Virginia (McCory) Blanchard
Although trained as a classical singer with an impressive musical career before her arrival in Alaska, Virginia Blanchard’s greatest contributions to the 49th state were her work in Alaska government and her community volunteer efforts.
She moved North from California in 1959, settling in Seward where she became financial officer and also oversaw the boat harbor. Then, in 1964, she began a long career in state government.
Blanchard was the first woman elected to the Juneau City Council in 1972 and served as vice-mayor. In addition, she chaired many boards and commissions, as well as leading charitable fundraising efforts.
Through her knowledge and influence, Blanchard successfully guided fiscal and management practices for a variety of civic groups. Her research on the financial ramifications of a statewide initiative to move the capitol proved influential.
Blanchard was recognized by the Fourteenth Legislature for her support and received thanks for opening her Sunday suppers to law makers, providing good food, hospitality and discussion across the aisle.
Upon retirement, Blanchard relocated to Anchorage and was offered a position as traveling auditor for the Department of Health and Social Services. The assignment required spending weeks in rural Alaska where many officials were women who had little training for working on government grants. Seeing their need, Blanchard spent much of her personal time mentoring and providing marketable career training for this far flung-group.
Later, she became active in senior citizens’ affairs. She represented Alaska at numerous national conferences on aging, as well as working for her region.
Blanchard was still very active when she moved to the Anchorage Pioneer Home, organizing voter seminars with candidates and serving on committees. Her final days were spent sharing delightful memories with long-time Alaskan friends from all-over-the-place who kept her company.
Marie Qaqaun (Adams) Carroll
Marie Qaqaun Carroll, an Inupiaq Eskimo from Utqiagvik, Alaska, has been an active member of the North Slope community since her summers home from high school and college, but it was growing up in a large family dependent on hunting and fishing that would influence her life the most. When the International Whaling Commission put a prohibition on subsistence bowhead whaling by Alaska Natives, Carroll was instrumental in using traditional knowledge to show the international community and the federal government that subsistence whaling is critical to the Inupiat people and their culture. As the first in her family to graduate from college, Carroll, as Executive Director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, worked with lawyers, federal regulators and marine biologists to prove that the Inupiat people know the animals and the environment better than any western scientist, eventually helping to overturn the ban and ensure whaling would continue for those who rely on the animal for survival.
Carroll would work for the local government during the peak of oil and gas activity in Prudhoe Bay, helping to manage the large influx of revenue and bring modern infrastructure to northern Alaska. Working as a Public Information Officer, she hosted a weekly radio show to keep the community informed on local concerns and talking about social issues like drug and alcohol abuse. After working as a Chief Advisor to the North Slope Borough Mayor, Carroll switched gears and began work at the regional health nonprofit, Arctic Slope Native Association (ASNA) in 1999.
Carroll was appointed to the role of President and CEO of ASNA in 2007, and since then has helped effectively manage all affairs of the Association. She advocated and secured funding through the Indian Health Services to construct a new 109,000 square foot hospital in Utqiagvik that opened in 2013.
Heather (Lundgren) Flynn
Heather Flynn came to Alaska 50 years ago, a time of great opportunity and change in Alaska. Immediately she became involved with education and social change through Head Start, Community Action, the League of Women Voters and the Anchorage School District.
Flynn taught junior high, engaging students in world cultures and social responsibility. She challenged the outdated maternity policy and soon after gave birth to two children.
Flynn was elected to the school board in 1975, the same year Anchorage adopted a new Charter that she had helped develop.
As a school board member, Flynn worked diligently in Juneau for improved funding not only for Anchorage, but for the newly created rural school districts.
Flynn served 10 years on the Anchorage Assembly, half that time as only woman. Known for thorough preparation, she excelled in budget and finance, planning and zoning and utilities.
Flynn was the director of Alaska Women’s Resource Center (AWRC) and the Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC). Her knowledge, passion and advocacy for women and children, and tenacious fund raising, grew and stabilized both organizations.
Throughout her professional endeavors, including UAA Adult Learning Center and a college foundation, she was deeply committed to volunteer efforts primarily impacting women and children. Among others, she served the YWCA, Alaska Community Foundation, Equal Rights Commission, Alaska Public Media, Planned Parenthood, Anchorage Opera, Anchorage Museum and Campfire.
Once asked to fill in the blank, “If I had all the time and money in the world, I would______.” Reply: “I would give away both.” After retirement, Flynn continues her activism in immunization and educational programs that have taken her around the globe. Her passion is philanthropy. She commits 50% of her gross earnings to her passions, the charities of her choice, and trains and encourages others to engage in personal philanthropy.
Abigale “Abbe” (Ryan) Hensley
Abbe Hensley is a positive and impactful force for improving children’s early literacy and learning in Alaska and nationally. She was born in Anchorage making her first trip down the Alcan at one and a half. Her family would continue to move between her father’s state of California and her mother’s home state of Alaska throughout her childhood.
Hensley’s life-long passion for advocating for children and families began early. In the 1970’s she developed early childhood programs for the Tanana Chiefs Conference, created childbirth education classes that were used statewide and organized an Alaska summit on parent involvement in children’s education.Her work with the Alaska PTA led her to national PTA elected office. Hensley’s work as Director of Education and Outreach with KAKM in the 1990’s created an unprecedented collaboration among the four Alaskan public television stations on a statewide outreach project. In 1995, KAKM became one of the first Ready To Learn stations nationally. Between 1999 and 2001 she served as a consultant to the national Ready To Learn project. She spearheaded and managed the revision of workshop and other outreach materials for use by 130 PBS stations nation-wide and directed national outreach until 2006 for the Public Broadcasting Services.
Hensley returned to Alaska in 2006 as the founding ED of Best Beginnings, a statewide nonprofit that mobilizes people and resources to ensure all Alaska children begin school ready to succeed.
Nationally, the program is seen as a model for the Dollywood Foundation’s monthly free book program and in 2018 the two millionth book was delivered; 18,000 Alaska children from birth to five in 112 Alaska communities participated. Hensley has clearly been the most important single voice in early childhood education for our state.
Abbe and William “Willie” “Iggiagruk” Hensley were married in 1974 and they have six children.
Abbe Hensley has been a positive and impactful force for improving children’s early literacy and learning in Alaska and nationally. Hensley was born in Anchorage in 1945. Her mother, Gayle Strutz, was a second generation Alaskan – born here after her parents arrived in Alaska in the early 1900’s. Hensley’s father, James Ryan, was a Californian and Hensley would grow up moving frequently between the two states. She made her first trip down the Alcan at the age of 1 1/2 and was told that their car was one of the first private vehicles to travel over the Alcan! Hensley’s father was from a large Connecticut family that had settled in Oroville, California in the late 30’s and when Hensley and her parents traveled down the Alcan they headed for Oroville. Her father would then travel back and forth between California and Alaska to work construction and in canneries for a number of years. Her Anchorage schooling included stints at Chugach, North Star and Denali. High School years were spent in Oroville and Sacramento. With a significant amount of moving around during her school years, friends were difficult to make. Hensley’s younger sister and her cousins in Alaska and California were important connections.
Hensley was scholarly and diligent in school and was named a semi-finalist in the Merit Scholarship Program. She enrolled in Mills College as a History Major. After graduation she returned to Alaska and felt like she had truly “Come Home!”. Her lifelong passion for advocating for children and families was about to begin.
From 1972 to 1974 Hensley worked for the Tanana Chiefs Conference and developed and implemented a needs assessment project for early childhood programs in interior Alaska. As the coordinator of the Early Childhood Project Hensley developed skills that would serve her for many years and create a career that spanned 50 years of both community and work related service to young children and families.
Hensley married and moved to Anchorage in the mid-70’s, started her family and immersed herself in childbirth education. She regularly taught childbirth education classes in Anchorage between 1976 and 1986 and also in Kotzebue from 1986 to 1989. She designed and implemented the first program for pregnant teenagers in Kotzebue and was a trainer for childbirth educators statewide …. designing, presenting and implementing workshops and continually upgrading the program which was eventually offered for credit through the University of Alaska. She also served on the Alaska State Medical Board during this time.
