration or listen to oratory. 

“For these and many other reasons, Town Square is my favorite park.”

The next year, in 2006, Ruth Moulton died. Over the next three years there were public and private resolutions recommending a public acknowledgement of Moulton’s role as a community activist and, more specifically, her leadership role in establishing the Town Square Park. In 2010 the Ruth Moulton Plaza was dedicated at Town Square Park.

Every April 1, on her birthday, her friends John Blaine and Dianne Holmes visit the Ruth Moulton Plaza in the Town Square Park. They bring a box with a sign that reads: “SOAP BOX,” a portable mike, homemade cookies and coffee. Anyone passing by is invited to share the cookies and coffee, get up on the Soap Box and give civil discourse on any subject they choose. “It’s very funky,” John says. “I think Ruth would enjoy it.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


A Resolution of the Anchorage Municipal Assembly Remembering the Life and Contributions of Ruth Moulton to the City of Anchorage and Requesting That Her Name Be Submitted to the Public Facilities Advisory Commission With a Recommendation To Designate Anchorage’s Town Square or a Significant Integral Feature Thereof in Her Memory (Approved 12/19/06)


Municipality of Anchorage Parks & Recreation Commission Resolution 2007-12 Naming Town Square Park to Commemorate Ruth Moulton. (Approved March 8, 2007)


Public Facilities Advisory Commission: Resolution 2007-03: A Resolution of the Public Facilities Advisory Commission Recommending Assembly Action to Name Town Square Park in honor of Ruth Moulton (March 28, 2007)


Anchorage Daily News: November 18, 2006: Ruth Moulton was a rock until the end. COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Cancer silences active Anchorage woman. By Rosemary Shinohara


Anchorage Daily News: November 22, 2006 Obituaries: Ruth Moulton

Marge Mullen

Photo of Marge Mullen
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Community Activism


A city girl from Chicago, Marge walked 65 miles through the wilderness to stake a homestead on Soldotna Creek near the Kenai River. She is the first woman to live in Soldotna under the Homestead Act in 1947. As a young wife and mother making her home in a log cabin on Soldotna Creek in 1947, Marge learned many skills she never dreamed of as a child in Chicago. Living without a grocery store meant that she would have to learn to hunt, catch, grow and preserve the family food.

Inspired by the first Earth Day, Marge organized the first roadside litter pickup in 1970. She also served as a member and chair of the local planning commission. With her hiking “buddies” (most of who were male), Marge organized the Kenai Peninsula Conservation Society and served a term as its president in the 1980s.

Today, Marge is unofficial historian for Soldotna. She has archived over 1000 photos at Kenai Peninsula College. She chairs the local historical society and coordinates activities at the town’s Homestead Museum. She brings a digital slide show, a charming wit and her vast knowledge of the early days to the local speaker circuit.

Marge, now in her ninetieth year, still takes a brisk walk daily and is a continuing inspiration for generations of local women as she actively maintains her health and her connections with her family and community. Marge continues to reside in the community she helped to build and where she raised her four children.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Peggy Mullen

Photo of Peggy Mullen
Categories: 2020 Alumnae, Community Service


Not only is  Mullen creative and a visionary, she is also a passionate conservationist and steward of the environment. 

She still lives on the homestead property where she grew up. Last summer, she built the third incarnation of her bookstore, River City Books, on a corner of the homestead near the highway to Homer. It is elegantly designed with every “green and sustainable” element possible —from solar panels to edible plants surrounding it. 

The Mullens were the first homesteading family in Soldotna and the town grew up around them. (Soldotna has a population of nearly 5,000 now.) Surely, in earlier years, and even today, no hitchhiker on the highway near the Mullen homestead would ever go hungry. Mullen or her siblings or her mother Margie usually came and collected them and took them home for dinner. There was always a place under the kitchen table for an extra sleeping bag. 

Mullen is devoted to Soldotna and Alaska. If you applaud the creation of walkable places, seek out nature trails, buy a book, eat gourmet food, buy a charming or beautiful present for your kitchen or a friend, recycle your newspapers and pop cans, you have been the happy recipient of Mullen’s spirit of good works, her passion, humor, her intelligence, and her dedication. 

If you see someone collecting trash at the side of the highway or down on her hands and knees pulling out invasive weeds along the roadside, it is also likely to be Mullen. As she once said, invasive species are so hard to control, but it is so important to try. It is all for the protection of Alaska’s beautiful streams, rivers, and waterways. 

Mullen has made significant contributions to Soldotna and Alaska in very tangible forms. She started four elegant small business in a wilderness town. The first, in 1978, was “The Four Seasons,” a lovely little restaurant, the first of its kind in Soldotna (and, impressively for its time, an architecturally-designed building!) set back in the woods on the homestead property with a gourmet Alaska fare. The second was Northcountry Fair, a small design shop with household wares and gifts—a little of everything—like an upscale general store for folks far from a city. It really showcased Mullen’s delightful and whimsical humor and her touch of the artist by adding a little elegance in the woods. It surely nurtured another side of the community heart. The third business which she now still runs is River City Books. This small bookstore with an incredible selection is where folks come for books and talks or to gather and eat at another one of her former businesses, “now placed in very capable young hands,” she says. 

