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Peg Tileston

Photo of Peg Tileston
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Conservation


Peg was raised in Indiana, received her college education at Earlham College and has participated in Continuing Education in Political Science and History at UAA.

Peg arrived in Alaska in 1972 with husband Jules and three daughters.  Ever since, she has engaged in a variety of important Alaskan and community issues in meaningful and substantial ways. Peg helped establish a number of organizations, and then continued her  involvement by serving as a volunteer, director, chair or advisor. She co-founded, and helped govern, such organizations as: Alaska Common  Ground; Trustees for Alaska; Alaska Center for the Environment; Alaska Women’s Environmental Network (1994), and the Alaska Conservation Foundation. Additionally, she has served as a director and/or officer of a number of community organizations including: Chugach Electric association; Anchorage Parks and Recreation Council; Alaska Conservation Alliance; Alaska Conservation Voters; Commonwealth North Fund Permanent Committee, Alaskans for Better Media and the Anchorage Recycling Task Force. Peg has served in an advisory capacity to the governor through appointments to the Alaska Highway Natural Gas Policy Council and Alaska Water Resources Board.  In 1980-83, she served on the National Board of Directors of the Sierra Club.

The University of Alaska Anchorage, in granting Peg an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, May, 2009, accurately summarized the multiple  contributions this community activist has made in shaping Alaska, by awarding the degree “…in recognition of her dedication to conserving the beauty and resources of this Great Land, as well as encouraging all Alaskans to engage in respectful dialogue on issues of importance to them”.   Peg currently manages the “What’s Up” environmental list serve which provides a weekly summary of pending environmental actions and  meetings throughout the state in which the public can participate. She is the President of Tileston & Associates.

In recognition of her activism on behalf of environmental and community issues, Peg has received a variety of honors such as: the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation (2004); the YWCA Woman of Achievement Award (1998); Alaska Public Interest Research Group Award; inclusion in Who’s Who of American Women and the Feinstone Environmental Award (1995). In an unusual twist, Peg and husband Jules have been honored, for their individual contributions, by the Alaska Conservation Alliance and the Resource Development Cuncil through the creation of the “Tileston Award”, given jointly by these two organizations to honor an individual, organization or business “that create solutions advancing both environmental and development goals”.

In addition to the lasting contribution Peg has made through her leadership roles in a variety of community organizations, perhaps her greatest and most enduring influence will prove to be her role as mentor to young women leaders. One such young woman summarized her experience by stating that Peg was able to “identify young women leaders and then mentor them into professional paths.  She has kept a watch on these young leaders and then maintained relationships with them as a colleague, something that is difficult for many people of  her experience and involvement”.

Elizabeth Ann “Betsy” Tower, M.D.

Photo of Elizabeth Ann “Betsy” Tower, M.D.
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Health Care


Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Tower graduated from medical school in 1951 and moved to Anchorage in 1954. She worked for 25 years for the Alaska Division of Public Health. As a public health physician, Dr. Tower directed a major program to combat hepatitis. During her early years in Anchorage she set up an office in her home to attend to the medical needs of prostitutes.

After retiring in 1986, she began researching and writing about prominent people in Alaska’s history including biographies of Sheldon Jackson, Austin E. “Cap” Lathrop and William Egan. Her work has provided other authors, such as Edna Ferber and Rex Beach, with back stories and inspiration for some of the colorful, real-life personalities appearing in their fiction. She has also written a guide to skiing in Alaska, several prize-winning magazine articles, a book, Icebound Empire, a history of the Kennecott Copper Company that earned her the award Historian of the Year from the Alaska Historical Society in 1996. While raising three children who have all settled in Alaska she led an active professional career and traveled widely in the Bush. She is past president of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage and an active member of the Cook Inlet Historical Society. She holds a pilot’s license and is a talented artist.

Fran Ulmer

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Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Education, Politics


Raised and educated in Wisconsin, where she earned her law degree, Fran Ulmer came to Alaska in 1973. She started her 35-year career in public service working for the Alaska Legislature and then for Governor Jay Hammond for 6 years. She served in elected office for 18 years, as the Mayor of Juneau and in the Alaska House of Representatives, and then eight years as the Lieutenant Governor. She was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2002. In 2003, she shifted her focus to higher education as a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University and then served as the Director of the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research. She was appointed Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2007.

