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Patricia B. Wolf

Photo of Patricia B. Wolf
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Education, Museum Direction


Fewer than 10 years after statehood, the Air Force brought the Wolf family to Anchorage’s Elmendorf Air Force Base. Patricia Ann Brauman Wolf was raised in New York with the many cultural amenities it has to offer, and earned a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of this frontier town. Pat was not an outdoors person, let alone a hunter or fisher, but she and her husband, Dr. Aaron Wolf, nonetheless decided to make it their home.

Pat’s first job was with Army Kirshbaum, a local artist and gallery owner. She became interested in learning more about Alaska, and pursued studies at Alaska Methodist University for more education in Alaska Native Art, Native studies and anthropology. Pat studied under Saradel Ard, who became her long-time friend and mentor. Shortly after the Anchorage Museum opened, Pat began volunteering there as a docent.

In 1973 Pat received a Rockefeller Fellowship in Museum Education and Programs at the DeYoung Museum Art School in San Francisco, Calif., and interned at the Oakland Museum. In 1974 the position of curator of education came open at the museum in Anchorage. Pat applied and her life-long career with the museum began. In 1987 she became the director and chief executive officer of this institution which she, helped with her able staff, grew to become one of Alaska’s top 10 tourist attractions.

During her tenure there, Pat participated in three expansions of the museum’s physical facilities. She played a lead role in expanding the museum’s educational programming, quadrupled the collections, and organized numerous exhibitions highlighting Native art and Alaska artists. She encouraged the creation of many outstanding temporary exhibitions of Alaska materials and brought world class exhibits such as A T-rex Named Sue, which attracted more than 135,000 visitors to the museum in just three months.

Through her formidable fund-raising skills and broad smile, Pat helped to raise nearly $150 million in private and public funds for the museum while she served as CEO. She also facilitated the founding of the Anchorage Museum Foundation which generated an endowment fund that now contributes substantially to the museum’s bottom line every year.

Pat Wolf forged a relationship with the Smithsonian resulting in the first regional office of that institution’s National Museum of Natural History Arctic Studies Center which is housed at the newly expanded Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. As stated by Aaron Crowell, the Arctic Studies Center’s Alaska director, “The partnership . . . is unprecedented in terms of the significance of the collection, the duration of the loan, and the collaboration with Alaska Native advisors who selected and interpreted the objects.” In 2007, the Smithson awarded her their highest recognition, the Smithson Medal, in recognition of her long-standing efforts to create a venue for the Smithsonian in Alaska.

Through the years Pat sought to make the museum not only an outstanding institution for Alaska art, history and, most recently, science but on a local level, she promoted accessibility of the museum’s facilities as the “community’s living room.” It is used by groups, individuals and businesses, is a gathering place for local cultural and artistic endeavors, and is where high school proms, weddings and art classes for children take place.

Because of Pat Wolf, the Anchorage Museum became, “a home for dozens of multi-cultural activities where people of all ages can explore their own traditions and share their customs with the community,” said Susan Churchill, executive director of the Anchorage Bridge Builders program.

At the announcement of her retirement, Anchorage Museum Association board chair Joe Griffith said: “With her dedication to the museum, Pat has led our community to an awareness and appreciation of art and culture rarely seen in other communities the size of Anchorage. The legacy from her truly exceptional career is an institution uniquely positioned to serve the people of Anchorage for decades ahead.”

“Anchorage is a better, richer community because of Pat Wolf’s more than three decades of public service,” said Mayor Mark Begich. “Her inspired leadership and ability to dream big helped build a museum of wonder that would be the envy of any city.”

A woman of The Feminine Mystique era, Pat was able to structure her life in such a way as to successfully pursue her profession, and, with the support of her husband Aaron, raise a family of three children: Jonathan Paul, Lisa Ellen and Alaska-born Laurie Beth. She also was a role model for many in her community. In 2003 the YWCA recognized her as a Woman of Achievement.

Retired from the Anchorage Museum in 2007, Pat continues her involvement as proprietor for a consulting firm, Museumomentum, writing grants and developing plans for local museums and libraries.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech