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Dorothy (Guzzi) Page

Photo of Dorothy (Guzzi) Page
1921 1989
Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Community Activism, Historic Preservation, Political Activism, Writing


Dorothy Guzzi Page (“Mother of the Iditarod”) was born on January 23, 1921, in Bessemer, Michigan to parents Arcole C. Guzzi and Mary Mae Jago Guzzi. She moved with her family to Duluth and then to Minneapolis, where she spent most of her early life.

Following her high school graduation in 1939, Dorothy moved to Albuquerque then to Los Alamos, New Mexico.  She worked the front office, in medical records of the Los Alamos Hospital. She also worked as the chief telephone operator. She opened Dorothy’s Café in 1950, across from the famous Camel Rock Trading Post.

Page married Vondole Page, on June 17, 1959, in Taos, New Mexico. They operated the trading post and café until they took a vacation to Alaska in 1960. They never lived in New Mexico again and moved to Dillingham, Alaska.  Von worked as a Superintendent of schools and Page worked in the school office. In 1962 they moved to Wasilla, Alaska. Here she saw her first sled dog race, an event which would play a significant role in her many contributions to Alaska.

In 1965, Page was chairperson of Wasilla’s Alaska Centennial Committee. As a Centennial project, she initiated the idea of reopening the historic Iditarod Trail between Knik and Big Lake.Dog mushing had been the primary means of communication and transportation in the Bush and Interior by Alaska Natives for centuries and remained so for the Russian, American and French-Canadian fur trappers in the 19th century, reaching its peak during the gold rushes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the 1960s snow machines started to replace the dog teams and they almost vanished.

In her own words, Page, the self-described “history buff” wanted, “a spectacular dog race to awaken Alaskans to what mushers and their dogs had done for Alaska”. Page began the work of organizing support for her idea however, she unable to get the support of a single dog musher until she met Joe Redington, Sr. at the Willow Winter Carnival. Redington, who would later become known as the “Father of the Iditarod” used dog teams to perform search and rescue for the U.S. Air Force and owned a large kennel. He also had been lobbying to make the Iditarod Trail a National Historic Trail since the 1950s. Redington agreed to lend his support to the event on the condition that a purse of $25,000 would be divided among the winners. With Page’s determination, the money was soon raised.

The historic Iditarod Trail, which passed through both Wasilla and Knik, was an ideal stage for the first of many dog races. In February 1967, fifty-eight dog mushers competed in two heats along a 25 mile stretch of the old Iditarod Trail between Wasilla and Knik.  The race was modeled after the first large dog sled race in the state, the 1908 to 1918 All-Alaskan Sweepstakes (AAS) of Nome. The official name of this 1967 event was the Iditarod Trail Seppala Memorial Race and honored the three-time Sweepstakes champion, Leonhard Seppala.  While Seppala was most famous for participating in the 1925 serum run which saved the city of Nome from a diphtheria epidemic, Page reported “Seppala was picked to represent all mushers”. The 1969 race over the same trail with a purse of $1,000, attracted only 12 mushers and was the last until 1973, when, largely due to Redington, the race to Nome was established. Page continued to support the Iditarod in many ways throughout her life and, although she never raced, in 1997 she was posthumously awarded as an honorary musher.

Page served on the Iditarod Trail Committee’s board of directors since its inception. Throughout the years, Page served on many committees for the Iditarod, including the executive committee. At the time of her death, she was serving as the treasurer.

While leading the Centennial Committee in 1966, her drive to preserve the early history of the Valley was the force for establishment of Wasilla-Knik-Willow Creek Historical Society. She served as President.  She was instrumental in founding Wasilla Museum, Knik Museum and served as curator for both museums.  She served as a member of Wasilla Library Board for 20 years. 1973-1989 – Wrote, edited and published the Iditarod’s annual race program and edited the race’s news magazine, The Iditarod Runner.  She wrote weekly columns for the Frontiersman, plus feature articles and articles of historic interest for both the Frontiersman and the Valley Sun.  She served 4 terms on Wasilla City Council.  She served as Mayor of Wasilla 1986 and 1987.  She served as Wasilla’s Republican Committee woman from 1968.  She was a long-time member of the Alaska Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women.

Described by her friend, Gail Phillips, “Dorothy had the unfailing, innate and wonderful ability to get the right people involved in activities she felt they should be involved in, especially if she herself was involved.  Once she had scoped out a “victim’s” strength and abilities, and determined where that person was needed most, she would move mountains to make sure they got involved.  A large part of Iditarod’s tremendous success over the years can be attributed to Dorothy’s ability to get the right people involved in the right job. In addition, once a person was in a position to help, Dorothy continued to help – she didn’t leave people hanging out on a limb. She could always be counted on for support and help.”

Although Dorothy Page is most famous for being the “Mother of the Iditarod”, many people remember her as a tireless advocate for building and preserving communities in Alaska. After her passing, many people wrote in to The Iditarod Runner to share their personal stories and thanks to one of Alaska’s most treasured women. Page’s friend, Representative Curt Maynard wrote, “Dorothy’s spirit is the legacy I would like to recognize and honor. It is her enthusiasm and diligence that has inspired others to pursue their goals and dreams. I know of many of my neighbors in the Valley watched her get the ball rolling on the Iditarod and they caught the “volunteer spark”. Anyone who’s life was touched by Dorothy was stirred to do a little more, try a little harder, give more time and energy to their neighborhood, church, or school. The Valley has a rich history that through Dorothy’s efforts is preserved for our children and grandchildren. The common bond that she created by her spirit insures a rich future also. Thank you Dorothy and we hope to see you on down the trail.”

List of Awards received by Page:

1984: Recipient of the Governor’s Volunteer Award presented by Governor Bill Sheffield.

1986: Dorothy received the Wasilla-Knik-Willow Creek Society Gold Pan Award.  She won both state and national awards for her Iditarod Trail Annuals.

1989: After her death, the Wasilla Museum was renamed the Dorothy G. Page Museum.

1989:   She was the recipient of the Mayor of Wasilla’s proclamation honoring Dorothy’s life in.

1990: She was the recipient of the State of Alaska’s Legislative Citation by the 16th Alaska Legislature.

1997:  She was named the Honorary Musher for Iditarod 25.  She is commemorated by the Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award, given to the first musher to reach the halfway point of the annual race, in Cripple in even-numbered years and in Iditarod in odd-numbered years.

She received State and National Press Awards for her publication of the “Iditarod Trail Annual”

She was recognized for her years of service to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough by resolution recognizing her “Distinguished Service to the Community”.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Sarah Palin

Photo of Sarah Palin
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Politics


Sarah Palin was the first woman and the youngest person elected Governor of Alaska in 2006 when she was 42. She was also the first Alaska woman to serve as a candidate on a national ticket when she was selected as the Republican U.S. Vice Presidential running mate to Senator John McCain in 2008.