Food, art, and books—these are all at the core of any happy community. But, in addition,Mullen has worked in very concrete ways to expand other places and activities that make a community a home—the kinds of things that connect people and bring a shared happiness, such as walking trails, bike trails, city parks, festivals, and medical services like Planned Parenthood. In essence, her gift is looking at how people spend time with other people in community (or time alone in nature) and helping to make those places blossom. 

On a statewide/national level, Mullen helped start the League of Women Voters and Planned Parenthood for Soldotna. She’s been intimately involved in the protection of watersheds and clean water for Soldotna Creek and Kenai River. She has worked to slow the spread of invasive species. She helped build the momentum for the creation of a river park. The list goes on. If it has anything to do with a civilizing touch, preservation of wild places, creating a healthy, livable town, or marching in the streets for good causes, you will probably find Mullen somewhere at the heart of it. 

Finally, something often overlooked in our busy worlds, but so important to those who helped to build a town, Mullen, as a three-term member of the Soldotna City Council, helped bring home—to the heart of town—a cemetery plot. As one old homesteader said, “A cemetery plot was proposed 50 years ago. Mullen buttoned it up, persuaded the council to put it right in town near the river, and she nailed it this time. It is now a place where town folk can easily go and visit their elders.” (In the past, a majority of Council members had apparently wanted to put it “a taxi-cab ride away from town” making it very difficult for many elderly to go visit their loved ones.) 

“In her humble way, Peggy has demonstrated for me over the last 40 years what it means to be a passionate, gentle, effective leader, making a difference in one’s community and state which will enhance the quality of life for generations to come,” said Carol Swartz, director of the Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College/UAA in Homer, Alaska. 

Mullen has an undergraduate degree from Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, and a graduate degree in education from the University of Alaska Anchorage. 

Citations: Many interviews and book “I’d Swap My Old Skidoo For You”: A Portrait of Characters on The Last Frontier by Nan Elliot, published 1989. Chapter: “First Homesteading Family in Soldotna.” 

Rie Munoz

Photo of Rie Munoz
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Art


Rie Munoz


Achievement In:       Art

Rie Munoz has been painting Alaska’s peoples, their communities and their activities since she feel in love with Juneau on a summer vacation in June of 1951. She has traveled widely throughout the far-flung reaches of Alaska and, through her very colorful paintings,  depicts the everyday work and play of Alaskans, particularly those in small communities. She also explores the legends of Alaska’s Native people in her work. In addition to working in watercolors and making prints, she has created tapestries and murals.

Her work is carried in many galleries throughout Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, other states and Canada. She has won many awards and honors. In 1999, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities Degree from the University of Alaska Southeast. She received the Alaska State Council on the Arts 2004 Governor’s Award for Individual Artist. In 2007, she was named the Rasmuson Foundation’s Distinguished Artist with this citation: “… in recognition of her signature ability to capture Alaska’s people and day-to-day activities, as well as her dedication to documenting village life”.

The large number of galleries carrying her work, her many successful solo watercolor exhibits and the eagerness with which each new work is greeted, speak to the popularity of her art. Through her creativity, she has introduced Alaska village life to the world.

Rie Munoz Alaskan Artist. Introduction by Judy Shuler. Anchorage, Alaska, Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, 1984.

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Lisa Murkowski

Photo of Lisa Murkowski
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Politics


Lisa Murkowski grew up surrounded by politics. A third-generation Alaskan, she was born into a family familiar with public service, from school board to the courthouse to the governor’s cabinet. She heard Alaska’s growing pains discussed over the dinner table on a nightly basis. It was natural that, at 16, she volunteered to work on a gubernatorial campaign; within a few weeks, the capable teenager was running the candidate’s Fairbanks office.

Murkowski earned her law degree and went into commercial practice. She married Verne Martell and they raised two sons, Nic and Matt. But on the side, Murkowski followed family tradition by becoming active in community. In 1998 she won election to the state House of Representatives. After being re-elected twice, Murkowski accepted a controversial appointment. Her father, U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski, ran for Governor of Alaska, and won. He appointed his daughter as his successor in the Senate, rousing great controversy. “I have never once asked Alaskans to like how I got this job,” the new senator said. “I asked them to judge me by how well I did the job.” Two years after the appointment, she decisively won election to the Senate on her own.

Murkowski had established a reputation in the state House as a legislator willing to work across party lines, and she continued that in the Senate, becoming a leader in Alaskan energy issues, speaking out against the Patriot Act, and working to adapt federal education requirements to fit Alaska‘s needs. In less than 8 years, she became vice-chair of the Senate Republican Conference, the Senate’s fourth-ranking Republican.

Murkowski’s efforts at compromise during a conservative boom in politics seemed to backfire in 2010, when she lost the primary election to a Tea Party Express-backed candidate. However, her years of bridge-building paid off when voters across the state asked her to stay in the race. In less than six weeks, she built a coalition of labor, Native, energy and other groups, and retained her Senate seat. She became the first person since 1954 to win a write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate, and the only woman ever to do so.

As Alaska’s senior senator, Murkowski continues to focus on the state’s major issues: energy, veteran’s affairs, Native issues, health care, education and more. Although elected as a Republican in the write-in, she won her seat without the official backing of her party. In a state where some 54 percent of voters do not align themselves with a particular political party, Murkowski found she had new freedom to represent those voters. “We have enough to do that we don’t need to get weighted down in partisan politics, “ she said. In the words she used during her write-in announcement, channeling her late mentor, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens: “To hell with politics; let’s do what’s right for Alaska.”


Additional Resources:

Congressional Institute,