Fran has mentored and inspired generations of young women to a life of public service, and with her husband, Bill Council, has raised two successful children to be life-long learners.

Pauline Utter

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Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Advocacy, Political Activism, Women's Rights


Best known for her work in support of women’s rights, Pauline Utter volunteered countless hours as an advocate and political activist in support of a woman’s  right to safe, legal abortion. She mobilized opposition in campaigns and in the  Legislature when efforts were made to limit this right. This led to her developing a statewide database which identified the strength of an individual’s support or opposition to contraception and abortion and the list made it possible to successfully educate voters during political campaigns. Utter was strategic in her efforts and used her knowledge and experience in research, data collection and organizing to upgrade the quality of campaigns in numerous electoral races. She was ahead of her time in educating voters in Alaska on important issues affecting women’s rights.  Also in support of women’s rights, Utter served on the boards of Planned Parenthood and the Alaska Pro-Choice Alliance and founded the Abortion Rights Project in Alaska. These efforts were acknowledged in 2011 when was named an ACLU Hero of Liberty. Previously, she had been honored by her peers working in support of  women’s rights by naming the Pauline’s Abortion Loan Fund in her honor.   Professionally, Utter was co-owner of InformAlaska, Inc., working in the  editing and publishing business. She was a chairperson for Alaskans for Better Media, where her leadership resulted in greatly improved news coverage by statewide television stations and reduced discrimination of women and minorities in media. Her work also led to requiring all major Alaska broadcasters to revise their discriminatory employment practices and comply with their public notice requirements under FCC law.

Utter is a role model for all women in Alaska and she led by example. She championed important principles and values; she practiced them herself as well as speaking with and organizing others to do the same. She was a true advocate of families.  She befriended women, supporting them in their personal trials and then helping them to achieve their own goals. Although known for her public activities, her private assistance to untold numbers struggling with family problems, economic problems and emotional problems is not a matter of public record. It sounds  old-fashioned, but she was straightforward and direct with her opinion which meant that those who needed help had no doubt about her understanding of their situation, her own related experiences and her recommendations. She gave advice, but she also hung in there with you, and she did not give up on you.  She was a person who told the truth and told it quickly – a rare quality, especially among those who are dedicated to politics in the modern era, and one which inspires emulation.

Utter was born in 1942 and passed away in 2005. She left a legacy of fighting for justice and encouraging others to do so. She had a fearless passion for doing the right thing and a history of never giving up. Often described as “a force to be reckoned with,” Utter allowed no one to intimidate her from speaking what she believed while demonstrating that strong positions should be and can be freely debated.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Elvera Voth

Photo of Elvera Voth
Categories: 2015 Alumnae, Activist, Music


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.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


“International Journal of Research in Choral Singing”

Helen Stoddard Whaley, M.D.

Photo of Helen Stoddard Whaley, M.D.
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Medicine


The first woman pediatrician in Alaska (1954), Dr. Helen Whaley was a pioneer in championing medical and educational resources for all Alaska children, especially those with physical and developmental disabilities. Known as a brilliant clinician, she was tireless in the treatment and support of “her kids”. Dr. Whaley co-founded the Anchorage Pediatric Group (1956); founded the Alaska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (1965); and founded the Child Study Center in Anchorage, which provided diagnostic services for brain injured and handicapped children. The Whaley Center in Anchorage, a special education center for children with significant disabilities, is named in her honor.

Dr. Helen Whaley, who is described as “brilliant”, “formidable”, “deeply caring” and whose vision and energy added a new dimension to pediatric care in Alaska, was raised in a background of wealth, death and poverty – all before she was 12. Those who loved her believe these experiences made her the brilliant clinician she was. “She didn’t listen to what patients literally said,” her husband, Dr. Robert Whaley, comments, ”she listened for what they meant. She had learned early there was a significant difference.”

Her mother Helen, a “beautiful country girl” from the Midwest, was swept off her feet by the “dashing” Jack Stoddard, oil rich, destined to be mayor of Denver, Colo. Helen and her four younger brothers were raised with governesses – until she was 9 years old, and her father shot himself. He was broke. Her mother had no skills, The children were parceled off to relatives. Two year later, when Helen was 11, her mother died of breast cancer.