Prior to her election as governor, Palin served two terms on the Wasilla City Council and two terms as the mayor/manager of Wasilla. Palin is also past chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

Ellen Evak Paneok 

Photo of Ellen Evak Paneok 
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Art, Aviation


Ellen Paneok was the first Alaska Native woman pilot. She worked as a commercial pilot in Alaska for 17 years and ferried everything from dynamite to live wolverines, the U.S. mail, passengers and medical patients. Paneok accumulated more than 15, 000 miles of flight time during her life. The elders called her “Owl Eyes” because she could see and fly in any type of weather. To her knowledge, she was the only Native American (Eskimo) woman pilot.

Paneok was born in Bedford, Va., in 1959. Her mother, Bernice Evak Burgandine, was an Inupiaq Eskimo from Kotzebue. Her father, Ron Burgandine, was in the United States Air Force stationed in Alaska. Her parents divorced when she was in the fifth grade and after the divorce, her mother moved Paneok and her two sisters to Anchorage. From the age of nine she took on the role of mother to her two sisters. A state social service agency broke the family up when she was 12 – her younger sister was adopted and she and her other sister were sent to separate foster homes. Paneok bounced around foster homes until she was put in “girls’ lock down” at the age of 14. Fortunately, her last foster home was a loving environment and helped her turn her life around.

When she was 15, Paneok found a flying magazine and after reading it decided she wanted to give it a try. At the age of 16 she received a $1,500 dividend from the Cook Inlet Regional Corporation and used it to take flying lessons. Eventually, the money ran out and Paneok started doing pen-and ink-drawings that she sold for $10 each. At the age of 17 she began ivory carving and scrimshaw, selling her work to tourists. She used the money to complete her training. Never liking school, Paneok would skip English and History to take flying lessons. At the age of 20, Paneok received her GED and her private pilot’s license.

By the time Paneok was 23, she had her commercial and flight-instructor certificates. In 1983 her first flying job was in Kiana, flying a Piper Cherokee Six. She chased polar bears from runways in the line of duty. “The most challenging part,” she said in the 1997 book “Women and Flight,” “is the off-airport work, like landing on the sandbars, landing on top of a mountain with big tires, maybe on a 20-degree grade, landing uphill and taking off downhill – to me, that’s the epitome of Bush flying.” Paneok said she was honored to be one of the few pilots authorized to fly the vintage aircraft owned by the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. After flying for air taxi operations throughout the Bush, Paneok worked for the Federal Aviation Administration for five years as an operations inspector, then for the Alaska Aviation Foundation as the Statewide  viation Safety Coordinator.

Paneok was published widely in such magazines as AOPA Pilot and Alaska Magazine and was featured in numerous books on women and aviation, including “Bush Pilots of Alaska” and “Women Pilots of Alaska”. She was also referenced in a number of other publications for her unique experience and knowledge of high-Arctic flying.   Her article “With Trusting Eyes Behind Me” was included in “The Last Frontier,” a  collection of the best of Alaska Magazine. Paneok was included in Ann Lewis Cooper’s Book “Stars of the Sky, Legends All”. She was one of only 37 pilots featured in the “Women in Flight” exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. She is remembered as a “heroine in aviation”. That was the name of an exhibit sponsored by the Chicago Airport System which also chronicled Paneok’s extraordinary life.

Paneok created ivory scrimshaw that hailed from her Inupiaq tribal traditions as well as her interest in the changing world. She exhibited her work at many Alaska Federation of Natives conventions and arts-and-crafts shows. Her work can be found in art and antique galleries in Anchorage and Haines and in Minnesota and Maine as well as in many private collections.

Paneok was a long-time member and supporter of the Alaska 99’s, the International Organization of Pilots. She also volunteered her time and sat on the board of the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, the Alaska Airmen’s Association, Big Brothers and Big Sisters Anchorage, the Alaska Historical Commission and Challenge Alaska. She spent countless hours inspiring the youth of Anchorage and village communities to look to the sky and to their own dreams. When Paneok spoke to groups of at-risk kids, she could relate from her own personal experience. She told them: “I was just like you. I got no encouragement. When you decide to do something, don’t let anyone or anything discourage you. It’s up to you.”

Shortly after her death in March of 2008, Paneok was honored by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Congressional Record.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Elizabeth “Betty” Parent

Photo of Elizabeth “Betty” Parent
Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Advocacy, Advocacy for Native Peoples, Education, Leadership, Mentorship


Elizabeth (Betty) Parent began her life in the small Alaskan village of Crooked Creek on the Kuskokwim River. In an area known for the blending of Athabascan and Yupik cultures, her family lived a traditional subsistence lifestyle steeped the culture of Deg Xinag (or Deg Hit’an) Athabascan people.

Early life was challenging for her. She and her two sisters suffered the loss of their parents through death and tragedy before school age. Betty subsequently lost her two sisters to childhood disease. She moved from family to family but always excelled in school and grew to love learning. She was guided in her life by her aunt Alice Harris who taught her to maintain a positive attitude and to work hard. Along the way, Betty acquired a great sense of humor which allows her to laugh at the ups and downs of life.

Parent spoke the Yup’ik language exclusively until she was five years old. Yet when she began primary school in the single room schoolhouse, the school only taught in English so she lost her bilingualism.

At the age of 18, she moved to Fairbanks to attend the University of Alaska. Right away she became involved in college and community life in the Interior. The 1960’s were historic times of change for Alaska Native people and Parent was in on the ground floor of many important movements. She helped organize cultural and social supports for Alaska Native students on campus through the Alaska Native Club; she worked in a leadership position in Head Start, moving seamlessly between parent advocacy and administrative roles. She organized Head Start parents to fight for culturally relevant education for young children in the Fairbanks School District.

Parent became involved in the early advocacy for the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act. Important to that work was the publishing of the Tundra Times, a weekly newspaper that gave a political and cultural voice to Alaska Native people. Parent served on Tundra Times Board, supporting editor Howard Rock during many years as the paper operated on a shoestring but produced important political advocacy.

While at the University of Alaska she met a brilliant UAF professor Gene Wescott. They married in 1961 and had three children Brian, Siobhan and Liam.

In 1964 Parent earned a B.A. in Anthropology, with minors in English and Education, as well as the dubious distinction of being only the thirty-second Native to graduate from the university.

Given the lack of support for Native students in the UA system at the time, she did not feel encouraged to continue graduate study in her home state. In later years, the University of Alaska Fairbanks honored her for her contributions.

After graduation she took advantage of Native student support opportunities at Harvard University, where she earned an M.A. in Education Administration, was awarded a Certificate of Advanced Studies, and was the first Native American to serve on the Editorial Board of the Harvard Educational Review – all while balancing the responsibilities of being a single mother of three small children.

She was awarded another fellowship to pursue her doctorate at Stanford University. Her dissertation, “The Educational Experiences of the Residents of Bethel, Alaska: A Historical Case Study,” focused on educational challenges faced by Alaska Natives students enrolled in Christian missionary schools, the predecessor to Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Dr. Parent then held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles, during which time she also hosted a bi-monthly radio show on Pasadena Community College’s KPCC and became known as the ‘Treaty Lady’ because of her attention to issues of Native American treaty rights.

