Class of 2015
Back row left to right: Marie (Hanna) Darlin, Alice Johnstone, Ramona Gail (McIver) Phillips, Daisy Lee (Andersen) Bitter, Marie (Nick) Meade, Front row: L. Arlene “Buddy” Clay
Not pictured: Laura Mae (Beltz) Bergt, Dolly Farnsworth, Alice “Dove” (Montgomery) Kull, Ruth Anne Marie Schmidt, Ph.D., Ann Mary (Cherrington) Stevens, Elvera Voth
Laura Mae Bergt
Achievement in: Alaska Native Politics to include Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)
Laura Mae Beltz was born in Candle, Alaska, a small mining town, and grew up in Kotzebue with one sister and two brothers. She graduated from Mount Edgecombe High School and married prominent Alaska businessman Neil Bergt in 1958. They had four children, two daughters and two sons. Divorced in 1977, she was then married to William Crockett, a lawyer from Hawaii.
Bergt’s history included many national and local policy positions. Gov. Walter Hickel appointed her a member of the Native Claims Task Force. President Richard Nixon appointed her a member of the National Council on Indian Opportunity where she testified in Congress. In these roles Bergt established a friendship with Vice President Spiro Agnew, and introduced the Alaska Federation of Natives Leadership to the Nixon administration. Bergt was the person who set up the initial meeting between Alaska Federation of Native’s (AFN) president, Don Wright and the Nixon administration and it was this meeting that resulted in President Nixon’s support of the AFN position on ANCSA.
Bergt was a member numerous influential commissions, councils and boards including the Alaska Federation of Natives, Native American Council of Regents of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Alaska State Rural Affairs Commission. She was also secretary for the Alaska Federation of Natives, director of Tundra Times newspaper, president of Musk Ox Producers Co-Op and organizer and chair of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. In addition to her civic and public service, she participated in many national promotional activities on behalf of Alaska and Alaska Native people.
Among all of her distinguished professional, political, and community accomplishments, Bergt was also a gold medalist in the Eskimo blanket toss and enjoyed Alpine skiing and sky diving. She continues to be honored by her family, which now includes nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren and through many publications and meetings that are dedicated to her service to Alaska and the Alaska Native people.
Achievement in: Alaska Native Politics to include Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)
Born Laura Mae Beltz, daughter of Frederica “Rica” and Bert Beltz, Sr. on Oct. 1, 1940, in a small mining town, she grew up in Kotzebue with one sister and two brothers. Beltz was a graduate of Mount Edgecombe High School, where she enjoyed school and extracurricular activities such as cheerleading and acting. After high school Beltz married prominent Alaska businessman Neil Bergt in 1958 and they had four children, two daughters and two sons. Divorced in 1977, she was then married to William Crockett, a lawyer from Hawaii for about two years and spent most of her winters in Hawaii and summers in Alaska.
Bergt had an eclectic professional history that included many national and local political and policy positions in an era when women were not relevant in politics. Governor Walter Hickel appointed her a member of the Native Claims Task Force. President Richard Nixon appointed her to the National Council on Indian Opportunity, where she testified in Congress on several occasions in support of securing Alaska Native traditions, subsistence lifestyle and self-determination through the corporate model that is at the foundation of ANCSA. In these roles, Bergt established a friendship with Vice President Spiro Agnew, which paved the way to introducing the Alaska Federation of Natives Leadership to the Nixon administration. Bergt was the person who set up the initial meeting between the Alaska Federation of Native’s (AFN) president Don Wright and the Nixon administration (March 12, 1970) and it was this meeting that resulted in President Nixon’s support of the AFN position on ANCSA (December 18, 1971).
Bergt was also extensively involved in various capacities with the Republican Party in Alaska and in 1973 was appointed to fill the unexpired Alaska State Senate seat of U.S. Congressman Don Young. Unfortunately, she did not receive party endorsement for confirmation and a special election was held instead. In 1976 she was appointed by President Gerald Ford as a distinguished member to the American Revolution Bicentennial Council, which planned the 200th birthday celebration of the United States.
Bergt was also a member of numerous other commissions, councils and/or boards including the Native American Council of Regents of the Institute of American Indian Arts, the University of Alaska Village Arts and Crafts Upgrade Committee, the Alaska State Rural Affairs Commission, the Indian Art and Crafts Board for the Department of the Interior, Alaska Reapportionment Advisory Board, State Tourism Advisory Board, State Commission for Employment of the Handicapped, State Native Foods Advisory Council, State Task Force on Hard of Hearing, Alaska Crippled Children’s Association Board, Arctic Association for Retarded Children Board, the Breast Cancer Detection Center for Alaska Board, the Alaska Remote Housing Committee, the Alaska Plan Policy Board, and Cook Inlet Native Association. She was also the secretary for the Alaska Federation of Natives, the director of Tundra Times newspaper, the president of Musk Ox Producers Co-Op, and organizer and chair of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.
In addition to her civic and public service, the acting skills learned in high school were evident in many national promotional activities she did on behalf of Alaska and Alaska Native people. She appeared on the cover of Holiday Magazine and numerous national television programs, including the Donald O’Connor Show, Jackie Joseph Show, Ed Sullivan Show, and Lowell Thomas “High Adventure” series, as well as three times on the Johnny Carson Show.
Among all of her distinguished professional, political, and community accomplishments, Bergt is also a gold medalist in the Eskimo blanket toss and is remembered through many publications and meetings dedicated to her and her ability to give women a voice during a time when women were not relevant in politics.
Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary, News Release June 1, 1976.
Tundra Times, March 21, 1984, p. 16
Tundra Times, March 28, 1984, p. 4
Daily News-Miner, March 15, 1984
Interviews with Laura Beltz Bergt
Daisy Lee (Andersen) Bitter
Achievement in: Science education
Considered legendary in environmental science education, Daisy Lee Bitter’s great diversity of interests and talents have drawn her to become involved and accomplished in a wide variety of areas for the benefit of countless numbers of Alaskans for more than 60 years since she arrived in Alaska in 1954. Bitter was never willing to let society’s restrictions on her sex stand in the way of her accomplishments, acting as a mentor and inspiration to other women in the process. During her 29 years in the Anchorage School District, Bitter used her career skills as an elementary teacher, secondary science teacher, television teacher and producer and principal of Fairview and Susitna elementary schools. She was the first director of the Indian Education Program and coordinator of the Boarding Home Program for Native high school students. By osmosis she became immediately immersed in setting up educational programs for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies when she retired to Homer in 1983. Soon they won national acclaim. Other projects included helping establish Alaska’s first land trust, organizing and leading the first two annual coast walks, and sharing her enthusiasm for the natural world on public radio for three decades. She has been celebrated for her tireless commitment as a volunteer. Morgan Sherwood, former University of California Davis professor and author of four books on Alaska, describes her as “Homer’s favorite natural historian.” As a diabetic for 68 years Bitter has been a role model who never let a health issue hold her back. In 2014 she was recognized as the longest surviving diabetic in Alaska. A local nurse calls her “The Diabetes Poster Girl.” To find her each summer, one must now search among the thousands of gorgeous blossoms on her Kachemak Seascape Peony Farm.
Science education Daisy Lee Bitter has been determined to make the world a better place working to improve the human condition, especially through education broadly defined. She has felt she could do that best by helping individuals reach their highest potential while enjoying the process. Central to this was getting students as realistically and deeply involved as possible outside the conventional ‘four walls.’ She said, “I was not looking for innovations, just more effective ways to help people learn and hopefully enjoy it in the process.” (Personal communication to Gretchen Bersch, 2015). She has been an inspiring role model as she put this philosophy into action.
The daughter of Fresno County, Calif., farmers, Bitter graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelor of Arts from University of California at Fresno State. She met Conrad Bitter when he was discharged from the army after five years of service during WWII, three of which were atop Mount Ballyhoo overlooking Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians. In a few years, Bitter took a recess from the classroom to spend time with their son Tim, who was born in 1960. Later, Bitter earned her Masters of Arts of Teaching from Alaska Methodist University, where she also earned many educational credits beyond her masters.
In 2011 the Homer Tribune said of Bitter: “Daisy Lee Bitter is a legendary Alaskan science educator whose well-informed, innovative approach to education has inspired thousands” [of people from young children to adults]. “Through years in the classroom, hands-on outdoor workshops and field trips, books and articles, she has informed and shared her love of science and Alaska’s environment.”
As well as being an outstanding and innovative teacher, Bitter was a powerful mentor as well. Gretchen Bersch was fortunate to student teach under her, and considered the experience life changing as it launched her own four decades of teaching (personal communication, October 2014). Reflecting on his experiences in the late 1950s/early 1960s, Bill Tanner wrote, “There was no question that [Bitter] was considered by all who worked with her, as one of the very top teachers in the Anchorage School District and I learned more from her about what makes a good teacher and leader than she probably ever knew” (letter, June 10, 2003). Her work and influence as a school principal permeated the schools she worked in. Diana Snowden wrote, “Her personal qualities of integrity, warmth, caring and excellent interpersonal skills make her one of the best liked and most respected elementary principals. She is a most creative, dynamic person with superb ability and high professional competency.”
Bitter was very successful in building community support for her teaching and her students. As an elementary school teacher, her classroom was a vibrant laboratory. An Anchorage bank president sent ducks from his weekend hunts so her students could learn duck anatomy and introductory taxidermy. Judge McCrary not only allowed her to bring her class to visit his courtroom during ‘appropriate’ sessions, but he collected eggs from his geese for hatching in a classroom incubator. When Bitter asked for a school key so she could get in on weekends to spray water on the duck and goose eggs, the head custodian at Romig Junior High refused, saying “Absolutely not! You do so much for these kids already. I’ll come over and spray the eggs.”
Bitter made all of Alaska her classroom, and drew in community members as well as her students – field trips to Kachemak Bay to explore the marine life, geology field trips to the Matanuska Valley, hiking to the top of Bodenburg Butte to touch the grooves made by glaciers, local trips of all sorts, even a field trip for teachers by helicopter to an oil platform in Cook Inlet. When her class hiked almost a mile to the generation plant near Ship Creek, the HEA employees explained the process from coal to electricity in a way that sixth graders could understand. After the 1964 Alaska earthquake, she and her students at Wendler Junior High used everyday materials to build a seismograph that recorded the largest aftershock; their efforts and results were reported in the Anchorage papers and by Associated Press. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Anchorage School District did not employ a science consultant or a specialist in environmental education. Bitter and several district consultants worked with the Alaska Department of Education, the University of Alaska and the U.S. Park Service to organize and conduct a five-day environmental education workshop at Katmai that drew 50 people. She chartered school busses and airplanes to bring kids on field trips at a time when funding was available for sports and very little for other activities.
Sports and outdoor activities were also an important part of her early life. She was chosen for the Anchorage Women’s All-Star Softball Team in both 1955 and 1956. She shot and dressed out her first caribou in 1957, and bagged her first limit of ducks after gathering limbs for her diamond willow artwork. She caught several king salmon weighing more than 50 pounds and the heaviest king held the record in the Alaska Sports Fishing Association for many years.
Music also was important to Bitter. She directed the Woodland Park School Choir, and they sang on an early Anchorage television broadcast. She taught folk dancing for the Anchorage Ski Club.
In addition to her professional employment, Bitter was active in professional organizations and as a community volunteer. She was president of the Anchorage Education Association and president of her son Tim’s Northwood School’s P.T.A. She chaired the school district’s science curriculum committee and she represented the district on the Anchorage Literacy Board. She chaired the first Finance Forum for Women as a member of the American Association of American Women and was a charter member of Cook Inlet Soroptimists. She served on the Camp Fire board.
In a time when there was less sensitivity to Alaska Native people and their educational needs and before there were high schools in many villages, Bitter wrote the first two funding grants and was the first director of the Indian Education Program in Anchorage. She coordinated the Boarding Home Program for 450 Alaska Native high school students from villages where there was no high school, offering extra support for those rural students. In addition to the innovative techniques she used to motivate her students, Bitter also enriched the curriculum for the Native village students. She set up a Native students’ speakers bureau and held workshops in both Yupik and Inupiat. She supervised the Rural Transition Center for younger students. She hired teachers to develop more effective teaching materials and also developed and taught university classes on Alaska ethnic studies. Frank Haldane, Tsimshian from Metlakatla, was a member of the Parents Advisory Committee for Anchorage’s Indian Education Program. He praised her key work with the Indian Education Act, her ethnic studies teacher workshops, bringing Alaska Natives to lecture and share, directing the award-winning First Alaskans television series. He wrote, “I am convinced beyond doubt that she is one of the most sincere, dedicated and motivated individuals helping to resolve much of the Alaska Native’s peculiar problems and to help the public and the district’s teachers to better understand the various ethnic lifestyles, their heritage and arts.”
When Bitter and her husband Conrad retired to the hills overlooking Homer in 1983, fishing, gardening and volunteerism played major roles for them both. Daisy Lee was asked to join the newly formed Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies (CACS), and her impact with this organization has been major. She was the first education director; she developed workshops, guided groups, trained volunteers, taught university teacher training classes, and supported teachers and students who visited the Peterson Bay field station. Within four years, the Center’s educational program was recognized as outstanding, a ‘state exemplar’ by the National Science Teachers Association. She led the first and second CoastWalks, and began helping with weekly public radio broadcasts of Kachemak Currents, informative programs that explore natural history, and still continued to produce and narrate programs 29 years later. She was instrumental in convincing Carl Wynn to donate the property that is the CACS’s Carl E. Wynn Nature Center, and continues to serve on the Wynn Committee. The log cabin headquarters at the Wynn Center is named for Daisy Lee Bitter. Many of the Center’s volunteers were strong supporters of buying land for the state park across Kachemak Bay and Bitter was one of them. She was a founding member of the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, Alaska’s first land trust. She was the first education chair for the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and for many years was an active volunteer in the lab.
Other groups she has been involved and volunteered with are Pioneers of Alaska, the Alaska Native Plant Society, the Homer Senior Citizens, Homer/Kachemak Bay Rotary, South Peninsula Hospital, the South Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association, the Homer Chamber of Commerce, the Kenai Peninsula School District, and the Homer Foundation. Through her Marine and Coastal Education account at the Homer Foundation, she has funded several worthwhile community education activities.
Following her lifelong interest in botany, Bitter became a Master Gardener in the mid 1990s, volunteering to advise and teach others. She has taught college classes on wild/edible and medicinal plants and other subjects for the early University of Alaska Fairbanks programs, Kenai Peninsula College, the University of Alaska, and the Alaska State Troopers. In 2009, she re-invented herself to become a peony farmer and has thousands of peonies blooming on her Kachemak Seascape Peony Farm each summer. She has volunteered with the state peony growers’ group, sharing her research on peony varieties most appropriate for Alaska. As a well known Alaska gardener and naturalist, her home was on early garden tours; her perennial flower garden has had more than 100 different varieties of native and domestic flowers and plants.
In summary, Bitter has been an outstanding and generous educator for more than 60 years, touching thousands of lives through her teaching, her mentoring, her explorations, and her volunteer work. She has demonstrated her passion for teaching, her talent at leading, her generosity in volunteering, and her gift at inspiring thousands of people of all ages to learn about and appreciate Alaska’s natural world.
Associations and Organizations
- President, Anchorage Education Association—1957-58
- Alaska Education Association First Delegate Assembly—delegate—1959
- Alaska Director, Northwest Marine Educator’s Association—1988
- Spenard Community Council—helped get many acres for parks and recreation— 1970’s
- Delta Kappa Gamma—(Largest International Honorary Women Educators’ Organization)
Member of international legislative committee
Alaska State Vice-President President of Alpha Chapter Charter
- President of Omicron Chapter Parent Teacher Association
Alaska State Vice-President
Anchorage Central Council Secretary, 1954-55s
Northwood School President
- Alaska State Curriculum Committee – Appointed for two terms
- Anchorage School District Chair -Science Curriculum Committee
Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies – Board member for many years
First Education Director—developed national award-winning programs
President for 3 years
Organized and led the first two CoastWalks
Wrote and broadcast “Kachemak Currents” on public radio for 29 years
Wrote grant for Wynn Nature Center and continuous membership on advisory committee
- Kachemak Heritage Land Trust (Alaska’s first land trust)
Founding member, on board and land & easement committee for many of the early years, Vice President
- Kachemak Bay Research Reserve
Appointed to the first Advisory Board and served for many years
Education Chair first and for many years
Helped with numerous lab sessions for the public
- Pioneers of Alaska
State Officer for 3 years
Homer Women’s Igloo President 2 years
Introduced the book writing concept which resulted in the book In Those Days
- Alaska Peony Growers’ Association
State board member 2009-2012
Three conference presentations on research on best varieties for Alaska
Leadership in Conference Organizing and Workshops
- Northwest Association of Marine Educators Regional Conference in Homer—Chair– 1989
- Alaska Education Association State Conference in Anchorage—Co-chair
- Alaska Parent-Teacher Association State Conference in Kenai—Chair
- Alaska Delta Kappa Gamma State Conference in Juneau—Chair
- Alaska State Principal’s Association Conference in Anchorage—Co-chair
- Alaska Workshop to Improve Science Education – Chair
- ASD (Anchorage School District) Elementary Principal’s Administrative Manuals
Chair of committee to eliminate sexist terminology
- Soroptomist of Cook Inlet- Charter member
- Homer-Kachemak Bay Rotary- Chair Community Services
- Grand Marshall, Fourth of July Parade, Homer—July 2014
- Certificate of Achievement “For living courageously with diabetes for 68 years” from the Joslin Diabetes Center (part of the Harvard Medical School)–June 2014
- Alaska Conservation Foundation-Jerry Dixon Award for Excellence in Environmental Education “For dedication to Alaska, its people, places, wild lands, & wildlife.”–2011
- Lifelong Learner Award from Friends of the Homer Library. This was the initial presentation—2009
- Homer Chamber of Commerce, Certificate of Honorary Membership–2008
- Volunteer of the Year Award from the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies–2006
- Kenai Peninsula Borough–Resolution commending DLB “For contributions, accomplishments, and community service.” 2003.
- We Alaskans, Volume One, Chapter 11: Daisy Lee Bitter (An honor to be chosen to be included in a book of stories of people who helped build the Great Land). Article and photos. 2002.
- Pratt Museum Natural History Service Award—2000
- Bitter Boardwalk– elevated plank walkway in Calvin & Coyle Nature Trail System, Homer, to honor DLB, who “has done so much to promote environmental education for school students and the general public.”- 1997
- Alaska State Legislature — “For outstanding volunteer service in establishing award winning environmental education programs and making considerable contributions to a wide range of other organizations.” 1991
- Eight Stars of Gold Citizenship Award—First annual award, presented by Governor Cooper – -1990.
- Alaska State Legislature –“For volunteer work, photography, work in education, and holding the Alaska Trolling Club’s record for catching heaviest king salmon.”–1989
- Northwest Association of Marine Educators (Northwest states, Western Canada, and Alaska). Outstanding Marine Educator and “being a driving force in creating CACS” (Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies) – 1988
- Alaskan Exemplar for Excellence in Science Education (Awarded by the National Science Teachers Association for the interdisciplinary education program at CACS created by DLB)—1987
- Homer Citizen of the Year–1986
- Alaska State Legislature– “For wide range of expertise, developing statewide educational materials, awards for her volunteer work, organizing numerous trips for students as far as Barrow and Juneau. Her zest for living is an inspiration. “ 1983
- Campfire, Inc., Volunteer Award–For years of service on the state board. Willard Bowman Human Rights Award from the National Education Association “For creative leadership and efforts in advancing the cause of human rights for students and educators.” –1979
- First Alaskans (1971 Televised Series of Programs with Teacher’s Guide)- awarded Alaska Press Award.
- Anchorage School District Teacher of the Year–1967
- Jay Hammond’s Alaska Television series. Featured guest on program about Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies Science programs that DLB started.
- Alaska Conservation Foundation (2011). Jerry S. Dixon Award for Excellence in Environmental Education: Daisy Lee Bitter, Homer- Innovating science education. Retrieved from http://alaskaconservation.org/ achievement-awards/award-winners/2011- conservation-achievement-awards-winners/
- Bitter, D. L. (1970). Alaska ecology: Teacher’s guide. Anchorage AK: Anchorage Borough School District.
- Bitter, D. L. (Television teacher). (1970). Alaska ecology. [Televised programs]. Anchorage AK: Anchorage Borough School District.
- Bitter, D. L. (1971). The first Alaskans: Teacher’s guide. Anchorage AK: Anchorage Borough School District.
- Bitter, D. L. (Producer). (1971). The first Alaskans. [Televised programs]. Anchorage AK: Anchorage Borough School District.
- Bitter, D. L. (Author, director). (1990). Alaska then and now—As interpreted by today’s women pioneers. [Play]. Performed at 1990 Pioneers of Alaska Convention.