Hensley was an early leader in the Alaska PTA. She served as the elected President from 1989 to 1993. As PTA President she designed, implemented and evaluated an innovative model for two statewide parent involvement conferences which were supported by the Governor’s Office. She organized an Alaskan summit on parent involvement in children’s education that brought together leaders from statewide groups and organizations. Hensley also served as National PTA Vice President for Leadership and felt that PTA needed to make changes in order to attract parents working outside the home to serve in leadership positions. She led strategic efforts to promote more professional training, adopting leadership materials designed for businesses and re-working them for PTA training curricula. The goal was to provide PTA leaders (mostly women) with training and education that they could use both in their PTA work and on the job. Her expertise in and leadership of PTA’s in Alaska and nationally was recognized and she served on the Alaska State Board of Education and also served as the Board Chair.
Hensley’s work as Director of Education and Outreach with public station KAKM in the 1990’s created an unprecedented collaboration among the four Alaskan public television stations. In 1995, KAKM became one of the first Ready To Learn stations nationally and Hensley implemented the project in Anchorage, Mat-Su and on the Kenai Peninsula. In 2001 she moved into the national position of Director of Outreach Services/Ready To Learn for Public Broadcasting. In this national PBS position she administered the outreach component of a five year, $100 million US Department of Education funded project that worked towards improving the early literacy and school readiness of young children.
Hensley’s family had grown to 4 children over the years and she and her husband, Willie Hensley, returned to Alaska in 2006. Abbe as the founding Executive Director of Best Beginnings, a statewide nonprofit that mobilizes people and resources to ensure all Alaskan children begin school ready to succeed. In 2018, an amazing 112 Alaska communities – more than 18,000 children – participated in the Imagination Library (Dolly Parton’s monthly free book program for children age birth to 5 years of age) under the Best Beginnings umbrella. Nationally, the Alaska program is seen as a model for the Dollywood Foundation. The 2 millionth book was placed in a child’s hand in Alaska in 2018. As state support dropped off for the program, Hensley marshaled impressive private support and retooled the entire nonprofit so that they could continue to provide books to young Alaskans. She created an impressive yearly fundraiser, The First Ladie’s Tea for Best Beginnings. This Sunday afternoon event raises between $30,000 and $40,000 yearly and has motivated current and former Alaskan first ladies to support and promote early childhood education and reading opportunities.
The creation, growing and maintaining of Best Beginnings can be seen as Hensley’s crowning achievement in a professional life devoted to the education and support of young children and their families. Her life’s work has been as an advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves – the youngest among us. She has sought to empower parents and children alike throughout her long career and has been an exemplary role model as a wife, mother, grandmother, civic leader and executive. She and her husband Willie and their 5 children have benefited from her commitment – as has the rest of our population. She has been absolutely committed to growing the next generation of leaders, both nationally and in Alaska.
Among the many honors and awards that Hensley has received are:
The Shining Lights Award (with Willie Hensley) from Congregation Beth Shalom, 2016
Anchorage ATHENA Society inductee, 2014
Little Red Wagon Advocacy Award, Alaska Association for the Education of Young Children, 2012
Service Award, Arlington Community Action Program (Virginia), 2000
Honorary Life Member of the National PTA and 17 state PTA’s
Legislative Citation, Alaska State Legislature, 1993
Women of Achievement, Anchorage YWCA, 1990
Friend of Education, Northwest Arctic Education Association, 1987
Hensley has chosen to concentrate her life’s work in an area that completely alters people’s lives – improving the early years of our youngest citizens. Her work and her volunteer activities have all endeavored to increase learning, safety and resources for those who can’t take care of themselves and who need advocates the most. In doing so she has lifted up and made visible these concerns to all men and women of our state and has served as a role model for all of us to learn from!
Resume of Abigale (Ryan) Hensley
Interview with Abigale (Ryan) Hensley
Best Beginnings website bestbeginningsalaska.org
Nomination submitted by Jo Michalski
Nomination submitted by Barbara Brown
Beverly “Kikikaaq” Hoffman
Beverly Hoffman of Bethel was born in 1951 into a large family of Yup’ik and European descent. Hoffman graduated in 1969 from Dimond High School in Anchorage. After attending a Florida college and living in San Francisco, she moved home in 1975.
Along the Kuskokwim River, there is a long history of death by drowning. Hoffman is a founder of the Y-K Delta Lifesavers, which began a campaign for a pool in the 1980s to teach people to swim and to provide healthy recreational and fitness outlets. The $24 million facility opened in 2014. Hoffman continues to raise funds for an endowment supporting access, so all people can use the pool, regardless of economics.
Hoffman was an early organizer of the Kuskokwim 300, the world’s premier mid-distance sled dog race. She managed the event for several years and raced for 40 years in K300 and village-sponsored dog races.
Hoffman fights tirelessly to protect the Kuskokwim River and its salmon for future generations. She served as chair of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, the regional voice for salmon issues.
As an owner of Kuskokwim Wilderness Adventures, Huffman is the first woman on the Kuskokwim with her six passenger Coast Guard license. She welcomes and guides visitors to the region, sharing local history and traditional knowledge.
Hoffman received the Bill Bivens Award from Bethel’s Chamber of Commerce, the Yukegtaaq award from Tundra Women’s Coalition, and the luminary “Community Spirit” award from the Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation. She is a past Bethel City Council member.
A community activist, Hoffman continues advocating for the region, protecting fish habit and the environment, volunteering for public radio and the K300, and pursuing a community gym.
She and her husband John McDonald have two grown children, son Colin McDonald and daughter Casey McDonald.
Mary K. Hughes
Hughes is an active member of the Alaskan community. She has served as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska since 2002 and as a Director of the University of Alaska Foundation since 1990. She is also the chief executive officer of her family’s foundation, The John C. Hughes Foundation, whose mission is investment in 501(c)(3) organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for Alaskans.
She was the Municipal Attorney for the Municipality of Anchorage from 1995 to 2000 and Alaska State Director for the Office of U. S. Senator Lisa Murkowski from 2005 to 2008. For nine years, culminating in 2012, she also served as Chief Administrative Officer of Lisa Murkowski for U. S. Senate. She was Alaska State Co-Chair of the Senator’s historic 2010 write-in campaign. Prior to her appointments, Hughes was a partner in the Alaskan firm of Hughes, Thorsness, Gantz, Powell & Brundin. She joined the firm in 1974. Her practice included a wide variety of commercial transactional and litigation matters. Additionally, she hosted a weekly radio show, PROFILE ALASKA on AM 700 KBYR, for seven years.
She is presently a Life Trustee Emeritus of Willamette University. And, in 2013, she was elected to the Board of Directors of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and serves as Chair of its Strategy & Priorities Committee. In 2018, she was appointed to the University of Washington Medicine’s Outreach & Advocacy Committee. She is also a member of the Community Advisory Board of Alaska Airlines.
Hughes was born on Kodiak Island, Alaska and grew up in Anchorage, where she resides with her spouse, Andrew Eker. They have three children and eight grandchildren.
Of Alaska’s Emerald Isle……
Born on Kodiak Island in 1949, Mary Katherine Hughes, knew at an early age, she was to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an Alaskan lawyer. The first born of three girls, her youth was an Alaskan extravaganza. Her family moved to Anchorage, lived on the Park Strip (where they celebrated the Territory’s admission to the Union at the 50-ton Statehood Bonfire) and enjoyed the remoteness of a log cabin built on a five-acre tract by her parents in the early 1950’s. She loved the wilderness and all its bounty. Berry picking with her sisters, helping her father stack cords of chopped wood (to be taken to “town”) and experiencing the idiosyncrasies of assisting her mother bake bread and pies in a Navy ship’s surplused wood stove oven are memories cherished.
Love, faith, knowledge (particularly of the humanities) and music were the cornerstones of her childhood. All three Hughes girls began piano lessons at six years of age. Additionally, they learned to play wind instruments to participate in school bands and orchestras. She also accompanied her sister Patricia (who had a beautiful soprano voice) when she was asked to perform publicly. The Alaska’s Flag Song was most often requested, and The Elks Club was a frequent venue. The family’s civic and social life always included giving…particularly of time and effort.
Ms. Hughes attended public school in Anchorage and was graduated from West Anchorage High School (her late father, John C., a member of the Anchorage School Board, was a stage presenter when she received her diploma). She attended University of Alaska at College, Alaska. She was extremely active on campus and received the Marion Frances Boswell Memorial Award (honoring the outstanding graduating woman).
Prior to attending Willamette University College of Law in the fall of 1971, Ms. Hughes traveled to Scotland for postgraduate studies in Labor Economics. The experience instilled in her the appreciation for the accessibility of higher education to all in the United States. Her legal education, a precursor to a life as an Alaskan lawyer, truly established her commitment to others through Willamette University’s motto of “Non nobis solum nati sumus — Not unto ourselves alone are we born”.
Anchorage Economic Development Corporation
Board of Directors, 1989-2017
Ex Officio, 1995-2017
Investors Council 2017-present
Vision Anchorage Steering Committee
Alaska Repertory Theatre
Board of Directors, 1986-1988
Soroptimist International of Cook Inlet
Charter Member, 1980-present
Vice President, 1981-1983
Corresponding Secretary, 1984-1985
Covenant House Alaska
Legal Counsel 1988-1994
Providence Alaska Medical Center
Anchorage Advisory Council, 1993-1998
Providence Alaska Foundation
Board of Directors, 1998-2005
Vice Chair, 2000-2002
Alaska Native Medical Center
Native Craft Shop Volunteer 2000-2003
Alaska Humanities Forum
Board of Directors, 2006-2012
Vice Chair, 2006-2008
Leadership Anchorage Mentor 2010-2011
Alaska Community Advisory Council, 2007-present
Alaska Business Hall of Fame Committee
Export Council of Alaska (appointee of the US Secretary of Commerce)
Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE)
Alaska Community Advisory Board, 2010-2015
Success Inside & Out (an inmate program for women to reduce recidivism)
Founding Member of Steering Committee, 2006-2016
Defense Orientation Conference Association
Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson Honorary Commander, 2016-present
University of Washington Medicine
Medical Outreach and Advocacy Committee Member 2018-present
The legal profession for Ms. Hughes was energizing, productive and intellectually stimulating. Her practice included a wide variety of commercial transactional and litigation matters. She had strengths in administrative law, public utility law (telecommunications), eminent domain and employment law. After twenty years in private practice, she was appointed Anchorage Municipal Attorney by former Mayor Rick Mystrom. During her years of practice, she strived to assist her profession.
Alaska Bar Association (Member, 1975-present)
Administrative Law Committee
Administrative Law Section
Executive Committee, 1984-1987
Board of Governors, 1981-1984
Alaska Bar Rule 7 Hearing Master for Alaska Bar admission cases 1985 and 2008
Alaska Bar Foundation
Trustee and President, 1984-1998
Trustee, 2001- 2007
The Fellows of The American Bar Foundation, 1990-present
Alaska Code Revision Commission
Anchorage Association of Women Lawyers
Founding Member, 1975-present
Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference
District of Alaska Lawyer Representative, 1995-2000
District of Alaska Court Fund Committee, 2001- 2002
International Municipal Lawyers Association
State Chair, 1995-1997
Regional Vice President, 1997-2000
Conference Speaker, 1997, 1999, 2002
Conference Moderator, 1998
Strategic Planning Committee, 1999-2000
Additionally, Ms. Hughes was chosen to join the University of Alaska Foundation’s College of Fellows and its Board. In 2002, former Governor Tony Knowles appointed Ms. Hughes to the first of three terms that she would serve on the University of Alaska Board of Regents.
University of Alaska
Board of Regents, 2002-present
Vice Chair, 2004-2005
University of Alaska Foundation
College of Fellows, 1986-1990
Board of Directors, 1990-present
After years of service on the College of Law Board of Visitors, she was also invited to join the Willamette University Board of Trustees.
Board of Trustees, 1997-present
Vice Chair, College of Law Committee, 2004-2008
Chair, College of Law Committee, 2008-2011
Life Trustee Emeritus, 2015-present
Willamette University College of Law
Board of Visitors, 1978-2001
Her University board service was supplemented by election to the Association of Governing Boards for Universities and Colleges founded in 1921 (she was the first Alaskan to serve on the prestigious governing board).
Association of American Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges
Board of Directors, 2013-present
Chair, Resources Committee, 2015-16
Vice Chair, Strategies and Priorities Committee, 2016-2017
Chair, Strategies and Priorities Committee, 2017-present
Director, AGB Search LLC, 2016-present
In 2003, U. S. Senator Lisa Murkowski invited Ms. Hughes to join her re-election campaign as Chief Administrative Officer. She served in that capacity for nine years, culminating in 2012, during which she was Alaska State Co-Chair of the Senator’s historic 2010 write-in campaign. She also served on the Senator’s official staff as Alaska State Director. During the same decade, she hosted a weekly radio show, PROFILE ALASKA on AM 700 KBYR, for seven years.
After years of civic and public service, Ms. Hughes’ life was further enhanced in 2007 when her father created a family foundation, whose mission is investment in 501(c)(3) organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for Alaskans, for which she was selected the chief executive officer. Alaska and Alaskans benefited from her parents’ generosity during their lives and the Foundation extends their charity to endless future generations.
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
—-attributed to Sir Winston Churchill
Juris Doctor, Willamette University College of Law, 1974
Member, Moot Court Board
Postgraduate Studies, Labor Economics,
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1971
B.B.A., Management, University of Alaska, 1971
Harvard Kennedy School of Government
RECOGNITION OF CIVIC AND PUBLIC SERVICE
Alaska Bar Association Service and Leadership Recognition 1984
Alaska Repertory Theatre Service and Leadership Recognition 1989
Covenant House Outstanding Commitment to Youth Award 1995
YWCA Woman of Distinction 1997
Alaska Bar Foundation Service and Leadership Recognition 1998
Providence Alaska Medical Center Service and Leadership Award 1998
Anchorage Police Department Recognition for Protecting and Serving the
Anchorage Community 2000
Anchorage Municipal Assembly Recognition for Municipal Attorney Service
University of Alaska Fairbanks Alumni Achievement Award for Professional
Willamette University College of Law Service and Leadership Recognition 2001
Athena Society Member, 2003-present
Providence Alaska Foundation Service and Leadership Award 2005
Willamette University Distinguished Service Award 2011
University of Alaska Board of Regents Resolution of Appreciation 2009, 2016
Roxanna Elizabeth “Betsy” (Cuddy) Lawer
As a third-generation Alaskan banker, Betsy Cuddy may have followed in her father’s footsteps in her chosen occupation but her strong role model for women is in her DNA from her mother Betti Cuddy and her grandmother Lucy Hon Cuddy both Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame alumna. She learned at an early age that women can and should be business and community leaders in Alaska. Her actions have always shown she is committed to helping women enter these roles.
Graduating from Duke University, BA in economics in 1971, she learned the banking business in the trenches working her first job as a secretary for her father, who was then Board Chair and President of First National Bank of Anchorage, changed in 2001 to First National Bank Alaska, both positions she now holds.
Lawer may claim that business is her passion, but civic involvement must be included in that statement. She has been a trustee of the University of Alaska Foundation, served on the Smithsonian National Board, has contributed both time and counsel to hospital networks and high school athletics associations, served as a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Seattle branch, 1997-2003, and the President’s Community Panel of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, since 2001. For those efforts and lots more she has received the Anchorage ATHENA Society’s Leadership Award, 2001; was named to the Junior Achievement Alaska Business Hall of Fame, 2007, the Top 25 Most Powerful People in Alaska, 1999-2003, and US Banker 25 Women to Watch, 2003.
Lawer also enjoys spending time at the family’s beach house in Homer, Alaska and working in her California winery. “Some people play golf, I stomp grapes,” she is quoted as saying many times.
Betsy and David A. Lawer were married in 1972 and have one child, Sarah.
Vera K. (Kingeekuk) Metcalf
Vera K. Metcalf is an educator, researcher and effective advocate. She steadfastly works to protect the subsistence lifestyles of Alaska Native people and preservation of their traditions and languages, plus for the resources that are fundamentally important for the rural Arctic communities.
Since 2002 Metcalf has been the executive director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission and is in that position today. In 2010 she became an executive committee member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. She is widely respected among her people and by state, national and international colleagues and decision-makers for her knowledge of Arctic wildlife resources and national and international wildlife laws and regulations. For both groups, she works with northern Native people to document traditional ecological knowledge and promote research for responsible decision-making. She represents the two commissions at national and international forums, including the Indigenous People’s Council on Marine Mammals, the Arctic Marine Mammal Coalition, and the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee. She is a former commissioner on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, a former advisory panel of the North Pacific Research Board, a member of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, and an advisor on Native affairs for the Marine Mammal Commission.
Born in 1951 and raised in Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island, she was a good student, and was hired to be the kindergarten teacher’s aide at the school there. For the early grades, the teacher prepared the lessons, and the aides taught the students in Yupik.
Metcalf met her husband Bob while attending an education conference, and several years later moved to Nome and married him. They have a son, Matthew. She earned her bachelor’s degree in rural development from UAF.
Of special importance to Metcalf is what she has done for her people by coordinating the repatriation of over 1,000 ancestral remains.
Vera K Metcalf is an educator, researcher, and effective advocate for rural, northern Alaska Native people. She steadfastly works to protect the subsistence lifestyles of Alaska Native people and preservation of their traditions and languages, as well as for the resources that are fundamentally important for the rural, primarily Native communities across the Arctic. Since 2002 Metcalf has been the executive director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission, and since 2011 an executive committee member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. For both groups, she works with northern Native people to document traditional ecological knowledge and promote research for responsible decision-making. She represents the two commissions at national and international forums, including the Indigenous People’s Council on Marine Mammals, the Arctic Marine Mammal Coalition, and the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee. She also is a commissioner on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, on an advisory panel of the North Pacific Research Board, a member of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, and an advisor on Native affairs for the Marine Mammal Commission.
Metcalf was born in 1952 and raised in Savoonga (Sivungaq) on St. Lawrence Island in northwestern Alaska. A good student, she was hired to be the kindergarten teacher’s aide at the then BIA-run school there. For the early grades at the school, the teacher prepared the lessons, and the aides taught them in the Yu’pik language because that was what the children knew. Metcalf met her husband Bob when she attended an education conference, and several years later moved to Nome and married him. They have a son, Matthew, who lives with his family in Anchorage. Bob moved to Nome from Pennsylvania in 1977 and worked as a pilot. “It wasn’t long though before I met an amazing person who became my wife, Vera,” he said. “Beyond our life together, the greatest privilege that I have had is being included as part of her incredible family on St. Lawrence Island.”
When she moved to Nome, Metcalf worked in bilingual education and starting in 1994 for the Bering Straits Foundation in Nome. She also attended college and earned her bachelor’s degree in rural development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1999. In 2002, Metcalf became director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission with Kawerak, Inc. and is in that position today. She facilitates meetings of the 19 commission members. Metcalf is widely respected among her people, and by state, national and international colleagues and decision-makers for her knowledge of Arctic wildlife resources and national and international wildlife laws and regulations. Her position papers, letters, and presentations on proposed regulations, legislation, and polices exhibit a depth of knowledge and understanding of issues, and clearly present positions and recommendations. Currently, the Eskimo Walrus Commission recognizes that poaching of elephants for their tusks has endangered the animal’s survival, but Metcalf is working to ensure Alaska Native people can continue to harvest walrus, carve the ivory, and legally sell the carvings. The Bering Sea walrus population currently is healthy, but Metcalf works closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists to monitor it as there is less sea ice annually.
Of special importance to Metcalf is what she has done for the people of St. Lawrence Island. Metcalf coordinated the repatriation of over 1,000 ancestral remains to the people from the Smithsonian Institution. In the course of that work, she collaborated with Igor Krupnik of the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History to author Akuzilleput Igaqullghet = Our words put to paper, a sourcebook on St. Lawrence Island heritage and history published in 2002. For this work, she was recognized with a Before Columbus Foundation award in 2003. She again worked with Krupnik to compile and edit Neqamikegkaput / faces we remember: Leuman Waugh’s photography from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, 1929-1930, published in 2011.
Metcalf has received awards from the Bering Straits Foundation in 1997, and a WINGS Women of Discovery Sea Award in 2008. But to her, the highest honor is having the respect of the people of St. Lawrence Island and their acknowledgement of her dedication and work for them.
Mary CIUNIQ Pete
Mary Ciuniq Pete came from humble beginnings in the small Bering Sea coastal village of Stebbins, learning subsistence life skills from her family, which she carried on throughout her life and through teaching others. Pete went on to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1984.
Pete was an outstanding role model by all who knew and worked with her. Appointed by Governor Tony Knowles as Director of the Subsistence Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. President Obama appointed Pete to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission twice. Her work helped positively shape subsistence and arctic policies far into the future.
Pete was tireless in advocating for women and children’s needs, especially those who were less fortunate. She was widely recognized for her work in this area, serving on the Statewide Council on Domestic Violence. She clearly valued education, and strongly advocated for her students to succeed, especially her Indigenous ones. She was the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus Director in Bethel from 2005 until her death. Additionally, she would probably have said one of her greatest achievements was developing a bachelors’ degree program for the Yup’ik language.
There are countless people across Alaska who count Pete as their role model who promoted, mentored and advocated on their behalf. Her mentorship is evidenced via folks now in the media, educational, political and public advocacy arenas.
Many have said that Alaska is a kinder and better place because of her and her dedication to those things she worked so hard for and cared about with family always coming first in her life.
None could be prouder of Pete and her accomplishments than lifetime partner/husband, Hubert Angaiak and their teenage sons Conor and Chase.
Margaret (McMullian) Pugh
Margaret Pugh served as one of the first women leaders in the management of Alaska’s correctional system. During her career she worked at McLaughlin Youth Center, Johnson Youth faculty and several state prisons, including as Superintendent of Lemon Creek Correctional Institution. She served as Commissioner of Corrections in the Knowles Administration from 1994 t0 2002.
During her tenure she introduced and implemented the concept of Restorative Justice, which emphasizes treatment for mental health and substance abuse for prisoners to reduce recidivism. She established the first institution for female offenders and replaced the last of the old territorial prisons.
Governor Knowles said, “Margaret Pugh emphasized the importance of keeping prisoners in touch with their family, so she maximized in-state facilities rather than sending prisoners to private outside facilities. She fought for juvenile justice reform and zero tolerance of child abuse. Her public service helped advance a better and safer society for Alaska”
Pugh’s involvement in Girl Scouts in Alaska dates back to the early 70’s. She served first as a troop leader, then as camp facilitator (persuading people to donate their boats, trucks, buses, and helicopters for the camp), travel coordinator (helping coordinate little girl scouts from across Southeast back and forth between their homes and Juneau which included housing girls while waiting for state ferries. Years later she served as a board member and then as board chair for the Tongass Girl Scouts, continuing during the merger with Susitna Council to form the Girl Scouts of Alaska.
On reflection, Pugh expressed gratitude for all who taught, inspired and mentored her on her journey in Alaska. She and her husband John Pugh, former Chancellor of the University of Southeast, raised two children who became able and generous adults who provided two beloved granddaughters, Sophia and Elle.