Parent worked hard to bring the Native American perspective to the forefront in academic life. During her time as a doctoral candidate at Stanford she was a lecturer in Native American Studies at Berkeley—traveling several hours around the Bay area by bus each week to fulfill her teaching and research responsibilities.

When she obtained her doctorate, she accepting a tenure-track appointment as an assistant professor of American Indian Studies in the nation’s only College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. She took on the responsibilities of chairing the program, guiding American Indian Studies to department status, developing the minor emphasis, and became the department’s first full professor. After establishing a precedent of excellence in teaching, research, and community service that many American Indians academics and programs seek to emulate, Dr. Parent retired and earned Professor Emerita status in 2000.

She worked hard to integrate Native American Studies into the general education requirements so that students could choose these courses to satisfy their core requirements. This innovation made Indian studies accessible to a broad audience in the student body of SFSU.

Her academic career was marked by so many firsts—first Alaska Native woman to earn a PhD, one of a very few Alaska Native students to successfully gain degrees from both Harvard and Stanford University and the first Alaska Native woman to obtain tenure as a full professor. Upon her retirement, San Francisco State established the Elizabeth Parent Achievement Award in her honor. The award is bestowed annually to deserving students who exhibit academic success and leadership in American Indian communities.

Beyond the formal recognitions, most meaningful are the hundreds of young people who were mentored by Parent in their academic, social and cultural development. She was known on the Stanford campus for hosting student gatherings in her tiny on-campus apartment—always with a good home cooked meal.

When she learned of a new student who might need support, she would call them up- sometimes several times- until she made contact to let them know she was there if they needed help. She attended student presentation for moral support, she cooked thousands of meals for student potlucks and she was a strong supporter of Native American cultural centers wherever she lived. Sometimes the smallest gesture meant a huge amount to students who were struggling far from home.

Dorothy Pender, an Alaska Native student who completed her PhD, wrote, “Betty took me under her wing when I was an electrical engineering grad student at Stanford University. She proudly supported me as I defended my doctoral thesis, and both Stanford professors and students assumed she was my mother!

Likewise Karen Perdue, a young Stanford undergraduate from Fairbanks came to rely on the Parent household as a second family –for parental advice, food and the ability to decompress including hosting sleepovers in the Stanford dorm for Betty’s daughter Siobhan.

Pender also remembers how Parent encouraged her to become involved in assisting others. Parent is a Sequoyah member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), which is a lifelong membership- “Betty encouraged me to become an AISES Sequoyah member, and a board member.”

In her 75th year, Parent remains an active participant in Native American education and journalism circles, as well as broader Bay Area Native community organizations and events, such as her role on the Board of Directors for the Native American Cultural Center in San Francisco. She continues to be honored and recognized by her peers for her contributions.

Over her lifetime, Dr Betty Parent has progressed from a one room school house in a remote Alaskan village to the academic halls of America’s most prestigious Universities. She has never forgotten her roots. All through her career she has focused on the needs of young people by teaching and mentoring on a daily basis. She has committed herself to social and educational justice for Native American people.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Elizabeth Peratrovich

Photo of Elizabeth Peratrovich
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Civil Rights


An important role model for all women and men who want to do something about injustice, Tlingit leader Elizabeth Peratrovich worked tirelessly to bring equality to Alaska. She raised awareness, rallied support, and lobbied the legislature to pass Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act in 1945, the first such law in the nation. As Grand Camp President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Elizabeth provided the crucial testimony that brought about passage of the Anti-Discrimination bill.

When asked by the Senate, “Will the equal rights bill eliminate discrimination in Alaska?” Elizabeth answered: “Have you eliminated larceny or murder by passing a law against it? No law will eliminate crimes, but at least you as legislators, can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination.” Her speech split the opposition and allowed the bill to pass.

Mary Ciuniq Pete

Photo of Mary Ciuniq Pete
Categories: 2019 Alumnae, Arctic Policies, Education



Mary Ciuniq Pete came from humble beginnings in the small Bering Sea coastal village of Stebbins, learning subsistence life skills from her family, which she carried on throughout her life and through teaching others. Pete went on to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1984.

Pete was an outstanding role model by all who knew and worked with her.  Appointed by Governor Tony Knowles as Director of the Subsistence Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. President Obama appointed Pete to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission twice.  Her work helped positively shape subsistence and arctic policies far into the future.

Pete was tireless in advocating for women and children’s needs, especially those who were less fortunate.  She was widely recognized for her work in this area, serving on the Statewide Council on Domestic Violence. She clearly valued education, and strongly advocated for her students to succeed, especially her Indigenous ones. She was the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus Director in Bethel from 2005 until her death. Additionally, she would probably have said one of her greatest achievements was developing a bachelors’ degree program for the Yup’ik language.

There are countless people across Alaska who count Pete as their role model who promoted, mentored and advocated on their behalf.  Her mentorship is evidenced via folks now in the media, educational, political and public advocacy arenas. 

Many have said that Alaska is a kinder and better place because of her and her dedication to those things she worked so hard for and cared about with family always coming first in her life. 

None could be prouder of Pete and her accomplishments than lifetime partner/husband, Hubert Angaiak and their teenage sons Conor and Chase.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Leah Webster Peterson

Photo of Leah Webster Peterson
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Anchorage Pioneer, Art, Education


In 1939 Leah and her husband Chester arrived by steamer at Karluk village on Kodiak Island to accept teaching positions with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They were the first teachers in the village for many years and as such were made very welcome. In 1941 they moved to Anchorage where she taught in the only school, Anchorage Territorial, as one of 43 teachers staffing all levels of education from elementary through senior high school. Leah remained in the Anchorage school system fulfilling 42 years of professional service as a classroom teacher, remedial reading specialist, supervisor, curriculum coordinator, elementary director and the first female principal in Alaska. She was teacher of the year in 1948.

Retirement didn’t stop Leah Peterson from public service. She served as the first president of Central Alaska Retired Teachers’ Association; president of the Alaska Retired Teachers’ Association; State Director of the National Retired Teachers’ Association; was appointed by the governor to serve on the State Board of Retirement, and was president of the Anchorage Schools Administrative Association.

For more than 30 years, Leah actively served on the Board of Trustees for Alaska Pacific University and was a member of the College Fellows, University of Alaska. She was worthy matron of Eastern Star (1052); member of Anchorage Woman’s Club and PEP Chapter P; state founder of Delta Kappa Gamma, Territory of Alaska, and an honorary member of Beta Gamma State, both national organizations for meritorious women educators. Leah was one of the 41 charter members of Zonta Club of Anchorage, founded in August 1961.

Leah received her teaching certification from Nazarene College in Idaho, bachelor’s degree from Colorado State College, and master’s degree from University of Alaska Anchorage. She returned to the Northwest Nazarene University after 73 years, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in recognition of her service to the profession of education, her community and society at large (2001), and then an Honorary Doctorate from Alaska Pacific University (2005).

Leah gave of herself, time after time, in service to the profession of education, her community and society at large. She brilliantly wove the story of her humble beginnings, hopes and dreams, and the impact education had on her life during college and throughout her life. In 2007, she made a generous gift to the new children’s gallery in the expansion of the Anchorage Museum at Rasumson Center. A special area, to be named Leah’s Corner, will feature an array of children’s literature and activities on Alaska topics in art, history and science.

Leah Peterson was a pioneer of education in Alaska, helping build an educational system from frontier instruction to a solid educational organization. She published, “This is Alaska”, a social science text and workbook for third and fourth grades that was adopted by the State of Alaska in 1959.

Leah devoted her life to the service of others. She remained young at heart while mentoring, counseling and attracting admirers of all ages.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Alice (Snigaroff) Petrivelli

Photo of Alice (Snigaroff) Petrivelli
Categories: 2016 Alumnae, Advocacy for Aleut People


In 1929 Alice was born in Atka village to Cedor and Agnes (Zaochney) Snigaroff, where she lived a traditional Aleut life. Alice remembered the house always being full because her mother helped raise many other relatives in the village along with her three brothers and a sister.  But that all changed when she was five years old and her mother died, soon after, her two younger brothers also died. Her family became her father, sister, and brother. She was then the youngest in the family and often describes herself as a “tomboy.”

Normally in the village, women and girls, men and boys carried out gender specific tasks in everyday life. Women had tasks like gathering grass to weave baskets, picking greens and berries, and sewing clothes. Men hunted for seals, sea lions, ducks, geese, reindeer, and trapped fox to earn cash. Fishing was usually carried out as a family activity. Of course, the lines were not always that rigid, because the whole family traveled to seasonal camps to carry out some of these activities and Alice was always fond of saying it never felt like work when she was involved in gathering activities since she was outside and she loved being out of the house. Because of her mother’s death, when her father left to trap foxes, she and her sister were left with other relatives, but sometimes, she was able to convince her father to let her come along on the trips to trap on island of Amchitka and at Old Harbor on the north end of Atka Island.

Then in 1942, when she was 12 years old, after Dutch Harbor was bombed by Japan, the United States military relocated Atka families to Killisnoo, an abandoned fish cannery near Angoon in Southeast Alaska, where she lived for two years. Aleuts from eight other villages were also evacuated to other locations in Southeast Alaska. The Atka people were only allowed to pack one suitcase, the night before they left they were told by the Navy to go to their fish camps. During the night they saw flames in the village. When they left the next morning, everyone thought that they whole village had burned, but three houses were left standing one of which was theirs. Those years were very difficult. Alice and the other Aleut people experienced limited food, substandard housing in unheated, abandoned buildings that lacked operating running water, sewer and lighting systems. There were no schools or health care. The transport ship dropped Atkan families at Killisnoo with the suitcase, four days worth of food, and a mattress for each person.

The whole family went to work in a nearby fish cannery, earning money to try to improve their living conditions, eventually getting a boat, guns, nets, and other equipment to fish and hunt for food and saving to buy materials to improve the building they lived in. During the three years Atkan families lived in Killisnoo, 17 of the 88 people died.

Alice stayed at Killisnoo for two years; she had the chance to leave and go to a boarding school in Wrangell and then transferred and graduated from Mt. Edgecombe High School, an Alaska Native Boarding school. Upon graduation from the second graduating class of the school, she returned to Atka for the first time after the war. The rest of the people had returned earlier to the charred remains, except the three homes, which had been stripped to just walls and foundation. They rebuilt the homes, church, school, and a store and tried to return to normal. She spent the summer there and then left to go to the Haskell Institute in Kansas where she received a scholarship and earned an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration. She returned to Alaska in 1952, and eventually she went to work in Bethel for the Indian Health Service.

There she met and married Frank Petrivelli, who was in the US Army and from Boston, Mass. They raised six children; so Alice devoted herself to family life. They moved around the country, transferred to various military posts, until Frank’s Army retirement in 1969, when they returned to Alaska. Alice and Frank remained married until his death in 1993. He supported her in her efforts to protect her land and Unangan culture and language.

When the family returned to Alaska, Alice started to attend Aleut League meetings and in 1972 found her way to a job as a receptionist for the new Aleut Corporation. Her first job was to review enrollment, which meant assembling the family histories of the people connected to the Aleut villages, so they could know who was eligible to become a shareholder. Thus, her life-long association with the corporation began.

After involvement in the corporate process for four years, she ran for election to the Board of Directors of the Corporation in 1976, with a goal “to protect the land and our culture.”

In 1977, she joined Lillie Hope McGarvey and other Aleut leaders to sue the Corporation management for sending misleading information in a proxy solicitation. In 1979, the lawsuit, McGarvey vs. the Aleut Corporation, was successful and resulted in overturning election results and a new election was held for the board members. [Source: For their leadership, Lillie and Alice received the AFN Citizens of the Year Award.

The next effort that Alice engaged in was to seek restitution from the US government for lands that Aleuts were not able to select on Attu after WWII and to secure assistance for the Aleuts relocated by the US government. In all, during WWII 880 Aleut people from nine villages were interned for years in drafty, abandoned fish canneries, in primitive conditions that resulted in the death of about ten percent of them. Those who returned home after the war found their houses and churches destroyed or ransacked, often by the U.S. troops who had lived in them.

The “Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians” investigated the five Aleut camps in Southeast Alaska and condemned government “indifference” to “deplorable conditions” there. The official report stated, “The standard of care which the government owes to those within its care was clearly violated by this treatment, which brought great suffering and loss of life to the Aleuts.”

With vigorous support from The Aleut Corporation, in 1988 Congress authorized reparations to the Aleuts, issued a formal apology, and compensated evacuees for land, homes and churches lost because of relocation. Congress adopted the “World War II Reparations Bill” (H.R.422) into law. It provided for a trust fund to be set up to help Aleut survivors and their descendants. $1.4 million was earmarked for restoring churches in six villages as well as lost lands. Finally, the Aleut Corporation was awarded $15 million as compensation for Attu Island, which was occupied by the military after the war and remains closed to its former inhabitants to this day. Alice was the Chair or Vice Chair of the Board of Directors or the President/CEO from 1986 through 1995, so was a key figure in advocating on behalf of Aleut victims of relocation.

Another example of her leadership was one of her first acts as the President/CEO. She led the Board to affirm a contribution to the Aleutian Pribilof Island Associates to undertake production of a video tape history of the internment of Aleut people during World War II. It was later produced in a feature film underwritten by the corporation and other businesses in 2011.

As the President/CEO she led the corporation to stable financial investments and increased earnings, so the corporation established a shareholder permanent fund. Under her leadership the Aleut Corporation was recognized by the Alaska Business Monthly as one of Alaska’s Top 49 businesses in 1995. Increased profits allowed the corporation to make larger contribution for educational scholarships to the Aleut Foundation.

While living in Atka in the 80s, before she was hired as the President/CEO of the Aleut Corporations, Alice was employed as the President of her own village corporation, Atxam Corporation. She also taught Traditional Foods, History, and did Storytelling at the Urban Unangax^ Culture Camp. There she shared traditional family recipes and recipes she learned from watching others as she was growing up. She also passed on traditional values of her people to the students. As a fluent speaker of Unangam Tunuu, she naturally incorporated language into all of her activities.

Alice’s goal was always to help Aleuts recall their Unangan traditions and to also succeed in today’s world. She helped create the Aleut Foundation, nurturing its mission to assist Aleuts achieve educational and cultural goals.

In a video interview in 2001, when asked by Sharon McConnell on the 30th Anniversary of ANCSA, “What do you think the next 30 years are going to hold for ANCSA and the Native people of Alaska?” Alice said,

“I think it will go on for a long, long time because number one, our young people are getting educated. Me, I live in two worlds. During the day when you’re working you live in the Western world, and then you go home and live your own Aleut lifestyle. When I’m home I speak Aleut. Today the young people are more used to the Western culture than they are their Native cultures. They’re educated and sophisticated. They’re learning to negotiate, and they’re learning the aspects of how to do business. That knowledge could still be around for a long, long time.”

She served as a Board member for 30 years and as President/CEO for 6 years. Her life-long goal was always “protecting the land and our culture.”

She also served as the President of the Aleut Foundation and on many other Boards and Commissions, including: Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Alaska Native Heritage Center Academy Board, and Aleutian Pribilof Islands Cultural Heritage Advisory Board and was a Commissioner of the Alaska Native Science Commission.

Alice devoted much time to teaching young people about her language, values and culture. But she spent more time mentoring the young Native women who were following her path to the Board of Directors or the management of the Aleut businesses and nonprofit organizations. She also raised and inspired three daughters, four sons and five grandchildren to be involved in their communities.

Alice received the AFN Citizen of the Year Award in 1990 for her continued and effective leadership in her region and her service with the AFN Board of Directors. She has been honored by the Aleut Corporation, the Aleut Foundation, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and by the Elder’s and Youth Conference of the Alaska Federation of Natives. She was a respected Elder in Alaska and passed in 2015.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech





Ramona Gail (McIver) Phillips

Photo of Ramona Gail (McIver) Phillips
Categories: 2015 Alumnae, Community Service, Government, Politics, Public Service


Only two women have been elected speaker of the Alaska State House and both their legal first names are Ramona. Ramona Barnes was the first, followed immediately by Ramona Gail Phillips as the second. When asked why she has been known her entire life by her middle name, Gail says when she was born there was a popular song called “Ramona.” However, an older cousin who was living with the family at that time was named Ramona so in an effort to keep the two separate, Phillips’ folks started calling her by her middle name – it stuck and she only uses Ramona when signing legal documents.

Gail is a champion promoter of Alaska and its history says one of her younger sisters in her nomination of Phillips. She continued by saying Phillips has always been outspoken for the rights and betterment of all people.

Leadership comes naturally to Phillips. She was named one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Alaskans by the Alaska Journal of Commerce four times. In 1995 she was the highest ranking woman on the Journal list placing number 7; placing number 11 in 1996, number 5 in 1997, and number 14 in 1998. Some of the reasons are obvious. She was elected twice as speaker of the Alaska State House, serving four years (1995-1998) and she was the majority leader prior to that (from 1993-1994).

Of national note: when an Alaska ferry was being held hostage by Canadian fishing boats, Phillips was not going to be bullied. She stated to the media that the ferry was much larger than any of the fishing boats and that the captain should just get himself out of there.

In the mid-nineties Phillips, with other western legislative, county and local officials, along with some business people who together represented more than 44 million Americans, formed the Western States Coalition. This was done so they could speak with one voice to the federal government about their common concerns. “This is a very good thing for Alaska so we are not so isolated,” said Phillips in a news release. She served as co-chairman of the group from 1995- 1998.

During her State House speakership, Phillips delighted in inviting and conducting the U.S. House speaker and two Florida congressmen on a Western States Coalition tour of Alaska where she had the opportunity to talk about some of favorite subjects: tourism, economic development, international trade and military and veterans’ affairs.

Even in her younger years Phillips was a leader. While in high school she was elected to the student council and became their president. She served on the legislative (student) council for three years while attending the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. A lifetime Republican, she was an active member of the Young Republicans serving as president both in high school and university.

Phillips has lived almost exclusively in Alaska, the middle of five generations of her family. Only while Walt, her husband whom she met at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, was on temporary assignment with the trans-Alaska (Alyeska) pipeline design team, did she live in Texas (1971-1973).

After coming back to Alaska in 1973, the Phillips first lived in Anchorage, and then settled in Homer in 1978. They lived there until after she left the Legislature.

Phillips was born in Juneau to the pioneering Ost family but left as an infant and was raised in Nome. She attended public schools grades 1 – 12 with her six younger sisters then went on to attend the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Phillips graduated in 1967 with a B.A. degree in business education. She has also taken a variety of additional courses there.

Phillips life isn’t all about politics. The “Iditarod bug” bit her and her husband early in the formation of the race. They became dedicated volunteers. One of her first jobs was making presentations to many local communities with Joe Redington, known as the father of the great dog race. In 1975 Phillips and her husband arranged for a babysitter for their young daughters, Robin and Kim, spending many evening hours volunteering at the race headquarters after work. As the years passed, both their daughters also became avid supporters.

In 1975 Phillips was elected to the board of directors serving through 1979. She took on the all consuming duties of race coordinator for the 1977, 1978 and 1979 races, and was the last person to fulfill this position on a totally volunteer basis. Phillips and her husband were the first officers or board members that were neither dog mushers nor directly connected to the race. At the beginning of 2015, they were two of 11 people called The Old Iditarod Gang who authored, published and distributed a seven-pound, 422-page coffee table book, an anthology about the first 10 years of the Iditarod called Iditarod – First Ten Years. They used Kickstart to raise the initial money. Both look forward to volunteering at the next great race.

Owning and managing a business in Homer, Quiet Sports Store, from 1978-1984 just wasn’t enough for the energetic Phillips. She became active in the Alaska Visitors Association; was elected vice chair of the Homer Convention and Visitors Association (1979-1980), and then served as president of the Homer Chamber of Commerce (1980-1981). From that position she ran for city council; to quote the Homer News, Oct. 1, 1981, she was “an outspoken advocate of tourism and we believe she would do a good job.” She served from 1981-1984. No longer owning the store, she ran for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and served from 1986 to 1988 and also chaired the Alaska Municipal League’s Legislative Committee 1986-1988.

During most of this time she also was the elected state secretary (1982-1988) of the Republican Party of Alaska’s State Central Committee. She was a member of the University of Alaska College of Fellows, as well as the Kenai Peninsula College Council where she was chair and board member. The granddaughter of Methodist missionaries, she was a member of the Homer United Methodist Church. As a member of the Resource Development Council’s statewide board she continued her pro-development activities and is a long time member of Igloo #1 and Igloo#14, Pioneers of Alaska.