In l944, when Bob Whaley (also a pioneer physician in Alaska) met the 20 year-old Helen Stoddard in medical school, she was working her way through by “cleaning out tank cars, doing very rough work”. “We visited her uncle who had helped raised the children (two of her brothers had died tragically by then). He took me aside and asked, ‘She’s a girl; do you think she can really be a doctor?’ I told him no one could stop her.”

Robert and Helen married in l946, while both were in medical school.

Helen received her M.D. in 1950 from the University of California Berkeley and San Francisco. After a medical internship, she served her residency in pediatrics at UC San Francisco. She was chief pediatric resident at the University of Colorado, at Colorado General Hospital in Denver. Helen later studied neurology at Boston’s Children’s Hospital (l956) and pediatric neurology at Stanford University in l966. Dr. Helen Whaley earned her way to the top of her field during her years of practice in Alaska.

“You have no idea how hard she worked,” says Dr. Bob Whaley. “On top of the other hardships of her life, she had a learning disability. She was always just tremendously determined and she was completely dedicated to her kids.”

The Whaleys came to Alaska in the early l950s when Bob was drafted; Bob arrived in l953 and Helen in l954. The year she arrived, Helen volunteered as a pediatric consultant for the Alaska Native Hospital in Anchorage. She and Dr. John Tower, later joined by Dr. Harvey Zartman, continued a regular consultation service to the (then) Indian Health Service, providing pediatric expertise for the Native population of the entire state as well as to the children of Anchorage. Dr. Whaley and Dr. Tower co-founded the Anchorage Pediatric Group in l956.

The next 15 years were filled with immense energy and joy and lasting contributions. Helen Whaley became one of the pioneers in providing quality, state-of-the-art pediatric care to Alaska’s children. She served on the American Academy of Pediatrics Indian Health Committee. Her efforts in founding and directing the Child Study Center for brain injured and handicapped children led to in-state multidisciplinary diagnostic services. She directed the Alaska Crippled Children’s Treatment Center, which served all of Alaska.

Dr. Whaley is described over and over again as setting a very high standard of medical care for all of Alaska’s children. “For those of us who followed, her high standards of care set an example”, writes Dr. Elizabeth Hatton.

Then tragedy struck again. Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer. “She faced her final months with stoicism, and worked from home until a week before her death,” wrote Chris Tower Zafren.

Dr. Helen Whaley died in l971 at age 47. In 1973, the Helen S. Whaley School was constructed as a Special Education Center for Learner Assistance for students with significant physical and developmental disabilities.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Ada Wien

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Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Government


Ada B. Wien was elected to be a delegate from Fairbanks to the Constitutional Convention. She was one of six women to serve as delegates. She was appointed to three Convention committees: Preamble and Bill of Rights, serving as Vice Chair, Resources, and the Advisory Committee on Committees. On Day 40 of the Constitutional Convention, she responded to a (male) delegates objection that she was being prompted on how to vote, by stating: “I would just like to go on record as saying I do my own thinking…”

A housewife, secretary and businesswoman, she is remembered every year when the University of Alaska Fairbanks awards a student the Noel & Ada Wien Memorial Scholarship.

Caroline Wohlforth

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Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Community Service, Education


Raised by an Episcopal clergyman and educated at a Quaker School, Caroline Wohlforth developed a deep understanding that “each person has some of God in them.” Caroline knew she was being educated for a reason and was expected to contribute to the betterment of the world. Later experiences in education, both her own and those of her children, led her to the realization that not all education is created equal. As a result, Caroline began her work to try to ensure the children of the Anchorage School District could enjoy the quality of education she experienced as a child.

As a parent to two children in the 1970s, Caroline volunteered in the Open Classroom in Juneau where her younger son, Charles, went to school. It was there she witnessed and supported the work of Shirley Campbell, who she describes as the “most brilliant teacher I have ever known.” Upon their return to Anchorage and with no similar options available, Caroline joined Wendy Baring-Gould and Una Tuck in an effort to create Chugach Optional School. As soon as the plans for Chugach Optional were in place, Caroline led a new group called the Committee for Alternate Secondary Education (CASE) to ensure that these children would have an equally innovative secondary school waiting for them upon completion of elementary school; the result was Steller Secondary. U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a “proud” Steller graduate, states: “I am certain that education made a decisive difference in my life, allowing me to develop the entrepreneurial skills that led to my success in business and politics. Caroline Wohlforth certainly deserves some of the credit for my career as a mayor and now as a U.S. senator.” Caroline calls her role in the creation of Chugach Optional Elementary and Steller Secondary her “proudest achievement,” and added that she hopes (and believes) that the school district can now provide a broader variety of learning experiences to fit the needs of students than it would have without the examples of Chugach and Steller. Her service to Anchorage and Alaska, however, is not limited to public education.

To ensure that these schools would remain strong and to give something back to the Anchorage School District, she joined the ASD Board, first as an appointee and later as an elected member. She served as the president for two terms. Gov. Tony Knowles, then the mayor of Anchorage, noted: “As board president, she calmed the waters in conflict between the district and municipality, and brought about a new period of cooperation when these institutions were able to work together productively, pursuing a common goal of education of young Alaskans rather than a conflict of bureaucracies.”

Wohlforth went on to co-found KSKA public radio and KAKM public television, and was appointed to the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission in 1980 by Governor Jay Hammond. She served on the boards of Planned Parenthood and Childcare Connection, now known as Thread, which supports quality child care. For more than 30 years, Caroline has volunteered for and led Fellowship in Service to Humanity (FISH), which provides food to those in need. She also volunteers for the Educational Center, a non-profit organization which produces experiential Christian education materials. The center was founded on the teachings of her father, Rev. Charles Penniman.

Her grace and wisdom are an example to many, including Father Chuck Eddy who wrote “If I were to pick a role model for the coming generation, I would pick Caroline Wohlforth.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Patricia B. Wolf

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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

Gertrude M. Wolfe

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Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Education, Health Care


A life-long Alaskan, Gertrude Wolfe worked tirelessly for the betterment of the people of Hoonah and for all Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. She was a certified village health aide, member of the Hoonah School Board, active with her local chapter and the statewide Alaska Native Sisterhood, and a member of the boards of local and regional Native health corporations. With each activity, Wolfe held top leadership positions. With the Alaska Native Sisterhood, she served as grand president. Wolfe was instrumental in starting the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in 1975, a vital, nonprofit tribal health organization of 18 communities serving Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. The organization promotes healthy lifestyles, has a traditional foods program, and provides health services today.

Hoonah, 40 air miles west of Juneau, is only accessible by boat or plane. Most of the 750 residents engage in commercial fishing and some logging, but must rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing for their livelihoods. More than half of the community’s population is Tlingit. The “village by the cliff” was founded in 1880. The first cannery opened in the town in 1912. In 1944 a fire destroyed much of the town. Wolfe came to the rebuilt community with her husband Wilfred “Bill” Wolfe Sr.  She started working as a health aide in 1954, before there was an organized program, and when a program was initiated Wolfe was one of the first in the state certified. Wolfe was a leader as Federal Indian policies changed and the Southeast Native people fought for their land, improved education and medical care.

Wolfe was born in Sitka and was a member of the Coho Clan. When she retired after 34 years as a Certified Health Aide Provider in Hoonah in 1988, a wing of the Hoonah medical center was dedicated as the Trudy Wolfe Clinic. After her formal retirement Wolfe continued her many civic activities in Hoonah, Sitka and Juneau. The Alaska Legislature passed a proclamation honoring her in 2007 and that same year she was inducted into the Sheldon Jackson Hall of Fame. A wife, mother of six of her own children and foster mother to a number of others through the years, health care provider, midwife and community activist, Wolfe is a role model for many women. Marlene Johnson, colleague and long-time friend, describes Wolfe as a hardworking, common-sense person, concluding: “Trudy had a commitment to young people, education and health. I don’t know how you can get much better than that.” Johnson noted that on more than one occasion when there was a community potluck Wolfe would bring eight dishes — hers, her husband’s and one for each of her six children.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Virginia “Ginny” Hill Wood

Photo of Virginia “Ginny” Hill Wood
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Conservation


Ginny landed, literally, in Alaska on a very cold New Year’s Day 1947. She had learned to fly through the Civil Pilot Training Program in college, and was ferrying a war-surplus plane to Fairbanks. During World War II, she enrolled in the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) and ferried all types of military planes throughout the lower 48 states. Soon after her arrival in Alaska, she started to fly tourists from Fairbanks to Kotzebue.

In 1952, she co-founded Camp Denali, which initiated eco-tourism in Alaska, with husband Morton Wood and friend, Celia Hunter. Ginny and Celia operated Camp Denali until 1975. In 1960, she helped organized the Alaska Conservation Foundation in Fairbanks to present an authentic Alaska voice on conservation issues. Ginny’s written and spoken testimony on the local, state and national levels contributed to the successful effort to establish the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (initially Range) and the continuing efforts to preserve it as wilderness. She was deeply involved in the d-2 land selections and in campaigns to stop Project Chariot, the Rampart Dam and other projects which would destroy Alaska’s wild places. She was a founding member of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center and a longtime columnist for its newsletter.

Ginny received many honors, among them the Sierra Club’s highest award, the John Muir Award in 1991 and the Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. On the occasion of the latter award, former Gov. Jay Hammond called her and Celia “the grand dames of the environmental movement.” In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded its Service Citizen’s Award to Ginny. In making the award, the acting director of the Fish and Wildlife Service cited her “remarkable foresight”, which led to “Alaska’s most treasured places (remaining) untrammeled.” In 2009, Congress awarded its Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to the 300 or so surviving WASPs, the first time their wartime service had been recognized and honored on a national level. In 2002, she had received the Alaska-Siberia Lend-Lease Award for her flying efforts during World War II.

Ginny was a committed, persistent, eloquent voice for conservation values and environmental issues in Alaska. She was not afraid to speak for those values in the face of hostile opposition. She did her homework. She was an eloquent writer. Her independent lifestyle, from building cabins, flying in the bush, guiding in the Brooks Range and ANWR, combined with her advocacy for wilderness values, has inspired and served as a role model for legions of women.

Perhaps this statement from her congressional committee testimony in support of creating the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960 best summarizes Ginny’s values and foresight: “The wilderness that we have conquered and squandered in our conquest of new lands has produced the traditions of the pioneer that we want to think still prevail: freedom, opportunity, adventure, and resourceful, rugged individuals. These qualities can still be nurtured in generations of the future if we are farsighted and wise enough to set aside this wild country immediately, and spare it from the exploitations of a few for the lasting benefit of the many.”

Additional Resources:
Kaye, Roger. Last Great Wilderness: The Campaign to Establish the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2006.
Miller, Debbie S. Midnight Wilderness. Portland, Oregon: Alaska Northwest Books, 2000.
Ross, Ken. Environmental Conflict in Alaska. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2000.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Rosita Kaahani Worl , PH.D.

Photo of Rosita Kaahani Worl , PH.D.
Tlingit Names: Yeidiklats’okw and Kaa.hani 1938
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Alaska Native Cultural Leadership


Dr. Rosita Kaahani Worl, whose Tlingit names are Yeidiklats’okw and Kaa.hani, is of the Ch’áak’(Eagle moiety of the Shangukeidi (Thunderbird) Clan from the Kawdiyaayi Hít (House Lowered from the Sun) of Klukwan, and a Child of the Sockeye Clan. Worl is a self-proclaimed feminist who has made many contributions to increase awareness about Alaska Native cultures and subsistence economies. She has authored numerous publications on Alaska Native issues and cultural practices including subsistence lifestyles, Alaska Native women’s issues, Indian law and policy and southeast Alaska Native culture and history.

Born in a cabin on a beach without the benefit of a physician, Worl was raised insoutheast Alaska by her grandmother, aunt and mother, and commercial fished with her uncle in Kake. “Females back then weren’t allowed to participate in fishing activities,” Wohl explained. At age six, Worl was taken to the Haines House to learn English and to be “civilized” and “Christianized.” She was there for three years before her mother was able to take her home to live with her 12 brothers and sisters. Looking back on the experience, “I learned how to interact with non-Natives,” Worl said, “but my mother always instilled in me that I had a responsibility to the people.”

At age 13 Worl was told she would be the bride in an arranged marriage but the family agreed she should first finish high school. After high school, Worl ran a program that recruited Alaska Natives for higher education and in essence, she said, “I recruited myself.” Worl started college by taking one class at a time.  “School wasn’t easy because there were so many (English) words I didn’t know.  I had to look them up andometimes I had to read things three times before I understood what I was reading. I had a sociology instructor who mentored me, but I really had to work hard.  I was already a mother of three and my kids and I studied together.”

Worl received her bachelor’s degree from Alaska Methodist University and her master’s and doctorate’s degrees in Anthropology from Harvard University.  In academia, she has served as the social scientific researcher at the University of Alaska Arctic Environmental  Information and Data Center and is currently an assistant professor of anthropology at the University  of Alaska Southeast. Worl has done extensive research throughout Alaska and the circumpolar Arctic. She conducted the first social scientific study projecting socio-cultural impacts of offshore oil development on the Inupiat and she has studied traditional aboriginal whaling, which gave her the privilege of being one of the first women allowed to go whaling. Worl also served as a scientific advisor to the U.S. Whaling Commission and has conducted research on seal hunting in Canada for the Royal Commission on Sealing. She served on the National Scientific Advisory Committee and the National Science Foundation Polar Programs Committee. Worl also served as special advisor to the Honorable Thomas Berger of the Alaska Native Review Commission and studied the impacts of ANCSA.

Currently, Worl is the president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which is dedicated to preserving and maintaining the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures and languages; and a board member of Sealaska Corporation. Worl also serves on the Alaska Native Brotherhood Subsistence Committee and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians Economic Development Commission.

On a state and national level, Worl serves on the board of directors of the Alaska Federation of Natives and chairs the Subsistence Cultural Survival Committees, the National Museum of American Indians and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act National Committee. She was special staff assistant for Native Affairs to Alaska Gov. Steve Cowper and served as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Northwest Sustainability Commission. Worl was appointed to the National Census Board focusing on American Indian issues and is a founding member of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She also served as a member of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Arctic Committee.

In addition to her plethora of academic and professional accomplishments, Worl is the recipient of numerous honors, including a Ford Foundation Fellowship (1972-1977), International Women’s Year Conference (1977), the Gloria Steinem Award for Empowerment (1989), Women of Hope (1997), Outstanding Contribution, Alaska Native Heritage Center (2000), Human Rights Award, Cultural Survival (2002), Women of Courage Award (NWPC (2003), Native People Award Enhancing the Native Alaskan Community, Wells Fargo (2004), National Museum of the Indian Smithsonian Institution Honor (2006), University of Alaska Southeast Commencement Speaker (2006), Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award (2008) Governor’s Award for the Arts & Humanities, Solon T. Kimball Award for Public and Applied Anthropology, American Anthropological Association (2008), Lifetime Achievement Award, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (2011) and the Alaska Federation of Natives Citizen of the Year Award (2011). Worl is also one of 11 American Indian women activists represented in a national poster campaign called “Women of Hope,” which highlights their contributions to their people and society. Worl said, “I continue every morning to implore my ancestors to bestow on me the qualities of an Elder – to be kind, compassionate and to do the right thing.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Harriman Expedition Retraced, site Index, Rosita Worl, Anthropologist.
Dr. Rosita Worl’s Curricula Vita provided by Sea Alaska Heritage Institute with permission from Dr. Worl. (2012)
Dr. Rosita Worl’s bio provided by Sea Alaska Heritage Institute with permission from Dr. Worl. (2012)

Esther Wunnicke

Photo of Esther Wunnicke
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Land/Resource Rights


Raised in New Mexico, Esther came to Alaska in 1963 with two babies and her husband Bill Wunnicke, an engineer with USGS. She had a law degree from George Washington University, where she had been the first woman to serve on the Law Review. She devoted the next 30 years to leading organizations that actively managed the land and resources of Alaska and advocated on behalf of Native land rights. In 1982, Governor Sheffield appointed Esther the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, where she served as the “land lady” of Alaska’s 104 million acres of land.

After retiring from public employment, she initiated a citizen organization named “Alaska Common Ground,” whose purpose is to collect and disseminate information on Alaska public policy issues and to promote citizen understanding through forums and reports. Esther has mentored hundreds of women as they began their own careers in natural resource management in Alaska.

Dr. Leonie von Meusebach Zesch D.D.S.

Photo of Dr. Leonie von Meusebach Zesch D.D.S.
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Dentistry, Health Care


Dr. Leonie von Meusebach Zesch spent the majority of her life caring for children, the disadvantaged and U.S. service men and women through her profession of dentistry. In 1902 von Zesch, the daughter of a German countess, earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco at the age of 19. During the course of her lifetime, von Zesh carried her dental expertise from the Hopi Indians in Arizona to the frozen reaches of Little Diomede Island and other points north, often by dogsled, to care for Alaska’s indigenous people.

Von Zesch was born in Texas in 1883, and at age 5 moved with her mother and sister to California. Four years after earning her dentistry degree, von Zesch’s home and office burned to the ground in the San Francisco earthquake and fires of 1906 and she moved on to Texas, then to Arizona where she provided dental services to Army and Navy officers and servicemen.  She also attended to Hopi elders and residents in northern Arizona Mormon communities. On Christmas Day 1915, von Zesch arrived in Cordova, Alaska, where her sister and brother-in-law lived, and she temporarily took over a practice for a local dentist. After obtaining a special license to practice, Gov. Thomas Riggs Jr., appointed her to the Territorial Board of Dental Examiners. In the spring, she made a long trip to Fairbanks, Dawson and Skagway and decided to open her own dental practice in Cordova. She returned to Cordova in 1917. Waiting for her professional certification from the territory, von Zesch set up an interim practice at Katalla and did some postgraduate study at Northwestern University. She then assumed the practice of a Cordova dentist who died in the influenza epidemic.

After the collapse of copper prices, von Zesch moved to the new railroad town of Anchorage in 1920. There she met and worked with Jane Mears, president of the Parent Teacher Association, to develop a dental care program for schoolchildren. She promoted a healthy diet and healthy teeth. In 1923 von Zesch took a break to study writing at Columbia University and to travel in Europe. She returned to Alaska in 1925, this time living in Nome. She opened a dental office, but two months later the building burned to the ground.  Needing money but also seeing a need for dental services for Alaska Native people in their isolated villages, von Zesch signed a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Education (which provided medical services as well as operating schools in Alaska). For the next five years, she traveled, usually just with her assistant – another woman – by dog team from Nome around the Seward Peninsula, north to Barrow and to Little Diomede, Saint Lawrence, and King islands. As she traveled, she provided dental services to others as well, often setting up her dental chair, as needed, at roadhouses.

Travel, summer and winter, around Alaska is challenging. Returning to Nome from a trip to White Mountain and Pilgrim Hot Springs, von Zesch suffered from snow blindness. On a trip at the end of one winter, she and her assistant were stranded on a flooding riverbank and rescued with only minutes to spare by famed dog musher Leonhard Seppala. In July 1929 heading for Point Barrow, the plane she was aboard crashed north of the Arctic Circle. She “walked out” 52 miles to Kotzebue. Picked up by a Coast Guard cutter, she proceeded on her trip to Barrow and East Cape, Chamisso Island, before returning to Nome.

After 15 years in the North, von Zesch left in 1930 to care for her mother in California. During the Great Depression, she provided dental services with the UXA (Unemployment Exchange Association) in Oakland and then for Civilian Conservation Corps workers in California’s gold rush country.  Over two years she drove 150,000 miles from camp to camp providing dental care.  In 1937 she was appointed the resident dentist at the California Institution for Women, the state’s prison for women in Tehachapi, and worked there until 1943.  She died the following year at age 61.

In the 1920s America did not have many women professionals. Dr. von Zesch was one. She was the first woman dentist licensed in the Territory of Alaska. Most of her career was spent working in isolated and remote areas in the southwestern United States and Alaska. Throughout her career she exhibited a commitment to promoting and providing dental care to children and to those who were disadvantaged.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Von Zesch, Leonie, Leonie – A Woman Ahead of Her Time. Studio City, California: Lime
Orchard Publications, 2011

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