- Bitter, D. L. (1991). In those days: Alaska pioneers of lower Kenai peninsula, (First ed.). (DLB chapter & photos). Kenai Peninsula AK: Pioneers of Alaska.
L. Arlene “Buddy” Clay
Achievement in: Rural justice
Arlene “Buddy” Clay was born in Maine, became a symphony musician and arrived in Alaska in 1944 to identify enemy airplanes from Nome.
Clay and her husband moved to Aniak, working for the Civil Aeronautics Administration, in 1944. They built a house on the Kuskokwim River across from Aniak and their travel was by dog team and boat. She communicated by ham radio, and has been a major member since she earned her license in 1948.
Earl passed away in 1966 and “Buddy” became the first magistrate after statehood a rural judge and the only woman at the time, for 12 villages in the Aniak area. She traveled to the villages to administer justice. She represented the new State of Alaska. Clay lived in Aniak, a Yupik village, in a cabin on the river for 67 years. During her 17 years as judge, she often held court at her house. When the new Aniak court facility was recently built, it was dedicated to Arlene Clay.
Clay is known as a fair person and an advocate for women. During her years as magistrate, this strong-willed woman presided over many family disputes. As magistrate she protected household members from abusive situations. She has received recognition from the Alaska Bar Association for her work as the person who kept the law in the rural area, and received the prestigious Nora Guinn award given to rural residents who have made an extraordinary or sustained effort to assist rural residents, especially the Native people, to overcome language and cultural barriers to obtain justice through the legal system. Clay and Nora Guinn were the only two women in the rural law system for many years.
Recently, Clay moved to a Wasilla retirement home where she is able to put up her ham antennas, and she continues to participate every night on the ham sniper net. She checks everyone in each Thursday night.
Arlene “Buddy” Clay was born in Gardiner Maine, Aug. 2, 1912, to Annie Mayne Palmer and Charles Gordon Palmer. She was raised in Mexico, Maine, and graduated from high school in 1929. She then entered the New England Conservatory of music. She graduated from there in 1934.
Arlene met Earl V. Clay at the conservatory and they married June 26, 1936. They then moved to Manchester, NH, where Earl was the conductor of the NH state symphony. Arlene played trumpet in the conservatory symphony orchestra.
After the war broke out and Pearl Harbor was bombed on the 7th of December 1941, the orchestra broke up. The older workers went into military work and the younger ones joined the military.
In December of 1943 Arlene and Earl left for Seattle by train in response to an ad from the Civil Aeronautics Administration, forerunner of the FAA. After arriving in Seattle, they received six months of training at Boeing field as aircraft communicators and controllers. The Army then flew her and Earl to Nome in a DC3. While in Nome they worked for the CAA as aircraft communicators and controllers. In September of 1944 they transferred to Aniak. Together, they spent 10 years driving dog teams all over the Aniak area. They visited trappers, prospectors and generally explored the rural area.
Upon arriving in Aniak, communication was limited to one telephone at the airport office. As soon as civilians were allowed to obtain ham radio licenses in 1948, Clay received her license, KL707. To this day, Clay has continued to operate her ham radio and, in fact, commented that she selected her retirement home on the basis that “… they let me have my radio with me.”
Arlene and Earl resigned in 1947 from the CAA. Earl died in 1956.
After Earl died Arlene stayed at the homestead, which was about three miles upriver from Aniak. She took two jobs, one as a postal clerk and the other as secretary at the CAA. She commuted to work by dog team in the winter and by boat in the summer.
In 1960 Arlene became the magistrate for the Alaska Courts and was responsible for 12 of the surrounding villages. She served in this position for 17 ½ years. Magistrates had all the power of the U.S. Commissioner. It was during this time that defendants received the right to demand a jury for misdemeanor trials. This resulted in more travel for trials in the villages. The State troopers would fly to Aniak and fly over her cabin at the home site to alert her they were coming and she would get in her boat or dog team and meet them in Aniak.
Arlene Clay was always known as Mrs. Clay. While she didn’t have a degree in law, it was not required at the time. She was known as a tough but fair magistrate judge. One story that circulated concerned a couple of attorneys that came out from Bethel for a hearing. They were dressed in blue jeans and had no ties. She told them that when appearing in her court they were to wear suits and ties or she would hold them in contempt. They got the message and dressed appropriately from then on. She always wore her robe and while court was held in her house in those early days, strict courtroom protocol was required.
Clay retired from the Alaska Court System in 1977 but continued to live in Aniak for many more years. In May, 2012 Clay received the Judge Nora Quinn Award from the Alaska Bar Association which “is presented to an individual Alaskan who has made an extraordinary or sustained effort to assist Alaska’s rural residents, especially its native population, overcome language and cultural barriers to obtaining justice through the legal system.” She was further honored at a reception in Aniak on June 27, 2012, with the dedication of the new courtroom in her honor. The program for this event referred to Clay as “the face of the Alaska Court System during the early years of statehood.”
In 2011, Clay moved to a Wasilla retirement home where she is able to put up her ham antennas, and she continues to participate every night on the ham sniper net. She checks everyone in each Thursday night.
“Aniak Courtroom Dedicated to Magistrate Clay” ,Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, July 14, 2012 “99-year-old Ham radio operator still tuned in”, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Oct. 30, 2011 http://jukebox.uaf.edu/site7/p/378, Project Jukebox, Digital Branch of UAF Oral History Program, Judges of Alaska, Arlene Clay
Lucy Evelyn (Huie Hon) Cuddy
Achievement in: Community, civic, education and finance
In her 66 years in Alaska, Lucy Cuddy helped thousands of people directly with her community support efforts. She was the first-year chair of the organization that became United Way of Anchorage. She was a tireless advocate, enlisting the help of the business community through her contacts as board chair of First National Bank.
Cuddy’s impact on Alaska began immediately after her train ride from her family home in Arkansas to Seattle and then a seven-day boat trip to Valdez in 1916. As principal of Valdez high school she taught all subjects except Latin, became a town leader, and even greeted President Harding when he came to town in 1923.
She met husband Warren in Valdez. After their marriage, they had two boys and moved to Anchorage in 1933 where she dove into community work. Her husband bought controlling interest in First National Bank where he became president and she was elected a board member and held the office of secretary. When Warren passed, son Dan took over as president and she became board chair – a role she held until her death 31 years later. She helped guide Alaska’s second-largest financial institution through booms and busts, earthquakes and floods, and expansion across the state.
The Anchorage Times said her impact cannot be overstated and called her “The Grand Lady of Anchorage.” She also served on the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents and the university named the Anchorage campus community center Lucy Cuddy Hall.
She liked to say, “When I grew up there was nothing for a girl to do except be a nurse or a type writer – not a secretary but a type writer – and teach school. Now women with training are eligible for any job.” In Alaska, it’s safe to say that Lucy Cuddy helped bring that change about.
Lucy Evelyn Huie Hon was born of German and Scotch-English parentage, a fifth-generation American, to Daniel Hon (1860-1929) and Margaret Pamelia Gaines Hon (1867-1939) on Aug. 2, 1889, in Waldren, Scott County, Ark. Her grandparents were farmers, her father a lawyer and a judge. The oldest of four, her siblings were: Mabel Fairfax Hon Woods (1892-1975), Mildred Foster Hon Murry (1897-1967) and Daniel Gaines Hon (1898-1950).
Cuddy graduated from college in 1911 and became a teacher. “I didn’t want to go to the University of Arkansas. … I wanted to go west. … My father told me what to do and I did it,” she is quoted as saying in an Anchorage Times article.
In 1916 the husband of a friend was the superintendent of schools in Valdez and sent her a cablegram offering her the position of principal to the upper level students – five high school students and three eighth graders. So after teaching school for five years, Cuddy left her family home by herself, traveled from Fort Smith, Ark., across the continent by train for four days and four nights, to Seattle, Wash., and then embarked on a seven-day boat trip to Valdez. She immediately fell in love with Alaska. When reminiscing, she used to say that as she walked down the long wooden walkway from the boat to town, the thing she remembered most was that it was 11 o’clock at night and it wasn’t dark yet, there were waterfalls and everything was so quiet. It was so peaceful.
Valdez was a bustling town of only 500, four men for every woman. In the 1970s she told an audience at the Anchorage Museum that she ate at a boarding house where there were about a dozen men and she was the only woman but not one of those men was someone you would want to marry, in fact, most would “bore the life out of you.” She would eventually meet Warren Cuddy, a young law graduate from Puget Sound College, and said he was worth the wait.
In many of her interviews Cuddy liked to tell the story of Warren’s proposal to her. She says a woman who was “quite the social dame” of Valdez asked her whether Warren had proposed yet. When Cuddy said no, she suggested that maybe if she would quit her incessant talking he might be able to get a sentence out and ask her.
Lucy Hon, 27, and Warren Ninde Cuddy, 30, were wed in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Ark., on Aug. 15, 1917. They returned to Valdez afterwards.
After a couple of years passed, the Cuddys had two boys, David Warren, born in 1919 and Daniel Hon, born in 1921. She claimed that the babies were the most important things that ever came into her life.
United States President Warren G. Harding and Vice President Herbert Hoover visited Alaska to mark the beginning of the railroad in 1923. Cuddy, normally a woman with impish humor, was tongue-tied as she presented the president a bouquet of blue flowers – historians question whether they really were forget-me-nots as many stories claimed.
In 1933 Warren Cuddy, a Republican, was Valdez District Attorney but politics changed that. He lost his job when the Democrats came to power. The family moved to Anchorage. He set up his law practice and she set about raising the boys. During the next few years, he purchased bank stock and by 1941 he had controlling interest and became the president of First National Bank.
World War II brought tragedy into their lives. Both her sons went off to war but only Dan came back. David was killed in action behind enemy lines in Anzio, Italy. “It was horrible,” Lucy Cuddy later recounted. “He was so against the war. But it was the war and it was your duty.”
Always a woman with lots of energy, she was a driving force in community affairs and helped organize the USO, the Girl Scouts of Anchorage, started the Nurses’ Aide program during WWII, helped found the Cook Inlet Historical Society and volunteered for the Red Cross, which she did most of her life.
She became a bank board member in 1949 and was elected to the office of board secretary. In 1951, upon her husband’s death of a heart attack at 65 years of age, son Dan took over the day-to-day banking, also serving as president, and Lucy Cuddy became chair of the board, a position she held until her death. It is said that she helped guide Alaska’s second-largest financial institution through booms and busts, earthquakes and floods, and expansion across the state.
In the same year she was appointed to the Board of Regents for the University of Alaska, 1956, she was named the chair of the Greater Anchorage United Fund Drive (now the United Way). She received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Arkansas in 1961, the third woman at the time to receive the honor. In 1972 the Anchorage campus community center of the University of Alaska was named Lucy Cuddy Hall.
In an article honoring her 90th birthday, the Anchorage Times says, “She is inseparable from this community. She inspires the best that dwells in the hearts of each us.” The same paper, two years later, in an article about her death called her “The Grand lady of Anchorage.”
Lucy Cuddy was laid to rest in the Anchorage Municipal Cemetery, Masonic Tract 9, Row 2, Lot 15.
- An interview with David Hayes, staff at First National Bank Alaska
- Anchorage Times, March 12, 1982, page 1 & 3
- We Alaskans, Anchorage Daily News Magazine, May 16, 1981, pages 7 & 13
- Arkansas, County Marriages Index, 1837-1957
- Lucy Hon Cuddy Dedication, The Teller, 1982, page 1
- Lucy Cuddy papers, Archives & Special Collections Consortium Library, UAA, Collection number HMC-0095,
- In Memorial http://www.muni.org/Departments/health/cemetery/Pages/honored.aspx
Marie (Hanna) Darlin
Achievement in: Citizen Advocacy for senior citizens and Alaska’s heritage
Marie Darlin demonstrates what an individual can achieve in a lifetime, in her case more than 89 years. She is a life-long resident of Juneau. After raising two daughters, being widowed twice, and working more than 30 years in human resource management, Darlin embarked on a second 30-year career as a volunteer to help seniors and women and to help preserve Alaska’s past. For every organization, among them the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, AARP, Alaska Medical Care Advisory Committee, Alaska Commission on Aging, Juneau-Douglas City Museum, Gastineau Channel Historical Society, and Pioneers of Alaska, Marie has served in leadership positions.
For years every Alaska state legislator has known her by name. Darlin is an inspiration to the people who have worked with her, and has helped many of them learn to advocate effectively for important social and cultural issues.
Presenting Darlin with a proclamation honoring her in 2013, City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford said her “volunteering in organizations that make Juneau and the entire state of Alaska better places to live make her an exemplary model for all citizens to follow.” Darlin’s leadership and advocacy have made a difference in the lives of many.
Marie Darlin demonstrates what an individual can achieve in a lifetime — in her case more than 89 years. City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford said as he presented a proclamation honoring her in 2013, Marie’s “volunteering in organizations that make Juneau and the entire state of Alaska better places to live make her an exemplary model for all citizens to follow” (KTOO, June 27, 2013).
Darlin was born in 1925 and has been a lifelong resident of Juneau. Her maternal grandparents came from Finland to Oregon in the 1880s and moved to Juneau in 1894. Darlin graduated from Juneau High School in 1943 and married Kenneth Wingate in 1944. They had two children, and then she was widowed in 1952. She married Bill Darlin in 1953 and he died in 1984. They owned Triangle Cleaners. Darlin worked more than 30 years in human resource management for the federal, territorial/state and local governments. For 18 years she worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs promoting education, economic and quality of life improvements for rural Alaska and as the training officer for the Juneau Area.
The years Darlin was raising her two daughters (Sue Nielsen and Jean Eichman) she was active with the PTA and then served two terms on the Juneau School Board, including serving as president. In 1975 she was appointed to the Juneau Community College Advisory Committee and was president of it for a term and a member until 1983.
After retiring in 1983, Darlin continued her career as a volunteer. She said she was busier and worked harder than ever. In 1985 she led the group starting a Juneau chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employee, and followed this with starting an Alaska federation of chapters and serving four years as its president. In 1987 she became the spokesperson for the AARP’s Women’s Initiative and worked five years on issues affecting midlife and older women.
After serving nine years on the state Alaska Medical Care Advisory Committee, Darlin was appointed to the Alaska Commission on Aging in 2010. She has been instrumental in getting the State of Alaska to enact a missing vulnerable adult response plan and senior citizen protections and to extend the Alaska Health Care Commission. Darlin is an effective advocate because she prepares in advance, attends hearings, speaks up, and follows up with personal visits to legislators. For years every Alaska state legislator has known Darlin by name. At a committee meeting in 2013 Senator Bert Stedman would not hold a vote on a piece of legislation until he had heard from her about it.
Local and state historical societies and museums also are very important to Darlin, and they have benefitted from her volunteer work. For the Juneau-Douglas City Museum she leads walking tours of historic places in downtown Juneau and answers questions at the front desk of the museum. She is a member of the City and Borough of Juneau’s Historic Preservation Commission and serves as program chair for the Gastineau Channel Historical Society. For the statewide Alaska Historical Society, Darlin started the local societies group and served on the organization’s board of directors. Darlin was one of the steadfast leaders who advocated for 10 years acquiring property and securing funding for a much-needed state libraries archives and museums center in Juneau expected to open in 2016. She saw the need for a building to securely conserve the state’s records, historical photographs, manuscripts and business records, and museum artifacts, with exhibit and research spaces for the public to see and use the materials.
As a member of the Juneau Igloo #6 of the Pioneers of Alaska, Darlin co-edited its three-volume Gastineau Channel Memories and its predecessor Gold Rush Pioneers of the Juneau-Douglas Area. She also co-authored a book about Juneau’s schools that recounts experiences of teachers who worked in them between the 1930s and 1950s for the Juneau Retired Teachers Association. She served as a member of Juneau’s “Empty Chair Project” that in 2014 established a memorial to recognize the Japanese moved from Juneau to internment camps during World War II.
In 1996 Marie received a First Lady’s Volunteer Award, and in 2002 a Lifetime Service Award from the Juneau Chamber of Commerce. She has received the Federal Women Employee of the Year Award. Darlin received Alaska’s AARP Andrus Award for Community Service, the organization’s most prestigious and visible volunteer award, in 2008. The City and Borough of Juneau passed a proclamation recognizing Darlin in 2013 for her tireless advocacy. In 2014 she received the Alaska Historical Society’s Evangeline Atwood Award for her significant long-term contributions to saving, celebrating and advocating for Alaska history broadly and for Juneau history specifically.
Darlin’s 30-year volunteer career, with an emphasis on the interests of seniors and the importance of preserving Alaska’s past, has benefitted Alaska. She continues to be an inspiration to the people who have worked with her, and has helped many of them learn to effectively advocate for important social and cultural issues. She has made a difference in the lives of many other.
Achievement in: Community service
Dolly Farnsworth was one of those great ladies who bridged the years from territorial Alaska to statehood, exemplifying the legendary character of the era.
Farnsworth and her husband, Jack, homesteaded in Soldotna in 1948. In 1959 she opened Soldotna Bookkeeping, acting as the City of Soldotna’s clerk’s office from the time it became a fourth-class city in 1960 until 1967 when it became a first-class city.
Farnsworth helped to found the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library in Soldotna in 1960. In 1965 she became the first woman to sit on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. She served on many boards since then including two terms on the Kenai Peninsula School Board from 1969 to 1975, three partial terms on the Soldotna City council between 1972 and 1973 and again from 1983 to 1984 and the Central Peninsula General Hospital Board from 1992 to 2001. Farnsworth was also mayor of Soldotna from 1984 to 1990.
Early on Farnsworth saw the necessity and justice in settling the Alaska Native claims. After the act was passed, she and her students at Wildwood Station in Kenai created a family tree for the Wilson family of Kenai that would later be used as an eligibility guide for Native land claims in the area.
Over the years Farnsworth received many honors and awards including commendations from the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce in 1994 and 1998, State of Alaska commendation in 1996, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Pioneer Award in 1998, resolution of recognition by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in 2000, Soroptimist International Woman of Distinction Award in 2001 and, in 2005, recognition from the Central Peninsula Health Foundation for contributions as a founding member.
Dolly Farnsworth was a role model for many women in Soldotna and on the Kenai Peninsula. She set an example for young women everywhere by her resilience as an Alaska Pioneer, her success as a business woman and her dedication as a public servant.
Dolly Farnsworth somehow found the time to homestead, raise four children and be a civic leader in Soldotna. Farnsworth was one of those great ladies who bridged the years from territorial Alaska to statehood, exemplifying the legendary character of the era.
She came to Alaska in the late 1940s with fiancé Jack Farnsworth. They married at Fort Richardson and in 1948 they moved to the area where the City of Soldotna now thrives and homesteaded the location which became the intersection of the Sterling Highway and the Kenai Spur Highway. They built their own house, as many folks did then, on the 160-acre federal allowance, a modest home in which Farnsworth lived until her death.
During a Radio Kenai interview, Nina Kersten, Farnsworth’s daughter said about her mother: “She heard about a fellow that homesteaded down here and had a little cabin on the property and his wife decided that she was not going to go live in the wilderness so he had to give it all up. A friend of a friend told my dad about it, so he bought the cabin and then came down here and staked the claim and they decided to homestead. My mother had always wanted to own land.”
In those early years Farnsworth was a relative rarity in having some post high school education including an accounting degree acquired in 1942 which she used during the war with an aircraft manufacturing company. As Soldotna grew she used her accounting skills to open Soldotna Bookkeeping in 1959. It was, for years, the only bookkeeping company in the area and helped many a small business get on its feet.
Farnsworth acted as the City of Soldotna’s city clerk’s office from the time it became a fourthclass city in 1960 until 1967 when it became a first-class city.
Farnsworth helped to found the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library in Soldotna in 1960. In 1965 she became the first woman to sit on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. She sat on the Soldotna City Council in 1972 – 1973 and again in 1983 – 1984.
She never had a problem getting elected; it was just finding the time to make the commitment she knew each post required. In 1976, to strengthen that commitment, she went back to college studying public policy and political science for an additional degree at Willamette University.
From 1984 to 1990 Farnsworth served as mayor of Soldotna. She also addressed the shortage of medical resources in the region, helping to establish the Central Peninsula General Hospital, on whose board she served from 1992 to 2001.
Farnsworth was also mayor of Soldotna from 1984 to 1990.
Early on she saw the necessity and justice in settling the Alaska Native claims. After the act was passed, Farnsworth found a special joy in her time at Wildwood Station in Kenai teaching local Alaska Native people about the Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. She and her students created a family tree for the Wilson family of Kenai that would later be used as an eligibility guide for Native land claims in the area.
Farnsworth received many honors and awards during her life including: 1994 – Soldotna Chamber of Commerce commendation for dedication and support of the community; 1996 – State of Alaska commendation for outstanding service in developing the Kenai River Management Plan; 1998 – Soldotna Chamber of Commerce commendation for outstanding service as board chair from August 1995 to July 1998; 1998 – Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Pioneer Award; 2000 – Resolution by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly commending Farnsworth for her service and dedication as a member of the Central Peninsula Hospital Board of Directors; 2001 – Soroptimist International Woman of Distinction Award for professional accomplishments in the area of economic/social development in education and health; 2005 – Central Peninsula Health Foundation for contributions as a founding member.
Farnsworth was a role model for many women in Soldotna and on the Kenai Peninsula. She set an example for young women everywhere by her resilience as an Alaska Pioneer, her success as a business woman and her dedication as a public servant. Homesteader Dolly Farnsworth left a permanent mark on the community.
Farnsworth’s daughter added to her Radio Kenai interview: “She was wonderful, everybody loved her. She was very hospitable and very knowledgeable. Of course she basically grew up with the area so she knew just about everything there was to know about the area and the city. She had a mind like a steel trap; she never forgot about anything. She was a mentor … for many people. She loved Alaska, she loved her homestead and you couldn’t get her to leave here.”
Achievement in: Conservation
Alice Johnstone’s many accomplishments would best be characterized as enlightened activism: environmental, political and societal. The list of accomplishments is long and involves activities ranging from successfully working to pass federal legislation to creating The West Chichagof/Yakobi Island Wilderness; to being the second woman to serve on the Sitka Assembly, serving for nine years; to helping establish and then serve on the Sitka Women’s Commission.
Johnstone is co-founder of the community space Old Harbor Bookstore, opened in 1975, that today still continues to serve as a gathering place for community conversations. After raising her children, she went back to school at age 65 to complete her Associate of Arts degree. She is a woman to admire and has given her time and talent to support the causes she cares about passionately: women’s empowerment, supporting reproductive choice for women, prevention of and recovery from substance abuse, literacy for all Alaskans, and protection of our environment.
In 2010 she received the Bob Marshall Champions of Wilderness Award, given by the chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Communities come alive and thrive because of people like Johnstone who, over the course of several decades, made her mark in many ways that will live on into the future.
Alice Johnstone’s many accplishments would best be characterized as enlightened activism: environmental, political, and societal. The list of accomplishments is long and involves activities ranging from co-founding the Sitka Conservation Society; to successfully working to pass federal legislation to create The West Chichagof/Yakobi Island Wilderness; to being the second woman to serve on the Sitka Assembly, serving for seven years and helping establish and then serving on the Sitka Women’s Commission.
In 1958 Johnstone started work at the local Sears Roebuck Catalogue Sales office. She rapidly rose from freight clerk to credit manager to store manager, a position she held for 20 years. She, her husband, and two other couples co-founded the Old Harbor Book Store, opened in 1975, that still continues to serve as a gathering place for community conversations and for advocacy for literacy.
In 1967 her love for the outdoors and her dedication to conservation motivated Alice and her husband to co-found the Sitka Conservation Society with other community members. Their dedication has led to numerous successes over their 40-year plus history. The history is described on their website:
The Sitka Conservation Society was born in 1967, when several Sitkans recognized the need to protect the natural environment of Southeast Alaska for the well-being of current and future generations. Specifically, Sitkans were concerned about the extensive clear cutting proposed on nearby Chichagof and Yakobi Islands. The Society’s founders rallied around the goal of designating West Chichagof and Yakobi Islands, an area of 380,000 acres, as Alaska’s first wilderness area under the recently passed Wilderness Act.
That willingness to fight all the way to Congress has stayed with the SCS through the intervening decades, and paid off in 1980 with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and the formal creation of the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness.
While pursuing the creation of formal wilderness in the Tongass and although the prevailing attitude in the 1960s and 1970s was fiercely pro-industry, SCS expanded to work on protecting treasured spots from timber sales. In 1976, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Coalition (SEACC), a coalition of local Southeast conservation groups with similar goals and concerns, was formed with SCS as a member organization.
In addition to her environmental activism, she was politically active. She was the second woman to be elected to the Sitka Assembly in spite of being a known conservationist in a pulp mill town. She was elected three times and served a total of seven years between 1987-1992 and 1987-1989. She had to work hard to win that first time and she won her first election by only one vote. While on the Assembly she also helped establish the Sitka Women’s Commission and went on to serve on the commission.
She spent years working to prevent substance abuse in our communities and to educate policy makers about the issue. As a board member of the Sitka Alcohol and Drug Program (17 years) and also the Alaska Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (8 years), she recognized the heavy toll the use of drugs, especially alcohol, was taking on the citizens of Alaska. She worked to promote the treatment and prevention of the disease of addiction by participating in programs to educate the public and members of the legislature in the true nature of the disease.
Johnstone has served on numerous boards, including the Kettleson Memorial Library Commission, the Salvation Army, the University of Alaska/Community College Advisory Board, KCAW, the local public radio station, the local credit union and has served on the Vestry of St. Peters Episcopal Church. She also volunteers at the White Elephant Thrift Shop, (a non-profit which has donated over $1 million dollars to Sitka non-profit organizations), and she volunteered as instructor of AARP Senior Driving Program for many years.
After taking one night course at a time while raising four children, working and achieving her many other accomplishments she earned her AA degree at the age of 67.
In 2010 when the Sitka Conservation Society received the Bob Marshall Champions of Wilderness Award from the U.S. Forest Service, she and her husband were honored to be chosen to go to Washington D. C. to receive the award from Tom Tidwell, the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.
Communities come alive and thrive because of people such as Johnstone, who, over the course of several decades, made her mark in many different ways. Johnstone is a woman to admire and she has given her time and talent to support the causes she cares about passionately: women’s empowerment, supporting reproductive choice for women, prevention of and recovery from substance abuse, literacy for all Alaskans, and protection of our environment.
Marie (Nick) Meade
Achievement in: Yup’ik language and culture education for the world
Marie Meade is Yup’ik Eskimo from Southwest Alaska and was born and raised in Nunapiciaq, between the Kuskokwim River and the Bering Sea. She is a humanities scholar, language expert, and educator and Yup’ik tradition bearer. Meade teaches Central Yup’ik language, orthography and Alaska Native dance at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA).
For more than 20 years she has documented the cultural knowledge of Yup’ik elders. Her publications and exhibitions have significantly contributed to the world’s understanding of the values, language, and beliefs of the Yup’ik people.
In 1996 Meade researched and assisted with assembling the traveling mask exhibit called “Agayuliyararput; Our Way of Making Prayer” and translated first-person accounts of elders to produce the book for the exhibit titled, Kegginaqut, Kangiit-llu/Yup’ik Masks and the Stories They Tell.
In 2005 she translated Yup’ik Words of Wisdom: Yupiit Qanruyutait, which is a bilingual volume focused on teachings and wisdom of expert Native orators as they instruct a younger generation about their place in the world.
In 2002 she received the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Humanities Educator and in 2014 received the Meritorious Service Award from UAA.
Mead’s Yup’ik name, Arnaq, means “woman.” Her community taught her the way of being Yup’ik, including how to gather, harvest and prepare food, and how to be the heartbeat of an extended family. Meade is the mother of three grown sons and many grandchildren. She has experienced the healing power of Yup’ik dance and trusts her intuition. When asked about advice to young women, she said, “Come to know and own yourself. Trust yourself the way you are and follow your feelings.”
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.”
Ramona Gail (McIver) Phillips
Achievement in: Elected politics, public policy and community service
Gail Phillips summed up her first political campaign in one word “economics.” Years later she was named one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Alaskans four times in a row. Phillips was elected majority leader of the State House, then twice elected speaker. Rep. Mike Navarre, Kenai Democrat, who served with Phillips, said: “she’s good at delegating, works by consensus and is very fair although she also has a bit of a temper. But she’s not heavy-handed.”
Born in Juneau, raised in Nome, she received her higher education in Fairbanks, represented Homer or the Kenai Peninsula for more than two decades in elected local and state political positions, Phillips has lived throughout Alaska.
Leadership came naturally for this oldest of seven sisters. She was elected to her high school student council, becoming president, and served on the University of Alaska’s legislative (student) council for three years. Phillips, a life-long Republican, was president of Young Republicans in high school and college. A decade later she was elected state secretary of the Alaska Republican Party and, of course, ran for partisan office as a Republican.
Phillips’ life isn’t all politics. At the beginning of the great dog race, she was bitten by the Iditarod bug and has served as a volunteer at all levels and continues to do so.
She has been an elected public official, a consultant, small business owner, mining company working partner, high school and community college teacher, airline employee and a clerk in a drug store. Phillips is also a wife and mother of two girls and grandmother of two. She has and is serving on a number of organizations boards of directors.
An interesting note, Phillips uses shorthand to take notes throughout all parts of her life, saying it’s useful and no one can read her notes.
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
- Gail Phillips’ personal and business resumes State of Alaska Official Election Pamphlet, 1990, ’92, ’94, ’96, ’98,
- Alaska Journal of Commerce supplement, Top 25 Most Powerful Alaskans, 1995, ’96, ’97, ’98
- Homer News, October 1, 1981, full page political ad
- Homer News, October 15, 1981,
- Editorial Box Gail Phillips for State House, political brochures from various years
- Katherine Anderson, younger sister, quote from Nomination for 2015
- Interview with Gail Phillips by Bonnie L Jack, December 2014
- Email from Gail Phillips to Bonnie L Jack answering questions, January 2015
- Iditarod, The First Ten Years, published by The Old Iditarod Gang, LLC, 2014
Ruth Anne Marie Schmidt Ph.D.
Achievement in: Geology, education and philanthropy
Ruth Schmidt was a pioneer in the field of geology, pursuing a career as a geologist when few women were accepted into the field. She earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in geology from Columbia University. Schmidt was one of the few women to be hired as a geologist by the United States Geological Survey. In 1953 she transferred to Anchorage to open a USGS field office and soon started teaching the first college-level geology courses at Anchorage Community College. Her teaching career spanned 25 years and when she retired, she was chair of the University of Alaska Anchorage Geology Department. Schmidt laid the foundation for today’s University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) geological science curriculum; designed UAA’s first geology laboratory and helped launch many into professional careers in geology. Additionally, she endowed various scholarships in science at UAA and elsewhere.
As a consulting geologist Schmidt participated in two of Alaska’s major events. After experiencing the epic 1964 earthquake on the ice of Portage Lake, she was selected to coordinate the work of a hastily assembled group of 40 earth scientists charged to assess and map the damage in Anchorage. In 1975 to 1976, she conducted inspections up and down the TransAlaska Pipeline for the Office of the Governor to ascertain compliance with environmental requirements. Schmidt continued well into her eighties to consult on private and public projects throughout the state.
Upon retiring, she devoted a substantial portion of her financial resources to philanthropy, supporting causes such as the environment, the arts and social justice. This generosity was further enhanced by substantial bequests in her will.
Among various honors and memberships, Schmidt was elected a Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science; and founder, first president and honorary life member, Alaska Geological Society
Ruth Schmidt entered a career as a geologist when few women were accepted into the field. She was a pioneer; how many women held an M.A. in geology in 1939 or earned a Ph.D. in geology in 1948? And, as an educator, she paved the way for future women in the field.
Schmidt grew up in a family that placed a high value on education. All four of her siblings, three of whom were sisters, earned college degrees in the 1920s. Schmidt continued in the family tradition, earning a B.A. from New York University at the age of 20, a M.A. in 1939 (at the height of the depression) and a Ph.D. in 1948, both from Columbia University, in geology. Her interest in pursuing a career in science perhaps began after NYU when she was certified and worked as an X-ray technician in a hospital and private doctor’s office. Over the years she applied her interest in and knowledge of radiography to geology, researching how that technique could be applied particularly in the field of paleontology. This work led to the publication of a number of scientific articles concerning radiographic methods and micropaleontology.
Beginning her geology career in the early years of WWII provided her with some unique opportunities which served her in many ways. As a graduate student at Columbia University in the early 1940s, she was recruited to teach two all male classes in science and military mapmaking due to the shortage of male graduate students. The professor, impressed by her knowledge of the subject matter, teaching abilities and administrative talents, provided an excellent reference. In 1943 when employed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Washington, D.C., she was one of the few women to join the agency as a geologist. She was immediately assigned to the recently formed top secret Military Geology Unit where, along with her mostly male colleagues, she applied her professional knowledge to specific war-time tasks. The job was to provide mapping and both general and specific details of terrain to the Army Corps of Engineers to enable that agency to identify suitable areas for construction of infrastructure such as airfields, ports, and landing areas overseas. After the war work was completed, Schmidt continued her professional interest in the possible application of radiography to geology by directing and planning such research at USGS.
During her years in Washington, D.C. at USGS (1943-56), Schmidt was concerned about the prevailing racial segregation that existed. In 1945 she joined The Washington Cooperative Bookshop which, in addition to selling books and records at a discount, offered a place where blacks and whites could meet for interracial, cultural gatherings, forums and lectures on art, world affairs, science and other topics. Then in 1950 and again in 1954, in the midst of the socalled “Red Scare,” her loyalty to the United States was questioned by her federal employer because of involvement in the Cooperative Bookshop which the attorney general had declared to be a “subversive” organization. A transcript of the hearing in 1950 shows that Schmidt was not intimidated by the process or the members of the Loyalty Board and, characteristically, was direct and forthright in her responses to their questions. Cleared within months, she again faced charges in 1954 when the Secretary of the Department of Interior advised her that her continued associations and activities in connection with the Cooperative Bookshop “tended to show” that she was “not reliable.” Once again she provided written answers and affidavits from fellow employees and friends demonstrating her loyalty to the country, faced questions in another hearing and again was cleared within several months. It is perhaps not mere speculation to assume that her transfer to Alaska in 1956 to establish an Anchorage field office as the district geologist (1956-63) was greeted as a positive move by both the agency and Schmidt.
In addition to her work at USGS in Anchorage, Schmidt, in 1959, initiated and taught, as the sole teacher, the first college-level geology courses at Anchorage Community College, and then continued her career as an educator at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), retiring as chair of the Geology Department in 1984. Friends believe she discovered her true passion in the teaching of the science of geology to young students. Over her long teaching career, she was particularly supportive of young women entering the sciences, acting as a mentor and helping launch many women (and men) into professional careers, an important contribution for a resource-rich state. During her 25-year teaching career, she laid the foundation for today’s UAA geological science curriculum and designed the first geology laboratory at UAA, which was in operation until 2010. She was a well respected, albeit demanding, teacher and over the years it was not uncommon for former students to approach her at public events to voice their appreciation. Schmidt was elected a Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science; founder, first president and honorary life member, Alaska Geological Society; American Institute of Professional Geologists, admitted in 1964, and emeritus status in 1986.
Her support of higher education extended beyond teaching. In 1993 Schmidt established the Edward and Anna Range Schmidt Charitable Trust which provides financial assistance to students, teachers and educational groups in the sciences, particularly earth and environmental sciences, with preference given to Alaska Natives and other minorities. Over the years she and her siblings established scholarships in honor of her siblings at the colleges from which they graduated. Most recently Schmidt, in her will, provided an endowment to the University of Alaska Foundation for scholarships for geology students at UAA.
As a professional geologist, Schmidt was involved in a number of Alaska’s major historic events. On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, the epic earthquake found Schmidt, three students and a U.S. Forest Service employee in the middle of Portage Lake boring holes in the ice to measure water depth. Avalanches and rock slides crashed down around the edges, the ice itself quietly moved back and forth (later measured as a five foot swing) and the ice ringing the shore broke up, creating six-foot pressure ridges and leaving open water between the ice and the shore. With Schmidt in charge, the group with its snowmachine eventually found a solid patch to get them off the ice and onto the railroad tracks. Unable to return via the unstable train tunnel they found a small railroad cabin occupied by a young couple and their baby and spent the night. The next day a helicopter took them back to the lodge where they were staying in Portage and by Sunday, another helicopter flew them back to Anchorage. On Monday, three days after Friday’s historic earthquake, Schmidt attended an emergency meeting of all the available earth scientists in Anchorage from both the private and public spheres. She was selected to coordinate the work of the 40 or so scientists who volunteered their expertise to assess and map the areas of damage and of potential damage in Anchorage. On the very next day, base maps were procured and the scientists took to the field to start the assessments before the weather or humans had the time or opportunity to change the terrain. Within days, Schmidt was able to release a preliminary report followed by a final report on May 8th which, though hastily done, was the basis for subsequent studies detailing the geological factors which would influence future building sites. Despite criticism from real estate developers and downtown business interests, Schmidt insisted the public and local officials be fully briefed on the hazards identified before any rebuilding was initiated.
Schmidt also played a role in the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline when in 1974 – 1975; she was appointed an environmental consultant to the Office of the Governor. Her job was to make inspections all along the pipeline route to report on environmental concerns, the state of restoration, cleanliness of camps, etc. Schmidt continued working as a consulting geologist on any number of private and public projects throughout Alaska well into her eighth decade. During her extensive travels around Alaska and the world, she built an impressive slide library of geologic features.
Throughout her career, she was active in a number of professional organizations starting in 1948 with membership in the Geological Society of America. She was admitted to the American Institute of Professional Geologists in 1964 and was granted emeritus status in 1986. Schmidt received a number of honors as a geologist: named a Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science; to the Board of Governors, Arctic Institute of North America; and Delegate, International Geologic Congress in Prague, 1968. Along with seven men, she founded the Alaska Geological Society in 1958, served as its first president, was on the board and was a life member. In 2008 she received a special AGS award for her long years of service and membership. She became a member of the American Association of Petroleum Engineers in 1957 and is to be the first woman honored on the occasion of the association’s upcoming centennial. She served many years on the board and the advisory council for the Alaska Museum of Natural History (now the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature) and was bestowed an honorary lifetime membership. Schmidt led creation of the Brooks Range Library and served as president and trustee during 1979 – 1991. She was a longtime member, officer and supporter of Anchorage Audubon and an early board member of the Alaska Center for the Environment. For many years, Schmidt was listed in “Who’s Who in America” and in “Who’s Who in Science and Engineering.”
Following her final retirement as a consulting geologist in about 2000, Schmidt devoted a substantial portion of her financial resources to philanthropy, supporting causes such as education, the environment, the arts and social justice. She took her role as a philanthropist seriously and in her later years, recognizing that dementia was approaching, Schmidt set up a plan whereby the charities she supported would continue to receive funding during her lifetime even though she no longer could manage her affairs. This generosity was further enhanced by more than 20 substantial bequests found in her will; which not only provided for groups and charities she had traditionally supported, but also included charitable organizations which had no previous support or contact from her.
Schmidt’s forthright, direct personality stood her in good stead throughout her life, particularly in her early career as a young woman in a singularly masculine profession. A long-time friend quipped that “Ruth’s personality was bigger than she was.” It is true she was short in stature, but that did not define her; she was confident, strong, quick, generous, funny, a collector of cartoons and jokes and she commanded respect. Even in her later years and with early stage dementia when she was unable to remember someone’s name or recall a word, she did not attempt to cover up the lapse or pretend. In her direct way of speaking she would forthrightly state that her shortterm memory was gone. This simple, direct declaration immediately opened up the conversation giving the person to whom she was speaking the opportunity to comment or ask a question. It was an immediate gift from a teacher who continued to educate those around her.
Photo courtesy of the Collection of Sally Gibert
- Ruth Schmidt papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage
- “Ruth Schmidt’s Obituary on Alaska Dispatch News”, Alaska Dispatch News, 07 Apr. 2014
- “Project 49: Ruth A.M. Schmidt, geologist, McCarthyism survivor”, Nov. 5, 2014, Jamie Gonzales, UAA Office of University Advancement: http://greenandgold.uaa.alaska.edu/blog/28969/project-49-ruth-m-schmidt-geologistmccarthyism-survivor/livepage.apple.com
- Saucier, Heather. “An Extraordinary, Unknown Career”. livepage.apple.com http://www.geoexpro.com/magazine/vol-11-no-6
Ann Mary (Cherrington) Stevens
Achievement in: Community and statewide activism, volunteer, role model
In addition to being a loyal wife and loving mother, Ann Stevens was a community volunteer, hostess, businesswoman, public speaker, campaigner and mentor. She was independent, versatile and intelligent with a warm, friendly personality and a wonderful sense of humor.
Stevens was comfortable in any setting, whether as a hostess in Washington, D.C., working long hours on a political campaign or performing volunteer work. She could shift easily from a Georgetown cocktail party to an Eskimo whaling camp, bringing many worlds together with an easy conversation and a ready smile.
While her husband pursued his legal and political interests, Stevens was an active and dedicated volunteer with the Red Cross, Girl Scouts, League of Women Voters and the Salvation Army. She volunteered to work with the Red Cross during the statewide effort to provide disaster relief following the Great Alaska Earthquake and the Fairbanks flood. Most notably, she extended her service with the Red Cross in Washington, D.C., as a member of the U.S. Senate Wives Red Cross Ladies.
Stevens was considered to be a close friend to many Alaskans and residents of the Washington, D.C, and area as well. She traveled frequently across Alaska and enjoyed the opportunity to educate and encourage Alaska’s citizens to become active in creating policies that would build Alaska’s future. She connected Alaskans to their state leaders and to their government. She served as a positive role model to Alaska women of all ages.
Her informal entertaining was a legend in the Capitol area. Stevens had a genuine concern for young Alaska women working in Washington, D.C., and served as a caring mentor and guide.
After her passing, the Alaska Red Cross named its building in Anchorage for Stevens, and the Ann Stevens Reading Room in the Anchorage Loussac Library is dedicated in her memory to honor her love of reading.
Ann Stevens was born Sept. 20, 1929, in Denver, Colo. and was adopted by a distinguished Denver couple, Dr. Ben Cherrington and wife Edith. Dr. Cherrington was a college professor who served as chancellor of the University of Denver. He was invited to Washington, D.C., in 1938 by Secretary Cordell Hull to head the Division of Cultural Relations of the State Department; and in 1945 Dr. Cherrington was asked to be an advisor to the U.S. government in San Francisco when the United Nations was chartered. There, he authored the provision setting up the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO.
Stevens learned much from her father regarding the duties of public service and diplomacy, and during her youth spent some time living in Bethesda, Md., while Dr. Cherrington served in nearby Washington, D.C… She graduated from high school in 1946 at the age of 15, and, when it came time for her to choose a college, Stevens selected the progressive Reed College in Portland, Ore., where she majored in political science and international affairs.
After graduating from college, Stevens moved to Washington, D.C. to work for State Department’s United Nations Affairs Office in the Foreign Service Officer Division. It was during this time that Stevens met a young lawyer who worked at the Department of Interior named Ted Stevens. They were married in Denver on March 29, 1952, and then returned to Washington, D.C. The following year the couple moved to Alaska. Shortly after their arrival, Ted Stevens was asked to serve as U.S. Attorney for Fairbanks, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 30, 1954.
In Fairbanks Stevens began the full time job of raising children. Three children, Susan, Beth and Walter, were born. In a 1978 article written shortly after Stevens’ death, Fairbanks resident Mary Elizabeth Lomen remembered when the Stevens’ first arrived in Fairbanks. “We knew them when they first came here. She was lots of fun. She was always so natural. She was just Ann.
In 1956, after three years in Fairbanks, Ted Stevens was appointed to be legislative counsel and solicitor in the Department of Interior and the family returned to Washington, D.C. Once Alaska gained statehood the family, with two more children, Ted Jr. and Ben, returned north, this time settling in Anchorage in 1960.
Once settled and while her husband pursued his legal and political interests, Stevens pursued interests of her own. She served as a director for the American Red Cross from 1961 to 1963. When her children became active in Girl Scouts, Stevens also became involved as a troop leader and was active in scouting from 1962 to 1966. She became a participant in the Salvation Army as well, actively volunteering her services from 1963 to 1966. Stevens joined The League of Women Voters. As volunteers, Stevens and League members researched candidates’ backgrounds and provided an objective view of individuals running for office. In addition, campaign issues were researched with information provided to voters in voter information brochures and pamphlets prior to an election. Another project Stevens and League members worked on in the early days of Statehood was a study of how to implement local government after Alaska became a state.
When the Great Alaska Earthquake struck Southcentral Alaska in March 1964, Ted Stevens was named chairman of the Red Cross Disaster Committee. Ted once reflected that he “… may have been the chairman, but Ann was the volunteer,” who worked tirelessly along with many others to help those devastated by the earthquake. Stevens also participated in the Red Cross response to the 1967 Fairbanks flood, the worst disaster in the history of that city. According to Red Cross literature, Stevens “… worked in mass care, completely relocating a boy’s school from Fairbanks to Anchorage. Later in Washington, she was amazed to hear the National Director of Disaster Services say that mass care was normally a four-month course. Ann told him her training had taken about 30 minutes.” Stevens’ last job with the Southcentral chapter was as chairman of volunteers.
Stevens’ other interests at this time included the World Affairs Council, coordinating Rotary events with other wives of Rotarians, then called “Rotary Anns”, and serving as vice-chair on a committee that was supporting Anchorage Unification efforts in the mid-70s with neighbor Frank Reed.
In addition to raising her family and her active participation as a community volunteer; her return to Alaska also was the beginning of another career that Stevens shared with her husband – politics. It began in 1962 when her husband ran an unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate, and continued with a successful bid for a seat in the Alaska State House in 1964, a seat in which he served until 1968. During the legislative sessions, Stevens and the children would move to Juneau where she ran the household and organized the family. Stevens and other legislators’ wives managed families but also made time to sit in the gallery to keep abreast of important legislation during the first years of statehood.
Stevens developed a reputation as a tireless campaigner for her husband, becoming a favorite among Alaskans wherever she campaigned. During her husband’s 1968 campaign for statewide office, Stevens was given an honorary chauffeur’s license by Teamster head, Jesse L. Carr, when she decided to drive around the state campaigning for her husband in a motor home named “Stevens Steamer.” Stevens and the five children hauled campaign materials and traveled the state for months visiting every town on the road and marine highway systems that could manage the “Steamer.”
Although Ted lost the 1968 campaign, he was appointed to the seat vacated by the death of Senator E.L. “Bob” Bartlett; in January 1969 the Stevens family packed and headed back once again to Washington, D.C., where Ann Stevens assumed the role and duties of an active Senate wife. She soon joined the Red Cross Senate ladies in a program she called “bandage flapping.” Every Tuesday the senators’ wives met and prepared a special compress used in cancer operations. “I thought it would be World War I stuff,” Stevens said later, “but it’s one way I know to get acquainted.” And get acquainted she did. “She was well known by the wives, and she was very well liked,” reported the Anchorage Daily News Washington correspondent in 1978. Stevens formed close friendships with other Senate wives, regardless of their husbands’ political parties. Stevens, along with her close friend Rose Blakely, eventually formed two successful businesses in the Washington, D.C. area with other Washington wives. Elizabeth Dole, wife of former Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, and a former president of the American Red Cross, once remembered her friend Ann Stevens as “the epitome of today’s accomplished woman, full of life and full of joy.”
At their home Stevens was down to earth, and in welcoming everyone to their home, she could put everyone at ease. She was well known for her “hamburger noodle bake” and for cooking fresh salmon in her dishwasher. Her informal entertaining was a legend in the capital. If time was short, and number of guests large, she had been known to bring home buckets of fried chicken “and serve them with aplomb,” she once said. Besides hosting visitors to their home, Stevens would cook lunch for the senators’ Wednesday meetings with the Senate leadership, and oftentimes included Alaska salmon. A secretary to one of the other senators said her boss and others used to serve deli sandwiches, while Senator Stevens was spoiling them with Alaska salmon. Stevens welcomed Alaskans into their home, and always found extra room in her home to help a fellow Alaskan.
She served as a mentor and guide to the young Alaska staff members living in a big city far from home and had a special impact on many of the young Alaska women she met. One of former Governor Mike Stepovich’s daughters, Toni Gore, recalls Stevens had a caring, committed and outgoing nature along with a great sense of humor.
Stevens was a steadfast advocate for women’s involvement in public service and for opportunities and education for women. Stevens returned to Alaska from Washington, D.C. often, and she hosted large luncheons in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau exclusively for groups of Alaska’s women. At these gatherings, she would talk about life in Washington, D.C. and answer questions about national and state issues. These functions were well attended, and women young and old enjoyed hearing insider information about the goings-on in the Senate and in Washington, D.C.
Another example of Stevens’ interest was involving young women in important policy issues and helping mentor them, is one remembered by Gore of Stevens taking her and her sisters, Andrea and Melissa, to the U.S. Senate’s family gallery to witness the historic tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Spiro Agnew to approve the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1973. Stevens wanted to share this important moment with young Alaskans.
For almost 10 years, beginning in 1968, Stevens would travel extensively across the state. An article in the Anchorage Times put it this way: “Ann Stevens, petite, blond, unaffected and unpretentious, has traveled the state for weeks at a time, ever since her husband’s appointment to the U.S. Senate … In cities and villages from Petersburg to Barrow, she has slept on the floors of homes when beds weren’t available, taken potluck with whalers, held an infant while its mother sewed sealskins in a home lit by candles …. and crawled into sleeping bags in trappers’ cabins.” Her down-to-earth quality combined with a respect for every individual she met, endeared her to people from all walks of life across the Last Frontier. Not surprisingly, Stevens had the same effect on national and international dignitaries she met over the years. Archbishop Francis Hurley said of her, “She moved easily and graciously among national and international leaders but with equal ease and grace among those from whom she came…. “
Stevens also took great pride and pleasure at being invited by the Eskimo community in Barrow and Wainwright to join them on their yearly whale hunts. “I’d be devastated if they forgot to invite me,” Stevens said in 1977 after helping the villagers pull in a whale on the ice near Wainwright.
For much of the 1978 campaign season, Stevens was the primary campaigner for her husband’s re-election. Ted Stevens spent much of that year in Washington, D.C. leading the charge in the debate on the Alaska land’s bill, and much of the credit for his runaway victory was given to his wife’s vigorous campaigning on his behalf. Stevens spent election night in Anchorage, calling her husband throughout the night as election results came in. She left for Washington, D.C. a few days later, telling friends she’d be back in three weeks.
Three weeks later, Stevens perished when the Lear jet she was riding in crashed while landing at the Anchorage (now Ted Stevens) International Airport.
The tributes from friends and admirers were many. Among them, Joe Josephson, who wrote: “By all evidence…, Ann Stevens carved out a sensible and sensitive role. Probably no woman in Alaska history has met all of the challenges as the partner of a mate in public life with equal success, in each aspect of a well rounded life. She was wife, mother, friend, advisor, and businesswoman. She could organize her time, without losing spontaneity and spark, and without a trace of brusqueness. She was comfortable with the high and the mighty, and with ordinary folks.” He went on: “Although devoted to her husband’s Republican causes, she knew the limits for partisanship, and she understood that an incumbent serves all his constituents, regardless of party.”
Oliver Leavitt, a whaling captain from Barrow, eulogized Stevens with these stirring words: “Ann Stevens shared her life with us. She was a part of us, whether on a whale hunt or in the quiet of our homes. She understood the beauty and silence of the ice….. her eyes would sparkle with the capture of a whale as she joined in the work and enthusiasm of an entire community harvesting its subsistence. She reflected the spirit of our dance, of feasts and festivals. She also understood the dramatic change that we, as a people, are experiencing and was most helpful in translating that change to ourselves and to the world that she knew. The same person hosted us and helped us feel at home in the much different atmosphere and complexity of our nation’s capitol.”
This was Ann Stevens, a woman who possessed many personal qualities regarded as characteristically “Alaskan.” She was independent, versatile and intelligent. Stevens was comfortable in any setting, whether as a hostess in Washington, D.C. working long hours on a political campaign, or doing volunteer work to aid those in need. She was a caring mentor and positive role model for Alaska women of all ages. That special blend of Alaska independence, trust and genuine concern for Alaska and her people, endeared Stevens to the hearts of many on whom she has left a permanent impression.
Anchorage Daily News and Anchorage Times, December 5–10, 1978
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, December 5-10, 1978
Rocky Mountain News, December 06, 1978
Dr. Ben M. Cherrington Obituary, Washington Post, May 05, 1980
Dr. Ben M. Cherrington Obituary, Denver Post, May 3-8, 1980
American Red Cross, South Central Alaska Chapter Materials, 1979 and 1998
Anchorage Daily News, April 04, 1998
Version of Ann Stevens Biography penned by Barbara Andrews, 2014
Achievement in: Musical artistry and activism
Elvera Voth was a female pioneer in musical artistry in Alaska. Throughout her 33 years in the young state, she founded new musical organizations and strengthened existing ones, teaching and inspiring singers and the orchestra to meet her high andards of musicianship.
In 1960 Voth applied to teach at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The university received another application from a male and hired him instead. They said, “I’m sure you will understand.” Being a woman in a male profession was an obstacle. However, in 1961 she was hired to conduct the Anchorage Community Chorus and to prepare the Alaska Festival of Music Chorus for its conductor, Robert Shaw. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Anchorage Community Chorus concerts and the Alaska Festival of Music became two of the most important cultural events in the city.
Voth’s talents went to Washington, D.C. in 1976 when states were invited to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration and Voth led Alaska’s presentation.
She served as conductor for a 1992 cultural exchange to Magadan, Russia for a week of performances and workshops culminating in a joint concert of singers and musicians from Alaska and Magadan. Her leadership was met with some resistance by her Russian counterparts who were not used to having a woman conductor in charge.
In 1995 Voth, now in her 70s, retired and moved back to her home state of Kansas. She volunteered to start a prison chorus at Lansing Correctional Facility called “The East Hill Singers.” She later founded the Arts in Prisons Inc., offering arts programs to correctional facilities across Kansas. This program gained national attention, expanded to include Missouri and has inspired others to start similar programs in their prisons.
Voth was a brilliant, inspiring teacher, conductor-musician and a witty and engaging speaker for music, the arts and women.
Voth was a female pioneer in musical artistry in Alaska. Throughout her 33 years in the young state, she founded new musical organizations and strengthened existing ones, teaching and inspiring singers and the orchestra to meet her high standards of musicianship.
In 1960 Voth received a contract to teach at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The university received another application from a male and hired him instead. They said, “I’m sure you will understand.” Being a woman in a male-dominated profession was an obstacle. Voth persevered and her determination paid off when, in 1961, she was hired to conduct the Anchorage Community Chorus as well as to rehearse and prepare the Alaska Festival of Music Chorus for its conductor Robert Shaw. During the 1960s and 1970s the Anchorage Community Chorus concerts and the Alaska Festival of Music became two of the most important cultural events in the city. Her leadership during this time and the great success of these organizations cemented Voth in history as a driving force in expanding musical artistry in Alaska.
Voth’s talents were taken to Washington, D.C. in 1976 when states were invited to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration and Voth was chosen to lead Alaska’s presentation. Her success in Alaska made her an excellent pick for this prestigious honor. She chose 22 Anchorage singers, the Kodiak Russian Dancers and Point Hope Eskimo dancers and singers to represent Alaska. In our nation’s capital she conducted the Alaska ensemble of singers and orchestra in the premier of a new contemporary musical composition “Susitna” by Gary Smart based on the bitter-sweet legend of “The Sleeping Lady” and her Indian sweetheart. Magnificent photographs of the seasons of Alaska by Steve McCutcheon were projected onto a large screen behind the singers. For many in the Washington, D.C., audience it was a dramatic introduction to Alaska’s contemporary and traditional arts along with Alaska’s majestic landscapes.
Later she was the conductor for a 1992 cultural exchange to Magadan, Russia for a week of performances and workshops culminating in a joint gala concert of singers and musicians from Alaska and Magadan. Her leadership was met with some resistance by her Russian counterparts who were not used to having a woman conductor in charge. Her experiences in Alaska as a pioneer prepared her well for the leadership necessary to successfully conduct the orchestra. She would need to demonstrate strength if they were to take her seriously. At the first rehearsal of Russian and Alaska musicians for the main concert at the end of the week, Evgeny, the conductor of the Magadan orchestra, assumed he would be the conductor and tried to take over. Voth informed him she was the conductor. Outraged, he and his male musicians sitting in the first chairs in front of the orchestra walked out of the rehearsal. Without losing a beat, Voth beckoned to all the female Russian musicians, who had been put in the back of the orchestra sitting in the third chairs, to move up to the front where the men had sat. Stunned by Voth’s brash response, they had to be encouraged to accept their promotions. Voth quickly began the rehearsal. Within minutes Evgeny and the men, hearing the music, sheepishly returned. The women had to move back so the men could regain their first chairs in front. Evgeny tried to make amends with Voth. She graciously allowed him to conduct a couple of the Russian pieces in the concert.
The night of the concert, the Russian audience heard Voth lead the Anchorage Chamber Singers and orchestra through a history of American music, ending with the combined voices of Russian and Americans in Schubertʼs Mass in G Major. At the conclusion the audience exploded into applause. The results far exceeded her expectations. She later commented “I just wasn’t prepared for those opening chords from the combined forces of the Magadan chorus and orchestra and the Alaska Chamber Singers. That wave of musical intensity hit me like a wall of water. She remembers her thought at the time was to “just get out of the way and let it happen.”
In 1995 Voth, now in her 70s, retired and moved back to her home state of Kansas. She volunteered to start a prison chorus at Lansing Correctional Facility called “The East Hill Singers.” She later founded the Arts in Prisons, Inc. offering arts programs to correctional facilities across Kansas. They benefited from Voth’s vast experience of working with singers in Alaska. Recognizing she and the prisoners needed the camaraderie of experienced male singers, she brought singers from the Kansas City Opera chorus and the Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City to join the prison chorus. The East Hill Singers were allowed to perform outside the prison and quickly became hugely popular and respected performers.
In 1997 after learning about her programs, her former colleague and Kennedy Center honoree Robert Shaw, now in his 80s, called and asked how he could help support her work. She told him about the potential for using arts experiences to help rehabilitate inmates. She wanted to start a new organization that would help prisoners but she needed money to do it. She suggested that Shaw conduct a benefit sing-along program to raise the money. The benefit sing-along with Robert Shaw raised funds to start a fund for Voth’s dream of a new organization called Arts in Prisons, Inc. that would offer arts programs to other correctional facilities across Kansas. This program expanded to include Missouri and has inspired other states and organizations to start similar programs in their prisons. The mission of Arts in Prisons, Inc. reads:
“Arts in Prison provides life changing programs, using art as a medium, in prisons and detention centers in Kansas and Missouri so that our participants are better equipped to be successful when they re-enter our communities.”
The joy of singing and the applause and acceptance from the audiences also helped many of the inmates change their lives. Voth learned to recognize the power of the arts to rehabilitate prisoners. Again, Voth is in the spotlight for being a leader and trailblazer; this time creating opportunity for those incarcerated to learn about art and music and again using music to work towards social justice.
Her academic background shows an impressive foundation. She began her career by receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bethel College in 1946 and a Masterʼs degree in Music Education from Northwestern University in 1948.
In addition to her other work, Voth has held numerous positions throughout her long and distinguished career including founder and director of the Anchorage Boys Choir, founder and director of the University of Alaska Singers, conductor of the Alaska Methodist University AMU Chorale (APU, Mid 1960s), director of Anchorage Lyric Opera (1972 – 1975), director of Sunday Afternoon Concert Series at the Anchorage Historical and Fine Arts Museum (1961 – 1973).
Her decades of accomplishments have earned her many awards including, Newton’s Woman of the Year (1956), Artist of the Year by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce (1979), Governorʼs Award for Artist of the Year (1983); an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Alaska (1987). In the late 1990s and early 2000s Voth received honors and awards from the governor of Kansas and the Kansas Music Educators Assn. To commemorate a lifetime of achievements, the Elvera Voth Rehearsal Hall in the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage was dedicated in 2003.
Voth ignored the gender barriers of her generation and so overcame them. She was a mentor, role model and inspiration for musicians to reach for roles in major choral, opera companies, orchestras, and ultimately, the highest position, conductors. She mentored, nurtured and developed young singers, discovering talents and abilities in them they didn’t know they had. She actively recruited young men from the army and air force bases in Anchorage at a time when Anchorage was a location that was defined as hardship tour of duty. Men and women sang in her chorus and often discovered a love of and sometimes a future profession in music. She gave them confidence and support to reach way beyond what they thought they were capable of. Many went into professional choral groups and opera companies, became music teachers, found other music-related jobs in the business and administration of the music industry, or just kept singing for as long as they could. Choral music and all its forms in the various musical organizations Voth founded built community.
Her pioneering efforts are mentioned in the International Journal of Research in Choral Singing and underscore her influence in the use of the sing-along format and highlight the important work she and Robert Shaw accomplished together. The article describes a particularly successful event. In 1968 during the 13th annual Alaska Festival of Music, Voth persuaded an unwilling Robert Shaw to lead a sing-along at the Fort Richardson Army Base chapel near Anchorage. Shaw assumed no one would attend and remarked, “I hope you will be pleased to see me fall on my face.”
When they arrived at the hall an over-capacity crowd rose with a roar and the event was a huge success. The article goes on to say “ this initial sing-along format in Alaska was the humble precursor of what thirty (sic) years hence would stand as perhaps Shaw’s greatest public testimony to his passionate beliefs about choral music and social justice: …The 1998 Benefit Sing-Along (Arts in Prison Inc.) raised both money and awareness for a prison-based choir begun by Voth. It also created opportunities for other art experiences for incarcerated human beings.”
Voth was a brilliant, inspiring teacher, conductor-musician; innovative and creative in her concerts and performances; a witty and engaging speaker for music the arts and women. She believed and proved that choral singing could be an instrument of social justice, healing and empowering the disenfranchised.
“International Journal of Research in Choral Singing”