In 1983, Phillips and her husband, with one of her sisters and her husband (Barbara and Stan Lindskoog), combined their two last names to form Lindphil Mining Company. The two families, including their four daughters, formed the work crew that actively mined Goose Creek about 50 miles inland from Nome for about six years. They worked their medium-sized placer mine from the time the ground thawed until their sluice box froze or about the first of July through the middle of September. In 1989 they sold their claims to a larger company.

In 1988 Phillips ran for the State House but was defeated. She went to Juneau anyway working as a legislative aide to Senate President Tim Kelly for the next two years.

1990 brought a different result to her campaign for the State House. She was the top vote getter from among the Democrats and Republicans in the primary and went on to win the general election by almost 1,000 votes. Thus her Legislative career began. The last two of 10 years in the State House she served as the powerful Legislative Budget & Audit Committee chair.

In Phillips’ last election she ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002. She has since formed Alaska Campaign Strategies and has participated in a number of winning campaigns.

Other positions Phillips has held include:
Alaska 50th Anniversary Celebration Commission Chair, 2004-2006
Industry Liaison, Dept. of Labor – Business Partnership, 2006
Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, 2003-2006

Phillips has received a number of awards, some are:
Canadian Consul’s “Smashed Brick Award,” 2003
YWCA’s “Woman of Achievement” Award, 2009
Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, “Anchorage ATHENA Society” member, 2003
UAF’s “Distinguished Alumnus” Award, 2013

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


  1. Gail Phillips’ personal and business resumes State of Alaska Official Election Pamphlet, 1990, ’92, ’94, ’96, ’98,
  2. Alaska Journal of Commerce supplement, Top 25 Most Powerful Alaskans, 1995, ’96, ’97, ’98
  3. Homer News, October 1, 1981, full page political ad
  4. Homer News, October 15, 1981,
  5. Editorial Box Gail Phillips for State House, political brochures from various years
  6. Katherine Anderson, younger sister, quote from Nomination for 2015
  7. Interview with Gail Phillips by Bonnie L Jack, December 2014
  8. Email from Gail Phillips to Bonnie L Jack answering questions, January 2015
  9. Iditarod, The First Ten Years, published by The Old Iditarod Gang, LLC, 2014


Sandy Poulson

Photo of Sandy Poulson
Categories: 2020 Alumnae, Community Activism, Journalism


Poulson has been the co-editor and co-publisher, with her husband Thad Poulson, of the Daily Sitka Sentinel since 1969. Over the past 50 years, Sandy’s tireless work as manager and editor has built and sustained this remarkable community institution. Her work meets the highest standards of journalism, and in her personal and professional life, she has contributed immeasurably to civic life and society with her warm approach and steadfast adherence to the values of kindness and justice. 

Poulson was born on February 21, 1940 at home, a “little shotgun house,” in Seminole, Texas. She was christened Amabel Frances Gay Montgomery, but nicknamed Sandy as a baby. She was the fourth of seven children in a family who moved frequently all over the Southwest. Fortunately, she loved to move and loved going to a new school. Her first move was at the age of 6 months, to Hobbs, New Mexico. She graduated high school in Nowata, Oklahoma; the list of towns they lived between those places is part of the Montgomery mythology, reading like a road song: Blanding Utah, Coffeyville Kansas, Artesia New Mexico (twice), Cortez Colorado, Truth or Consequences New Mexico, Lenapah Oklahoma and Farmington New Mexico (this is not the entire list), as her father worked in oil and farming, and at one point owned a filling station. 

Poulson’s inspiration is her mother. Grace Whelan Montgomery did not always have electricity or running water, or even a well at one house, but would do all the family’s laundry, even ironing her husband’s underwear with sad irons, heated on top of the stove. “Mom set the standards.” It is hard to imagine the labor of washing all those clothes, diapers, and menstrual rags, even without having to haul water – by truck or wagon – and build the fire, using a wash board and hanging it all on a line, much less in August in New Mexico.

A memory Poulson has is of one of those moves, in her spot on the Pontiac’s floorboards behind her mother’s seat, driving through the night, listening to the border radio play ”Deep in the Heart of Texas,” seeing just the lighted tips of her parents’ cigarettes as they talked. 

Poulson’s mother was “a good strong mom. Home was always a safe place. Even if we didn’t have a bathroom.” “We always felt we were better than everybody else. And my momma was the smartest.” Her mother inspired all her children with the love of education and literacy. At every new town they moved to, Sandy’s mother would first get a library card and a subscription to the local newspaper. All seven went to college.

Poulson won a scholarship to the University of Tulsa by winning the “T.U. Going to College Quiz” contest. She majored in journalism, and was editor of the college newspaper, the Collegian, her junior and senior years. In 1962, her senior year, the Collegian was named Oklahoma’s Outstanding Newspaper by the Oklahoma Collegiate Press Association. 

Poulson interned at the Oklahoma City Times between her junior and senior years, which is where she started reading while walking, on the two miles to work. She then went to work as a reporter there when she graduated in 1962. She met Thad Poulson, an editor at the Daily Oklahoman, the morning paper published in the same office. In 1964 they married, and moved to Salt Lake City when Thad signed with the Associated Press. Sandy worked at the Salt Lake Tribune.

When Poulson left the Tribune at the birth of her first child, she began a humor column, “Hearth Throbs,” for the Tribune, which she wrote until 1981. The family moved to New York City when Thad was transferred there by the Associated Press, and child number three was born.

In 1968 Poulson and Thad came to Juneau as a team as reporters for the Associated Press; just a year later, in January 1969, they had the opportunity to come to Sitka to run the Sentinel. The newspaper had been purchased by Lew Williams Sr., publisher of the Ketchikan Daily News, who persuaded the young couple to manage and eventually buy the paper. Both were there full time, working long days, in the beginning doing nearly all the work themselves, from writing copy to running the printing press: they had a young woman come after school to help typeset. The enormous amount of work in the early years did not diminish, with more employees, with always new challenges of small-town Alaska. 

The first year in Sitka the Poulson kids had a babysitter, then when child number four was born in 1970, the Sentinel became their daycare and they grew up playing with paper computer tape and film opaquing pens, stuffing papers with grocery ads, and selling and delivering newspapers. Child number five, then grandchildren, also spent their early years at the Sentinel office.

This dedicated, reliable and humble woman has been the spine of a daily newspaper that connects community members to each other, the state, the nation and the world. For the last five decades, Poulson has worked seven days a week, rising before dawn and  leaving after dark every weekday, working behind the scenes to edit national and state stories, write headlines, manage the staff and circulation, make assignments, lay out pages, ensure public announcements and legal notices are printed, cover the courts and police and write obituaries, and even deliver a route.  The daily is put out five days a week, 51 (of 52) weeks a year. When you multiply that by 51 years (January 1969 through January 2020), that’s 13,005 issues of the Sentinel, and counting.  

While it is one of the smallest circulation dailies in the nation, the Sentinel maintains the very highest standards for journalism with comprehensive, even-handed, accurate coverage of local government, issues and events by two full-time reporters plus coverage by other staff. This comes from Poulson’s and Thad’s commitment to the ideal of journalism as essential to an informed public, fundamental to a functioning democracy. As a journalism professional who came of age before the Watergate scandal, Poulson’s idea of the press is not a glamorous or dramatic profession, but a vital service that depends on diligent effort. 

The Sentinel with its emphasis on informative, and truthful, local news coverage has allowed the citizens of Sitka to participate more fully in their government, make informed policy decisions and build a stronger and healthier society. The Sentinel is the newspaper of record, a responsibility Sandy and Thad take seriously. The Sitka Sentinel publishes divorces, marriages, new businesses, estate settlements, court settlements, death notices, and public meeting notifications. This approach and steady commitment to accuracy is ever more rare, as news coverage is increasingly sensational or partisan, and local coverage disappears. 

Sitka, the state of Alaska, and the nation are stronger today because of the Sentinel’s work to inform the public. From time to time an event of national significance happens in Sitka, and the presence of this trusted institution is critical in bringing regional and national attention to an issue, helping citizens make meaningful change. These events are often tragic; the Sentinel’s compassionate and accurate coverage makes a difference, promoting resilience and recovery. As a recent example, Sitka experienced a deadly landslide in 2015 in which two young carpenters and the City Building Inspector were killed. There was tremendous loss of property, fear, grief and uncertainty. The Daily Sitka Sentinel reported on the tragedy and its aftermath with sensitivity and thoroughness. The Sentinel’s coverage of the tragedy, of community meetings and visiting experts, catalyzed new state efforts to conduct hazard and risk-mapping in the mountainous towns up and down Alaska’s coastline. Community organizations went on to secure federal dollars to conduct landslide research and develop a local warning system, which could be a model for the rest of the country. 

Building trust and maintaining high journalistic standards has been in addition to the complicated work it takes to publish and distribute a newspaper in rural Alaska, every day, dealing with power outages, printing equipment failures 800 miles from the nearest technician, communications that go down, and the increasing social and economic challenges of operating a small business in rural Alaska.

Poulson works tirelessly without wanting recognition and without ego. While the Sentinel has won many Alaska Press Club awards for its journalism, Sandy’s greatest achievements may be the kind that don’t have award categories, like working with families to write warm and wonderful obituaries; training  and empowering new generations of journalists; making all the staff feel part of the family at the Sentinel, especially the paper boys and girls; buying the paintings no one else wants at a nonprofit art auction, so no one’s feelings are hurt. When employees have personal challenges, Poulson will do everything she can to support them, from time off to babysitting. 

It is hard to describe the influence of Poulson’s compassion, knowledge, intelligence and ideals at the Sentinel – as a journalist, business owner and mother – on the community of Sitka. Poulson insists on a policy of not charging a fee or setting a word limit for obituaries — in a true democracy everyone’s story is important and newsworthy. 

Poulson’s motivation behind the hard work and long hours: “I really love working there. I just enjoy it. I love the news, my co-workers are just the best – they are good friends, and family.” She finds it interesting to be part of the community, but “believe it or not, I’m a shy person.” Poulson considers herself the “luckiest woman in the land.” For fun, she says she goes to the office. She also does crosswords, and always has a “walkabout book,” a paperback, usually a whodunnit, that she reads as she takes papers on her route or walks to the police station to pick up the blotter. She reads history and biography, but now reads mostly magazines and newspapers. 

Her main challenge? “Time.” Her main frustration is “being slow” and feeling inefficient, even when there aren’t diapers to change. In earlier days, when stories came over the wire and were coded onto computer tape, new leads would come in over the day that would have to be spliced into the story. Now that everything is done visually, and electronically, that work and the work of physically pasting up the newspaper copy isn’t needed, but the small staff at the Sentinel, especially in the early days, means one person being sick puts a strain on the operation. Another new problem is having kids not show up to do their routes as life gets ever more complicated.

As editor of the Tulsa University student newspaper, Poulson once wrote an editorial “against motherhood” as exemplified in a white mother smugly barring the school door against a black child. UPI (United Press International) picked up the story about her editorial. All her life, Poulson has been passionate about justice and fairness; the middle child of a large family, she is a natural mediator, never taking sides, offering compassion and non-judgmental ear to employees, grandchildren, and disgruntled citizen alike. This is perhaps her most remarkable and outstanding attribute. 

No matter the news subject, no one has ever heard her say “I don’t care.” Poulson has a lack of cynicism (but not skepticism), an immense compassion and an incredible ability to take whatever time necessary to hear out, calm down and reason with even the most irate reader. Poulson has been a role model as a professional woman, and as a steady, dependable, caring human being. A granddaughter is now in college pursuing journalism, and many other grandchildren and former employees and members of the community have been inspired by her kindness and professionalism and dedication to fairness.

Her advice to people coming up in journalism? “Choose your parents very well.” Her other advice: “Do work hard. Be kind. And always proofread.”

Her passion for justice, fairness and responsibility to our neighbors is reflected in her service on the Salvation Army community advisory board and other boards, and membership in the Soroptimists then the Sitka Women’s Club. Poulson is notorious for buying the unwanted items at charity auctions, so no-one’s feelings are hurt. Her family teases her about this but are genuinely proud of her boundless compassion. Thad and Poulson are known for supporting community organizations, especially arts and culture. The Sentinel has won awards for community service as well as for journalism and photography. 

Poulson has dedicated her life to the betterment of her community, the state and the nation through quality journalism and the hard work to publish a newspaper and build a workplace that reflect her values of truth and fairness.

The quality and approach of the Sentinel builds faith in our democracy and in our society. Sandy has helped to build a better, more caring, more democratic and connected community. She has done this not only professionally but through her relationships with employees, family, peers and community members. She is a role model in her gentle way of not drawing a hard line between work, community and family. Through her example, of hard work, high standards, and of listening and caring, she teaches those around her how to be a better human being.  

Verna E. Pratt

Photo of Verna E. Pratt
Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Literature, Parks


Verna Pratt was raised in a big family on a small farm in Massachusetts. The flowers in her mother’s large garden fascinated her as did the wildflowers she found while wandering through the surrounding fields.  Part of her fascination was that the plants “stayed still” and could be closely observed This early interest led Pratt to become a self-educated, amateur botanist who not only has shared her extensive knowledge with generalists in Alaska, but is a recognized, internationally known expert in Alaska’s native plants, wildflowers and berries. Though as a child Pratt was painfully shy, as a teacher, she is friendly, modest and generous; eager to share her knowledge and enthusiastic about helping others to learn what she knows. Pratt, whose expertise has been achieved through self-study and dedication, knows firsthand how difficult it is to learn something new and considers that her greatest accomplishment is that she has helped someone to learn about Alaska’s native plants, wildflowers and berries.

With her husband, Frank, in the military, they lived in a variety of locations throughout the country and, in each location, Pratt studied the local plant life and created flower gardens.  Arriving in Alaska in 1966 she began to teach herself about the Alaska native plants but found little to guide her. With her “hobby” turning into an “obsession,”  Frank realized that if he wanted to spend any time with his wife, he needed to join her on her trips. He decided to photograph the wildflowers she was trying to observe and learn about. The only materials available were big, heavy scientific books with inadequate black-and-white drawings which were very difficult to use in the field for identification. Frustrated by how difficult it was to learn about Alaska’s plants from such books, Pratt and her husband, without any prior experience, decided to write and publish a guidebook for the Alaska generalist interested in learning about native plants. They decided the guidebook had to meet three stipulations: good color photographs, scientifically correct text and stitched binding to insure the book would not fall apart after heavy use in the field. Pratt then made a creative and key decision: to organize the plants by color; not scientific classification. This decision provided a new, easy way for a novice to learn about plants, their similarities, differences and, above all, to appreciate their beauty.

Pratt’s job was to write the text, choose the photographs she or Frank had taken and, using an artistic sensibility learned in her public school art classes, design and do the layout of each page and the book as a whole. Frank’s job was to research, learn and use an appropriate software program to make the book “camera ready” for overseas printing. After much hard work, the “Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers Commonly Seen Along Highways and Byways” was published in 1989. This was followed in 1991 by “Wildflowers Along the Alaska Highway, Wildflowers of Denali National Park” in 1993, “Alaska’s Wild Berries and Berry-Like Fruit” in 1995, and in 2003, “Travel Notes for the Wildflower Enthusiast,” for drawing and field notes. Upon discovering that there were no suitable books on the market which introduced children to the plants of the forest and meadow, Pratt and her husband wrote and published “Linnaea’s World,” a children’s book, in 1996.

Pratt has shared her expert knowledge in a variety of other ways and venues as well, from teaching classes to leading field trips to conducting formal lectures. Her leadership of field trips has earned her the title of “mountain goat” from her friends and students due to her agility in navigating difficult terrain in search of that one elusive wildflower. She has conducted classes through the Anchorage Community Schools program, been an adjunct lecturer at the University of Alaska Anchorage in the Alaska Wilderness Studies Program and continues to lead Alaska Geographic Society field trips at the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park and Preserve and at the Portage Visitor Center. She has taught at the Alaska Botanical Gardens and in the Anchorage public schools. As a recognized expert, she was invited to speak at the Long Island, New York, chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society in 1991 and in 2001 lectured on Alaska wildflowers to the International Rock Garden Plant Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Pratt has long been a leader in the Anchorage gardening community and beyond. In 1982 she and her husband founded the Alaska Native Plant Society and she served as its first president from 1982-88. In 1997 she founded the Alaska Chapter, North American Rock Garden Society and also served as its first president. She holds memberships in the Wildflower Garden Club and the Alaska Master Gardeners Association. Pratt participates directly in the local community in other ways as well – by helping to care for and maintain the gardens at the Alaska Botanical Garden, Campbell Creek Science Center and she volunteers as one of the Weed Warriors with the Alaska Native Plant Society.

Pratt has received local, statewide and national honors and recognition for her contributions to educating the public about Alaska’s native plants and wildflowers. In 1991, and again in 1993, she received the Helen S. Hull Literary Award from the National Council of State Garden Clubs for “literary production of horticultural interest” and in 1999 she received the Meritorious Service Award for “producing books to help people learn.” In 2000 she was honored locally as a Woman of Achievement by the Anchorage YWCA and in 2002 was elected to the (national)  board of directors, North American Rock Garden Society.  Pratt also is a recipient of the Edgar T. Wherry Award given by the North American Rock Garden Society (date unknown) for “outstanding contribution in the dissemination of botanical and/or horticultural information about native North American plants.”  In 2009 Pratt and her husband were the first persons awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Anchorage Chapter of the Alaska Master Gardeners Association. On that occasion, it was humorously pointed out that they were being recognized: “For your ability to teach and teach and teach and run up mountains with people following you.” Anchorage garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels perhaps best summarizes Pratt’s reputation and contribution to knowledge about Alaska’s native plants and wildflowers in these words: “In the wildflower world around the country, everybody knows Verna Pratt,” and “if you want a book on wildflowers in Alaska, this (the first field guide) is the one you get, period.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Photo courtesy Michael Dineen, copy and reuse restrictions apply.

Alaska plant pioneers receive lifetime award, Anchorage Daily News, Oct. 22, 2009 Easy Rock Gardening, Homer Garden Club newsletter, March 2010

The hills are alive: talking wildflowers with expert Verna Pratt, KTUU.COM, Aug. 4, 2010

Organizing Beauty, Lorena Knapp, ALASKAMAGAZINE.COM, July/August 2013

Sisters of Providence

Photo of Sisters of Providence
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Hospitals, Medicine, Religion


After an invitation from the community of Nome to establish a hospital and provide medical care, four Sisters of Providence nurses traveled by horseback, train and boat from Montreal, Canada, and arrived in Nome, a city of 10,000 people, on June 10, 1902. They went straight to work fulfilling their mission, and then in 1910 moved on to Fairbanks where they built and operated a hospital. In 1939, the Sisters of Providence established a two story, 52-bed hospital in Anchorage. As Alaska’s largest city grew, this facility was replaced in 1962. Today, they continue to operate a number of hospitals, schools and orphanages throughout Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada.

The order began in 1843 in Montreal, Canada.

Margaret (McMullian) Pugh

Photo of Margaret (McMullian) Pugh
Categories: 2019 Alumnae, Commissioner of Corrections


Margaret Pugh served as one of the first women leaders in the management of Alaska’s correctional system. During her career she worked at McLaughlin Youth Center, Johnson Youth faculty and several state prisons, including as Superintendent of Lemon Creek Correctional Institution. She served as Commissioner of Corrections in the Knowles Administration from 1994 t0 2002.

During her tenure she introduced and implemented the concept of Restorative Justice, which emphasizes treatment for mental health and substance abuse for prisoners to reduce recidivism.  She established the first institution for female offenders and replaced the last of the old territorial prisons.

Governor Knowles said, “Margaret Pugh emphasized the importance of keeping prisoners in touch with their family, so she maximized in-state facilities rather than sending prisoners to private outside facilities. She fought for juvenile justice reform and zero tolerance of child abuse. Her public service helped advance a better and safer society for Alaska”

Pugh’s involvement in Girl Scouts in Alaska dates back to the early 70’s. She served first as a troop leader, then as camp facilitator (persuading people to donate their boats, trucks, buses, and helicopters for the camp), travel coordinator (helping coordinate little girl scouts from across Southeast back and forth between their homes and Juneau which included housing girls while waiting for state ferries. Years later she served as a board member and then as board chair for the Tongass Girl Scouts, continuing during the merger with Susitna Council to form the Girl Scouts of Alaska.

On reflection, Pugh expressed gratitude for all who taught, inspired and mentored her on her journey in Alaska. She and her husband John Pugh, former Chancellor of the University of Southeast, raised two children who became able and generous adults who provided two beloved granddaughters, Sophia and Elle.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech