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Marie (Hanna) Darlin

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Categories: 2015 Alumnae, Advocacy for Seniors, Alaska’s Heritage, Citizen Advocacy, Senior Citizens


Marie Darlin demonstrates what an individual can achieve in a lifetime — in her case more than 89 years. City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford said as he presented a proclamation honoring her in 2013, Marie’s “volunteering in organizations that make Juneau and the entire state of Alaska better places to live make her an exemplary model for all citizens to follow” (KTOO, June 27, 2013).

Darlin was born in 1925 and has been a lifelong resident of Juneau. Her maternal grandparents came from Finland to Oregon in the 1880s and moved to Juneau in 1894. Darlin graduated from Juneau High School in 1943 and married Kenneth Wingate in 1944. They had two children, and then she was widowed in 1952. She married Bill Darlin in 1953 and he died in 1984. They owned Triangle Cleaners. Darlin worked more than 30 years in human resource management for the federal, territorial/state and local governments. For 18 years she worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs promoting education, economic and quality of life improvements for rural Alaska and as the training officer for the Juneau Area.

The years Darlin was raising her two daughters (Sue Nielsen and Jean Eichman) she was active with the PTA and then served two terms on the Juneau School Board, including serving as president. In 1975 she was appointed to the Juneau Community College Advisory Committee and was president of it for a term and a member until 1983.

After retiring in 1983, Darlin continued her career as a volunteer. She said she was busier and worked harder than ever. In 1985 she led the group starting a Juneau chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employee, and followed this with starting an Alaska federation of chapters and serving four years as its president. In 1987 she became the spokesperson for the AARP’s Women’s Initiative and worked five years on issues affecting midlife and older women.

After serving nine years on the state Alaska Medical Care Advisory Committee, Darlin was appointed to the Alaska Commission on Aging in 2010. She has been instrumental in getting the State of Alaska to enact a missing vulnerable adult response plan and senior citizen protections and to extend the Alaska Health Care Commission. Darlin is an effective advocate because she prepares in advance, attends hearings, speaks up, and follows up with personal visits to legislators. For years every Alaska state legislator has known Darlin by name. At a committee meeting in 2013 Senator Bert Stedman would not hold a vote on a piece of legislation until he had heard from her about it.

Local and state historical societies and museums also are very important to Darlin, and they have benefitted from her volunteer work. For the Juneau-Douglas City Museum she leads walking tours of historic places in downtown Juneau and answers questions at the front desk of the museum. She is a member of the City and Borough of Juneau’s Historic Preservation Commission and serves as program chair for the Gastineau Channel Historical Society. For the statewide Alaska Historical Society, Darlin started the local societies group and served on the organization’s board of directors. Darlin was one of the steadfast leaders who advocated for 10 years acquiring property and securing funding for a much-needed state libraries archives and museums center in Juneau expected to open in 2016. She saw the need for a building to securely conserve the state’s records, historical photographs, manuscripts and business records, and museum artifacts, with exhibit and research spaces for the public to see and use the materials.

As a member of the Juneau Igloo #6 of the Pioneers of Alaska, Darlin co-edited its three-volume Gastineau Channel Memories and its predecessor Gold Rush Pioneers of the Juneau-Douglas Area. She also co-authored a book about Juneau’s schools that recounts experiences of teachers who worked in them between the 1930s and 1950s for the Juneau Retired Teachers Association. She served as a member of Juneau’s “Empty Chair Project” that in 2014 established a memorial to recognize the Japanese moved from Juneau to internment camps during World War II.

In 1996 Marie received a First Lady’s Volunteer Award, and in 2002 a Lifetime Service Award from the Juneau Chamber of Commerce. She has received the Federal Women Employee of the Year Award. Darlin received Alaska’s AARP Andrus Award for Community Service, the organization’s most prestigious and visible volunteer award, in 2008. The City and Borough of Juneau passed a proclamation recognizing Darlin in 2013 for her tireless advocacy. In 2014 she received the Alaska Historical Society’s Evangeline Atwood Award for her significant long-term contributions to saving, celebrating and advocating for Alaska history broadly and for Juneau history specifically.

Darlin’s 30-year volunteer career, with an emphasis on the interests of seniors and the importance of preserving Alaska’s past, has benefitted Alaska. She continues to be an inspiration to the people who have worked with her, and has helped many of them learn to effectively advocate for important social and cultural issues. She has made a difference in the lives of many other.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Nora Marks “Keixwnéi” Dauenhauer

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Tlingit Name: Keixwnéi 19272017
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Literature


Nora Marks Dauenhauer has devoted her life to studying, translating, and writing books about the Tlingit language and Tlingit oral history. She is internationally recognized for her fieldwork, transcription, translation, and explication of Tlingit stories and literature. She has also written numerous poems and plays. She served as Principal Researcher, Language and Cultural Studies, at the Sealaska Heritage Foundation for fourteen years, and has written ten books and many articles about Tlingit language. She has taught generations of Tlingit people about their language, their stories and their culture.

She is married to Richard Dauenhauer, writer and linguist, with whom she has co-authored and co-edited several editions of Tlingit language and folklore material. Nora has 4 children, 12 grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren and is semi-retired, but she continues with research, writing, consulting, and volunteer work with schools and community.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Bettye J. Davis

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Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Politics


When she retired as a Social Worker in 1986, Bettye Davis moved on to a second career in government. She served as a member of the Anchorage School Board from 1982-1989, and 1998-1999. She was a State Representative from 1990-1996, Chair of the State Board of Education from 1998-1999, and then became the first African-American to be elected as a State Senator in 2000. Born in Homer, Louisiana, she obtained a certificate in nursing in 1961 and a Bachelor of Social Work in 1972. She moved to Anchorage in 1973. She is a member of many organizations, including the Alaska Black Leadership Conference, Church Women United, Common Ground, NAACP, League of Women Voters, the Delta Sigma Theta, and the Zonta Club of Anchorage. She has served on numerous legislative committees, including serving as the Vice Chair of the Education Committee and the Chair of the Health, Education and Social Services Committee.

The numerous bills she has sponsored show her concern for these areas. She is also a member of the Senate Bipartisan Working Group and sponsor of Senate Bill 69 which calls for the reinstatement of the Commission on the Status of Women. “Alaska with its unique culture, history, and challenges combined with its large size and small population, calls for innovative forward thinking to deal with many of the difficult issues facing Alaskan women and their families. The creation of a Commission on the Status of Women will once again focus the attention of Alaskans on these critical issues.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Frederica de Laguna Ph.D.

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Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Anthropology


Frederica Annis Lopez de Leo de Laguna was the first of two children born to Grace and Theodore de Laguna. Her formative years were spent in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, where her doting, devoted father provided her education at home until age nine. He regaled “Freddy” with the delights of distant people, places, and languages. During his visits to Japan and the Philippines, he had become intrigued with linguistics and translated and wrote songs in a dialect of the Pilipino language. Freddy thrived on his stories.

Freddy’s parents were professors of philosophy at Bryn Mawr College (BMC). Reading and critical thinking were elemental in the family. Adventure and travel stories were favorites and Freddy immersed herself in the literature of the North, especially inspired by narratives of famous European explorers such as Knud Rasmussen, Peter Freuchen, Therkel Mathiassen, and Kai Birket-Smith. Freddy occasionally acted upon what she read. Catharine McClellan, a student and later collaborator with Freddy during her Alaskan studies, wrote that Freddy sent Commander Donald MacMillian, who made over 30 expeditions to the Arctic, a letter in which she offered to chew his boots if he would take her on his next expedition. Not only did books transport her to tantalizing lands of adventure, but, possibly, they provided solace during the many illnesses that plagued her childhood.

In this family of educators one can almost imagine the stimulating conversations, probing questions, and challenging responses between Theodore, Grace, and resident and visiting philosophers; and, on the sideline, young Freddy listening, learning, and developing critical and analytical thinking skills. These abilities provided a solid foundation for her future and the academic career that awaited her.

Freddy entered Bryn Mawr College in 1923, planning to major in economics and psychology, yet health problems caused her to drop the psychology major and, she discovered, economics was not compelling. She struggled to find a career that combined her love of the outdoors, of adventure, of foreign cultures, and of travel with sufficient mental challenges and excitement.

In 1927 Freddy graduated summa cum laude from BMC yet a career eluded her. Although she had won a European Fellowship, she delayed the trip at her parents’ suggestion. They had heard Franz Boas lecture about anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and thought that Freddy, too, might find him stimulating. She did and entered Columbia University in 1928 to study under him. At that time, Boas was one of the foremost influential anthropologists in America.

Boas didn’t disappoint. Slowly Freddy moved toward anthropology and, that same year, after activating the European Fellowship, joined the American School of Prehistoric Research field party, traveling widely and meeting leading anthropologists on the Continent. At Boas’ suggestion, she visited Copenhagen to view a collection of Eskimo artifacts at the Danish National Museum. There she met Therkel Mathiassen and Kaj Birket-Smith, Danish anthropologists famous for their explorations with the Fifth Thule Expedition. Meeting them changed her life.

Mathiassen was preparing an archaeological reconnaissance trip to Greenland and invited Freddy to join him. What was to last six weeks lasted six months and Freddy found her calling. She wrote in Voyage to Greenland. . . . “Unexpectedly, the trip led on to a great voyage across the North Atlantic to Arctic Greenland. But more important, it was a journey into a new life, and for me a new way of looking at the world. Having once set foot in Greenland. . . , I could not turn aside from that long journey or that vocation, even though I had to give up the man I loved.” (Freddy broke her engagement and never did marry.)

So into the male-dominated discipline of American anthropology came Freddy in 1930 and until the end of her formal field research in Alaska in 1968, she was quite often the pioneer archaeologist in a region, and certainly, the pioneer female archaeologist. As a woman, she was able to interview Native women and record their stories, a privilege seldom available to male anthropologists at that time.

In 1930 Kaj Birket-Smith, the Danish anthropologist whom she had met in Copenhagen, was to co-lead an expedition, with Freddy, to Prince William Sound yet illness prevented him from doing so at the last minute. With support from the University Museum in Philadelphia, Freddy came north without him, conducting her first independent archaeological field expedition. She was 24 years old.

It was a question and the search for its answer that brought her to Cook Inlet. At the University Museum, Philadelphia, where she worked as a curator, Freddy had seen a stone lamp and believed it to be of Eskimo-origin, not of Dena’ina Athabaskan Indian origin as believed. In the 1930s, the Dena’ina occupied most of the Cook Inlet coast, although Eskimo Alutiiq people lived in the villages of Port Graham and English Bay (today Nanwalek), near the mouth of Cook Inlet. Had an Eskimoid people preceded the Dena’ina on inlet shores? Dr. Alan Boraas, professor of anthropology, Kenai Peninsula College, Soldotna, states that Freddy was one of the first problem-oriented archaeologists.

As a student of Boas, she had learned that a holistic approach to anthropology was paramount–don’t just study the people, study their environment, their food, their transportation, their games, everything that contributes to the creation of their unique culture. And, document it well with photographs. Freddy followed his advice as evidenced in her many publications of Alaska’s peoples.

As Freddy’s skills in anthropology developed, so too did her skills in photography. Many publications are beautifully illustrated with her images. Because Freddy felt strongly that all people should be able to benefit from her Alaskan photographs, taken between 1932 and 1968, she willed them to the Alaska State Library in Juneau. Co-author Klein spent eight months with Freddy at Bryn Mawr College, compiling, chronologically organizing, labeling, and preserving, in archival materials, 4000 photographs.

From Prince William Sound Freddy traveled to Anchorage where, during the summers of 1930, 1931, and 1932, she surveyed the shores of Cook Inlet in a little gas boat, the Dime, run by Jack Fields, a Seldovian, who boated her to many archaeological sites, particularly in Kachemak Bay. Her family provided some financial support and her brother, Wallace, and mother, Grace, joined her as field assistants for several years in Kachemak Bay and Prince William Sound. Tragically, her father died unexpectedly in September 1930, as Freddy learned when returning from Alaska to Pennsylvania.

After obtaining her PhD at Columbia in 1933, Freddy returned to Bryn Mawr and for the next 40 years taught anthropology classes. From 1950-1966 she co-created and chaired the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, which became the Department of Anthropology in 1967. Mandatory retirement in 1975 ended her formal teaching career but not her passions for learning, writing, exploring. Her zest for life persisted throughout her 98 years.

World War II refocused Freddy’s life temporarily. In 1942 she joined the military, hoping for an overseas appointment. Disappointingly, she was posted to Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C. where she worked at the Alaskan desk for a while. At war’s end, as a lieutenant commander, she left the service yet retained an active interest in naval history.

After the brief hiatus in the Navy, Freddy returned to Bryn Mawr College and teaching. She taught during the academic year and, as often as possible, spent summers in the field. Her professional field work in Alaska, albeit sporadic, spanned 1930 to 1968. While participating in field research in Arizona, she also developed a passion for Southwest peoples and their cultures.

After mandatory retirement from BMC in 1975, Freddy continued learning and teaching through her writings and her lectures. When traveling, she often sought knowledge of the indigenous peoples of her destination. Her travels brought her back to Yukon Island in Kachemak Bay 48 years after her initial visit and to Greenland and Denmark 50 years after her initial visits there. When interviewed by co-author Klein in 1992, Dr. William Workman, then professor of anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage, said, “Without question, she is one of the most distinguished living North American anthropologists.

Although her passion for the arctic lured her away from Bryn Mawr, she resided there from shortly after her birth in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1906. When an apartment became available in Haverford, near Bryn Mawr, Freddy moved in and resided there until her death on October 4, 2004, the day after her 98th birthday. She died in her sleep at home in her apartment. Before she went to bed, she told her friend and fellow anthropologist, Dr. Marie-Francoise Guedon, that she wanted to write a book about the many animals she knew and loved.

Freddy was a member of several environmental organizations and practiced basic conservation in her life, such as carrying groceries in canvas tote bags long before such bags were in vogue. When 89 years old, she was still swimming numerous times a week and ate three full meals a day, preferably one as a picnic, if nothing more than sitting on a bench outside of the anthropology building on campus, enjoying sunshine, bird song, and company.

Freddy’s life-long passion and fascination with northern peoples never diminished. She was compelled to convert her abundant field notes and photographs into publications, to preserve the stories of the cultures she had studied. To that end, before her death Freddy created a scholarly press, Frederica de Laguna Northern Books. Marie-Francoise Guedon, fellow anthropologist, former field collaborator, and executor of her estate, was tasked with maintaining the press and issuing books, when possible. The first release after Freddy’s death was a new edition of her three volume masterpiece, Under Mount Saint Elias: the History and Culture of the Yakutat Tlingit, long out-of-print. The next publication, which Freddy and Marie-Francoise were writing at the time of her death, was to be about the Ahtna people of Copper Center.

The awards and honors bestowed upon Freddy are too many to recount. Most meaningful to her were those from the Native Alaskans with whom she had worked. During her studies in Yakutat in 1949 and the early 1950s, she was invited and greatly honored to share the Tlingit name of Mrs. Katy Dixon Isaac: Kuxanguwutan. Like her father, Freddy had an innate talent for languages and in 1952, she tape recorded songs of the Yakutat people, inadvertently stimulating renewed interest and pride in Tlingit music. When she returned to Yakutat in 1954, she composed a song for the people in their language. It was remembered and sung at a potlatch 32 years later which Freddy attended as a revered elder and guest. She was also recognized as one “who had written a big book about Yakutat.”

Awards from her colleagues were also important. She served many positions, including that of president, with the American Anthropological Association, was one of the first Fellows of the Arctic Institute of North America, and was selected in 1975 to be one of the first female inductees into the National Academy of Sciences, along with Margaret Meade.

Her active inquiring mind, developed and nurtured in an academic environment with strong family support, appears to have sustained this vital woman who contributed so very much to the world of anthropology, most especially, to Alaskan anthropology. Two years after her passing, the distinguished international scholarly journal, ARCTIC ANTHROPOLOGY, honored Freddy’s life-long achievements in northern environments with an issue devoted solely to her. Even after death, Freddy’s legacy lives on. Like her parents, she willed her remains to science.

Select Publications:

Each of Freddy’s major explorations in Alaska resulted in a book or in the writing of the preliminary papers that, eventually, would result in a book. By 1989 Freddy had published more than 100 papers and book reviews. The following publications provide a rough timeline of her travels and archaeological or ethnological field research in Alaska.

Expedition: summers 1930-1932, explorations briefly in Prince William Sound and then throughout coastal Cook Inlet, most especially Kachemak Bay where she discovered, described, and named the Kachemak Culture, today the Kachemak tradition.

De Laguna, Frederica

1934       The Archaeology of Cook Inlet, Alaska. University of Pennsylvania Press for the University Museum.

1975       Reprinted by Alaska Historical Society, Anchorage. 

1930 exploration of Prince William Sound with her brother, Wallace. 1933 with Danish anthropologist, Kaj Birket-Smith.

Birket-Smith, Kaj and de Laguna, Frederica

1956       Chugach Prehistory, The Archaeology of Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Birket-Smith, Kaj and de Laguna, Frederica

1938       The Eyak Indians of the Copper River Delta, Alaska

Expedition: built boats near Nenana and ran the middle Yukon River in 1935.

De Laguna, Frederica

1947       The Prehistory of Northern North America As Seen from the Yukon.

Expedition: worked with the Yakutat Tlingit in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1954 often joined by Catharine McClellan.

1972       Under Mount Saint Elias: The History and Culture of the Yakutat Tlingit. 3 volumes.

Expedition: 1954, 1958, 1960. Studies of the Copper River Ahtna with Catharine McClellan.

De Laguna, Frederica and Catharine McClellan

1981       ”Ahtna,” Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 6, Subarctic.

Emmons, George Thorton. De Laguna editor and contributor

1991       The Tlingit Indians.


ARCTIC ANTHROPOLOGY, Vol. 43, No. 2. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, c2006. NOTES: compilation of articles dedicated to Frederica de Laguna.

De Laguna, Frederica. Voyage to Greenland: A Personal Initiation into Anthropology. 1977. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.

Klein, Janet R., compiler. Frederica de Laguna, A Summary of Her Life and Her Work. For the Alaska Humanities Forum, Anchorage. Unpublished. NOTES: timelines of her personal and her professional life; biographical sketches; select bibliography; photographs.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Mahala Ashley Dickerson

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Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Civil Rights, Law


Mahala Ashley Dickerson


Achievement In: Law

Amidst her long and distinguished career in the law, Mahala Ashley Dickerson achieved many “firsts”. She was raised on a plantation owned by her father in Alabama. She attended a private school where she began a lifelong friendship with Rosa Parks, who would become a hero of the civil rights movement. After graduating from Fisk University in 1935, she married, raised triplets and, in 1945, graduated from Howard University Law School. She became the first African-American woman admitted to the bar in Alabama, in 1946, the second African-American woman to be admitted to the bar in Indiana, in 1951, and in 1958, was the first African-American female admitted to the Alaska bar. In her many years of practicing law, until she was 91, she was known for fighting for the rights of women and minorities. In 1975, she successfully prosecuted a precedent-setting equal pay case on behalf of women university professors who received less pay their male counterparts. In 1983, she became the first African-American to serve as the President of the National Association of Women Lawyers. She even homesteaded in Wasilla, which undoubtedly was another first for an African-American woman!

She received many awards and honors over the course of her long career. In 1982, she was honored by the NAACP. In 1984, the University of Alaska Anchorage awarded her the degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws in recognition of her work in encouraging minority equality in Alaska and throughout the United States. In the following year, she received both the Zeta Phi Beta Ward for distinguished service in the field of law and the Baha’i Award for Service to Humanity. In 1995, she became a recipient of the prestigious Margaret Bent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. This honor, which “recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of women lawyers who have excelled in their field and have paved the way to success for other women lawyers”, succinctly summarizes the influence and achievements of her career. Attorney Rex Butler, whom Dickerson persuaded to come to Anchorage, summarized her successful career in this recollection, “I remember one lawyer telling me one time, he said, ‘Rex, you see those mountains out there?’ He said, ‘Those mountains are littered with the bones of lawyers who underestimated M. Ashley Dickerson.”

In 1998, M. Ashley Dickerson published the story of her life, Delayed Justice for Sale: An Autobiography.

James G. Stoops and Noel Grunwaldt. The Women of Alaska, Vol. 1, A Compilation of Interviews as recorded by Mr. James G. Stoops Sixth Grade Gifted Enrichment Class, 1994-5, p. 95-108.

Beverly D. Dunham

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Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Community Activism, Journalism


Beverly Dunham is a pioneer in journalism. Dunham is described as being ahead of her time and a strong role model to many women and young girls growing up in Alaska.

In 1966 Dunham founded the “Seward Phoenix Log” and became a small town newspaper editor and publisher. Unusual for the times, she wrote about all the news and also dealt with the financial side that goes into being the publisher of a small-town newspaper. At the time, women in newspapers in Alaska with larger circulations and also nationally, normally wrote about “women’s” topics such as community events, school boards, cooking, fashion trends, gardening and other local functions. Dunham took on all aspects of her newspaper and set a path for more women to report on the news and be involved with the business side of publishing. Her newspaper also gave high school students an opportunity to do school and sports reporting for publication. Dunham lent her professional expertise to national organizations related to her profession and received recognition for her work. The Seward Phoenix Log has won several state and national writing awards and Dunham’s efforts resulted in the Log receiving the School Bell Award for school reporting. The newspaper would go on to play an important role in keeping the local community involved in local, regional and statewide affairs under Dunham’s leadership during her editor/publisher tenure.

Dunham is known as a woman of strong spirit and vitality. She is a “doer” who is not “too rigid and stuck in the past.” There are many examples of this aspect of Dunham, but probably one of the more notable can be found in Ken Burns’ internationally acclaimed “America’s Best Secret – America’s National Parks” interview in Episode 6 on the Kenai Fjords and the contentious years of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Ken Burns narrates: “…..Bev Dunham, the founding publisher of Seward, Alaska’s, weekly newspaper, the Phoenix Log, was initially opposed to the creation of Kenai National Monument near her town. Like most of the residents of Seward, she feared that the establishment of the park would be harmful to the local economy. Her views, along with those of the town’s City Council, would later change when tourism at the national park boosted the town’s economy.” She went on to have business ventures related to tourism and represented Seward nationally on many occasions.

Her impressive public service record spans more than six decades and the list of accomplishments is long. She’s held elected office on the Seward School Board and Seward City Council, even acting as mayor for a time. She’s been appointed and served with distinction on many committees, commissions and volunteer efforts, from planning to tourism to corrections to historical preservation. Her community advocacy has had significant influence in Seward for a very long time.

Dunham was named the 2005 Person of the Year by the Seward Chamber of Commerce and was named one of First Lady Nancy Murkowski’s Persons of the Year.

Today Dunham continues to do a little writing; works on historic preservation projects; is involved in women’s and children’s issues; does some traveling; and enjoys being with her family, grandkids and her 19 great-grandkids! Dunham, due to the love and support from her husband, family and her many friends in Seward as well as all across Alaska, has continued her long and deep commitment to Seward and to the State of Alaska.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Paula Easley

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Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Responsible Resource Development


Paula Easley’s contributions to Alaska come in many forms, especially in the public policy arenas advocating sound natural resource, land-use and energy policy, and expanding the state’s mental health services.

Stony River village on the Kuskokwim River was a far cry from suburban Louisville, Kentucky, where she grew up. However, her introduction to Alaska in this remote community of about 100 residents in the early 1960s set her on a path that would include leading Alaska’s largest resource advocacy organization and also shaping economic and land-use policies by mayors, governors and three US presidents.

Paula (nee Shain) married James B. Pence II in 1956. An undergraduate of the University of Louisville and graduate of Bryant-Stratton Business College, Paula had been raised in a large family where self-sufficiency was instilled as a basic principle. At age 21 she tested the principle, starting her own secretarial business serving small Louisville companies.

Paula, her husband Jim and daughter Kathryn, born in 1960, moved to Stony River to help run a lodge and fur trading post with her sister Diane and husband Dr. Bob Carpenter. Together they planned to build log cabins on skids for barging to treeless western communities, using local labor. The project included an arts and crafts component that would enable Native residents to market their handmade crafts. At the time, Alaska’s rural communities teetered on the brink of change from a subsistence-to- cash economy with few or no jobs available, as was the case in Stony River.

While the first cabins were built, villagers were proud of finally being able to earn a living. To the families’ great disappointment, however, the project was ultimately abandoned due to government agency requirements and insurmountable equipment, production and shipping challenges. Paula and Jim moved to Anchorage in late 1963 where her mother, Margaret Vollertsen and young brothers, Rick and Steve Vollertsen, lived.

Not realizing it at the time, Easley’s bush experience inspired a life-long course of advocating for a diversified Alaska economy. She began researching everything available on development policies of other sparsely-populated states and sought help from the country’s top think tanks. With virtually no infrastructure off Alaska’s limited road system and great distances from national and international markets, it became apparent that Alaska manufacturing was not feasible. The most realistic option was natural resource exploration and production, if people could be encouraged to risk investing in them.

In 1964, while working for IBM in Anchorage, Easley and family experienced the Great Alaska Earthquake. The lure of independence struck again, and from 1965 to 1970 she managed a company providing secretarial, employment and logistics services to rural businesses and communities across Alaska. Conference services were provided to organizations such as the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Alaska Centennial Commission, the Governor’s Economic Development Policy Council and numerous government agencies.

Through her research and travels, Easley learned about both Alaska’s urban and rural economies. In the late 60s, as staff to the Alaska Business Council, she staged several Alaska Travel and Trade Fairs in Washington, Oregon and California, thanks to funding by Western Airlines. She worked with the part-time Anchorage Mayor, George Sullivan and hundreds of Alaskans to promote tourism and trade. Many thousands of people attended each event, excited to learn about the 49th state. At the time was the new world-class Prudhoe Bay oil discovery also attracted attention

Easley’s second daughter Laura was born in 1966. In 1967 tragedy struck the family when Jim, her husband and business partner, became ill with melanoma cancer and died that same year, leaving Paula the children’s sole supporter. Juggling family and a demanding company that involved frequent travel proved her greatest challenge. Earlier she, Jim, and Paula’s mother had bought a large home to accommodate their combined families; chaos and many memorable adventures were shared during the five-year period.

In 1970 Paula married George Easley, then Anchorage Deputy City Manager. George accepted an engineering assignment in California soon after, and the family headed south. In 1971 Governor Bill Egan appointed George Commissioner of Transportation and Public Facilities. So the family moved back north, to Juneau.

The Prudhoe Bay oil discovery brought an era of optimism and excitement over Alaska’s ability to become self-supporting. George and Paula became spokespersons advocating a trans-Alaska oil pipeline route as opposed to a Canadian route. Vice President Spiro Agnew broke a tie vote in Congress to affirm construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline and the project, which was completed in 1977.

In early 1975, the Organization for Management of Alaska’s Resources (OMAR), was formed to advocate a second pipeline that would carry Prudhoe Bay natural gas south to a deepwater port near Valdez. Easley became OMAR’s executive director and headed a three-year national grassroots campaign, as the route decision required federal approvals. Countless Alaskans paid their own expenses to travel to other states and Washington DC to gain support for an Alaskan route. President Jimmy Carter ultimately chose a trans-Canada route, which was a shocking disappointment to Alaskans. Nearly forty years later, there is still no pipeline to carry gas from the Arctic to any market, domestic or foreign.

Easley is given much credit for bringing together a coalition of industries, labor and communities as a powerful force with the OMAR gas pipeline campaign. The organization broadened its focus in 1978 and became the Resource Development Council (RDC), Alaska’s largest development advocacy group.

In Easley’s writings, speeches and participation on national land-use and regulatory panels, her advocacy was always based on the conviction that public decision-making had to reflect a balance between economic development and environmental protection, and to recognize that both must be achieved to protect all interests.

Under Easley’s leadership between 1975 and 1987, OMAR/RDC and its 78-member statewide board focused on expanding transportation, mining, timber, petroleum, tourism, fishing, agriculture and assuring multiple-use of Alaska lands. She worked with nine RDC presidents, a small staff and hundreds of volunteers on multiple state and federal issues. All required research and preparation of comments for countless public hearings in and outside Alaska.

During her tenure RDC’s leaders played a major role in public policy debates and decisions ranging from ANILCA land classifications to regulations promulgated under the major national environmental laws, particularly the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.

RDC continues to be Alaska’s largest resource development organization and Easley remains a strong supporter, having served on its board for 25 years. After retiring from RDC in 1987, Anchorage Mayor Tom Fink appointed her to serve as the Economic Development and Planning Director and focused on federal policies affecting municipalities.

At the height of the late 1980s recession, Anchorage faced many new federal environmental mandates. She and the mayor feared their new compliance costs were becoming unaffordable to taxpayers. Working with department heads, Easley and the mayor documented the city’s costs and shared their research with 2200 mayors across the nation. The project culminated in a national network of policy leaders from community governments, think tanks and grassroots organizations determined to bring about change at the federal level. The coalition’s Unfunded Mandates legislation was the first bill to become law under the 1994 “Contract with America.”

Easley served as the mayor’s Government Affairs Director for five and a half years until the end of Mayor Fink’s second term. She then formed a public policy consulting firm, Easley Associates, focusing on federal issues affecting Alaskans and the western public land states.

A prolific writer on economic and environmental policy issues, Easley has had 130 commentaries published in newspapers, magazines and trade journals. Sixty of those articles appeared monthly in the Anchorage Daily News between 2002 and 2007. Her policy-related reports include “Alaska’s Role in National Energy Policy: Policy Guidance for Cities and Counties,” “Wetlands of the United States: A Report to Congress,” “Paying for Federal Environmental Mandates” and others. She’s given over thirty speeches to Outside organizations, promoting Alaska’s development and addressing policies affecting Alaska and the Western states. Today, her primary focus is on energy and climate change policy.

President Bill Clinton appointed Easley to the national Regulatory Fairness Advisory Board and Presidents Reagan and Bush appointed her to the National Public Lands Advisory Council, on which she served for eight years. The US Small Business Administration named Paula its “Women in Business Advocate of the Year” in 1993. She has been listed in the Heritage Foundation’s Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts since 1995 and served on the National Council of Women Advisors to Congress, National Policy Forum’s Environmental Task Force, the Clean Water Industry Coalition, National Wetlands Coalition, National Grassroots ESA Coalition, the Environmental Conservation Organization and the National Grassroots Campaign to Stop Unfunded Mandates. Paula is featured as one of fifty-three “real environmentalists” in William Perry Pendley’s book, “It Takes a Hero.”

Unrelated to resource development, her 2001 book, “Paula Easley’s Warehouse Food Cookbook,” has been particularly popular with rural Alaskans who are avid Costco and Sam’s Club shoppers. It is available from

Today Easley is serving her second 5-year term on the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority’s Board of Trustees which develops the state’s mental health program serving people with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and other disorders. Revenues to support beneficiary programs come from Trust fund earnings and development of Trust lands. Her major interests have been growing the rural health workforce and improving rural mental health services and also generating revenue from real estate investments and projects on the Trust’s one million acres of land holdings.

Gail Phillips, former Speaker of the House of the Alaska State House of Representatives said, “Paula’s philosophy and continuing legacy is one of passionate advocacy for responsible development leading to strong economies and healthy communities. Her career as an acknowledged and respected spokesperson for resource development issues has made her a role model for Alaskans in the resource and environmental industries and organizations.”

Easley’s daughters Laura Hill, and Kathryn Easley and her 30-year partner Allison Hewey, live in Anchorage, as do two grandchildren, Gavin and Paige. Paula and George Easley, the girls’ adoptive father, parted ways after ten years but remained friends until his death in 2000. Today she enjoys cooking, entertaining and hosting discussion groups on current events.

Awards and Recognition Received

U.S. Small Business Administration’s “Women in Business Advocate of the Year” Award 1993

National Register of Prominent Americans

Outstanding Young Women in the United States

Outstanding Civic Leaders of America

Heritage Foundation’s Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts – Since 1995

National Council of Women Advisors to Congress

Resource Bibliography

  1. Personal conversations and interview with Gail Phillips, February 2017
  2. Personal phone calls and emails with Gail Phillips, February and March 2017
  3. Written information from Carl Portman of the Resource Development Council
  4. Biographical Board Member sketch from the Alaska Mental Health Lands Trust
  5. Information from sources on-line through Google

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Neva Egan

Photo of Neva Egan
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Music, Politics


When Neva Egan moved to Valdez from Wyoming in 1937, she never imagined a one-year teaching assignment would lead to a lifetime of dedication to Alaska. She married two-time governor William A. Egan in 1941 and became the First Lady of the State of Alaska, serving from 1959 – 1966. She was First Lady again from 1970 – 1974.

At 91 in 2006, she spoke with the Juneau Empire about her unique perspective on Alaska. “It was so thrilling to be able to participate in and help to build a new state. How many people are fortunate enough to do that? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Sarah Eliassen

Photo of Sarah Eliassen
Categories: 2020 Alumnae, Education, Girl Scout, Leadership


In 1958, Sarah Eliassen was the first Camp Director at Camp Togowoods—the premier Girl Scout camp in Alaska.  Over the past 61 years, over 20,000 girls from across Alaska have had amazing experiences at Camp Togowoods.

Eliassen began her Girl Scout career as a “tagalong” with her sister for several years.  She was too young to join Girl Scouts, but she went to camp and did as many activities as her sister and the troop would allow.  When she turned ten—old enough to be a Girl Scout—she went through the investiture ceremony at Camp Martha Johnson in Georgia.  Eliassen says, “That ceremony was the most important thing that had ever happened to me.  I had lived for that day.”  For 84 years, Eliassen has been a Girl Scout to the core.  She said, “Outside of family and religion, being a Girl Scout is the most important thing in my life.  Not a day passes that I’m not aware I’m a Girl Scout. You have the Ten Commandments and the Girl Scout Law—with those two guiding you, you cannot go wrong.”

One day, Eliassen received a letter that would change the course of her life—she was offered a job in Alaska by the Susitna Council CEO, Marge Bailey.  Eliassen said she, “lived on excitement for three months” as she prepared for her trip to Alaska. In Alaska, she would be working directly with girls and program.  Her new job was to build troops in the council and to help start a camp for Girl Scouts.

When Eliassen arrived in Anchorage in January 1957, she began her work starting new troops in Anchorage, Palmer, and Wasilla.  She lived in downtown Anchorage and often ate her dinner at the Club 25—a bar/restaurant for women.  At 32, Eliassen had never been in a bar.  Every day and everything in Alaska was a new experience for her.

By spring of 1957, it was time to work on getting a camp started for Girl Scouts.  The council used Girl Scout Cookie proceeds to purchase a homestead property from Phil Holdsworth.  The homestead was past Wasilla off the Knik Goose Bay Road—it is considered remote today and in 1957, it was way out in the woods.  In April that year, Eliassen, CEO Marge Bailey, the chair of the camp committee, and the board chair flew to the homestead and landed on Three Mile Lake.  They hiked into the homestead on snowshoes in three feet of snow.  Eliassen had never been skiing much less snowshoeing—living in Alaska was the first time she had seen snow.  They surveyed as much of the property that they could with so much snow still on the ground.

The Girl Scouts had been holding camp at Kings Lake in Wasilla, but they wanted their own camp.  At Kings Lake, they had to share the summer with other groups and could only offer three weeks of camp a summer.  Marge and Eliassen wanted Alaska Girls to have more opportunity to be outside and live in the outdoors and to have the Girl Scout experience all summer.  Purchasing and building a camp was integral to their plans.

That afternoon in April 1957, Marge and Eliassen and the others hiked around the homestead and began planning where the camp would be.  Marge had done a lot of research about the weather and where the first lodge should be positioned so that it would be in the best place to keep it warm and dry.  When they went back to Anchorage, they met with the Board of Directors and got the $6,000 in cookie money they needed for the camp.  In addition to the homestead, they purchased 35 acres from the Bureau of Land Management to complete the outer edges of the camp.  

Eliassen and Marge spent the next few months preparing for the camp.  That summer, they flew out on 4th of July to see what the camp looked like with no snow covering it, and to work on building the tent platforms.  When they arrived by plane again, they were met at the camp by Bob Eliassen—a nearby homesteader who came to see what was happening with his neighbors.  Eliassen and Marge and others like the council board chair, Louise Brown and her husband Charles, went out every weekend to work on the camp.  They were often joined by Bob Eliassen who became an important part of building the camp.  On New Year’s Eve 1957, Eliassen and Bob married.  Later, they moved to Anchorage where they started their family.

In July of 1958, the Girl Scouts opened their first camp with Eliassen as the first Director.  She ran two one-week camps with 24 girls, four tents and four staff—some of them mothers of the campers.  Not only did the girls learn new skills that summer, but the mothers learned how to be camp staff.  They cooked one-pot meals over an open fire—a skill Eliassen had learned from Girl Scouts as a girl.  She learned and taught others how to cook in the pouring rain and how to store the food in a hole in the ground to keep it cold and away from animals.  

That summer, the girls swam, canoed, and learned to survive in the outdoors.  They practiced the Girl Scout Law and made friends for a lifetime.  They also helped build the camp by carrying in the supplies for the camp, including the dishes, on their backs as they hiked in.  

Marge was friends with Leonard Seppala of the Iditarod fame.  He told her that Balto had gotten all the credit for the famous serum run, but that it was his lead dog, Togo, who did all the hard work—Togo never got the credit.  Marge asked Leonard for permission to name the new Girl Scout camp after that strong, brave dog, and Camp Togowoods was born.  The girls that summer built a sign naming the camp.

Since that first camp in 1958, the Susitna Council—later renamed the Girl Scouts of Alaska—has continuously run camps for Girl Scouts.  In the 61 years the camp has been running, over 20,000 Alaska girls have had a chance to camp, play, learn, and grow at Camp Togowoods.  Eliassen’s time and effort and willingness to come to Alaska to be the first Camp Director started a movement that continues today.  

Girls today still go hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and they learn what it means to be a Girl Scout—a girl with courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place.  All across Alaska, women in important leadership roles in our community had the opportunity to learn their leadership skills with the stewardship of leaders from Alaskans like Girl Scout Sarah Eliassen.

Eliassen’s vision for the Girl Scout Camp Togowoods allowed Alaska girls the opportunity to experience the outdoors in a new way.  The ability to live and work and play in the woods prepared them for life.  They learned leadership skills, outdoor survival skills, and they had a chance to simply have fun canoeing, swimming, hiking, and meeting other girls from across Alaska.  The camp started small, but it has grown and has been a place to treasure for over 20,000 girls for over 30 years.  The vision of Camp Togowoods expanded over time and the GSAK opened a day camp at Camp Singing hills to provide even more experiences for girls.

As a part of the national Girl Scout movement, Camp Togowoods was also a summer spot for girls visiting from other troops across the country.  Girl Scouts have long had a tradition of holding excellent camps, and Camp Togowoods is a prime example of what being a Girl Scout is all about.

Eliassen was so dedicated to Girl Scouts and making a difference that at age 86 she led a troop of girls including her granddaughter, Michelle.  The girls met with Eliassen and co-leader, Gretchen Wehmhoff, to work on their Silver Award, sell Girl Scout cookies, and learn other skills.  They did a project sewing beds for cats at a local fostering organization.  Michelle knew how to use a sewing machine (because Eliassen had taught her), so Eliassen taught them all how to cut and measure fabric and how to use a sewing machine.

In addition to her Girl Scout work, Eliassen is a community activist.  Eliassen worked with her Eagle River neighbors to fight and save a parcel of land from development to turn it into a park—now known as Eliassen Park. 

Eliassen and her teaching partner, Mel Bowns, created a program to teach their students how to grow plants and create a business.  They grew African violets, made the planters, and with the help of parents, created macramé hangers.  They sold the product and learned about banking, planning, building, growing, and success.  With the money they raised, they bought two computers for their classrooms.  For this project, Eliassen and Mel won an award of $500 from the UAF economics department for their work teaching kids economics in a hands-on way.

The girls Eliassen taught and influenced are the leaders in Alaska today.  With over six generations of girls learning and growing at Camp Togowoods and in Girl Scouts, the chances are great that a woman leader in Alaska benefited directly or indirectly from Sarah’s vision.  

As a teacher for thirteen years, she had the opportunity to shape and influence 100’s of other children in Alaska.

Eliassen continues to give back to girls in Alaska.  She participates in fundraisers for GSAK and has returned to camp over the years to work with girls and share the vision that became Camp Togowoods.  Her son, Charlie, helps continue the Girl Scout tradition in the family by serving on the Property Committee for GSAK where he helps guide the council on all things concerning Camp Togowoods and Camp Singing Hills.

Thousands of girls and women in Alaska thank Eliassen for all she’s done to help us dream big and accomplish whatever we set our mind on.

Dr. Elizabeth (Fuller) Elsner

Photo of Dr. Elizabeth (Fuller) Elsner
Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Education, Medicine


Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” (Fuller) Elsner was born in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1923. The second of five children, she grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts. She went to public school in her hometown for her early years and then attended Lincoln School for Girls in Providence, Rhode Island, because her parents wanted her to have a more rigorous academic education than was available in her hometown. She was fortunate to be the daughter of enlightened parents, who provided her a good quality education, equal to that of her brothers.

Although she comes from a long line of lawyers and judges, her family discouraged her from considering the law as a career. Instead, she followed in the footsteps of her grandfather, Dr. Edward Kidder.

Elsner attended Mt. Holyoke College for three years before enrolling in the Yale School of Medicine. At the completion of her first year of medical school, Mt. Holyoke awarded her a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her medical studies included a stint conducting thesis research at Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research where she did research involving rats. The technique that she developed to isolate and perfuse tumors with anticancer drugs became an accepted method of treating some cancers. While she briefly flirted with the idea of going into research, she decided on a different direction. She next considered being a surgeon, but the field was not welcoming to women, so she focused her energy on pediatrics. Elsner and five female classmates all received their medical degrees in 1948 from the Yale School of Medicine. She interned and did her pediatrics residency at three hospitals in New York City: NY Foundling, Knickerbocker, and Willard-Parker, the city’s infectious disease hospital. She continued her pediatrics training at the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Elsner married her husband, Bob, a research physiologist, in 1946. They managed to weave their special backgrounds into two highly successful careers in Alaska, Washington, California, Peru and Australia. Together, they came to Alaska in 1953. He had a job as a research physiologist at USAF Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory at Ladd Air Force Base where he worked on the physiological effects of cold and high altitude and taught emergency arctic survival techniques to military pilots.

Dr. Elsner was the only pediatrician in the entire northern half of Alaska in the early 1950s, and one of the first female doctors. Upon arrival in the Territory, she joined the staff at Fairbanks Medical Clinic where one of her medical colleagues greeted her with the observation that “Alaska is no place for a woman doctor.” In fact, Alaska was a tough place for any doctor, regardless of gender. (She delivered a baby in the back of a jeep; she delivered another baby in a log cabin.) And given the shortage of doctors in Alaska in the 50s, Elsner wore multiple medical hats. Besides working at the clinic, she treated people privately in her own home– examining patients on her kitchen table. (Office calls were $5 for adults; $3 for children.) She travelled by mail plane to rural villages (Nome, Barrow, Arctic Village, Steven’s Village, Beaver, Fort Yukon, Venetie and Anaktuvuk Pass) as Public Health pediatrician for the state and conducted intensive field clinics – sometimes at her own expense. Although her specialty was pediatrics, when the sole obstetrician was out of town, she was responsible for delivering the babies, about 20 in all. These experiences included a breech presentation with a delayed delivery, which gave her time to brush up on a few topics in a textbook beforehand, and a set of twins. She even delivered the daughter of William Egan, the future first governor of Alaska!

Alaska became the first U.S. state to be fully inoculated for polio, thanks to Elsner’s efforts as a doctor in Public Health in the 1950’s.   She was the first to proactively address children’s health across Alaska’s rural villages and communities. Elsner initiated well-baby clinics for the Territorial Health Department, and facilitated the first state-wide immunization and disease screening efforts (against such maladies as polio, measles and tuberculosis). She also trained numerous nurses involved in these state-wide rural health initiatives.

Before Elsner arrived in town, the Fairbanks Regional Public Health Center did not offer well-baby clinics, well-child exams, immunizations, disease screening, health education or family planning. Today, public health nurses at the Fairbanks center still provide these key services to all of Interior Alaska, including the Fairbanks North Star Borough and its rural communities.  No one is turned away because of an inability to pay.

Dr. Elsner truly made an impact on medical care– particularly for Alaska’s children– in the three brief years that she and Bob were initially in Alaska. For the next seventeen years, they pursued their respective careers in Washington, Massachusetts, Peru, California and Australia, before returning for good to Alaska in 1973.

However, while Dr. Elsner was outside Alaska, one life experience demonstrates the measure of the woman and her toughness—the birth of Steven, her third child in 1957. It was while Bob was on assignment in Australia, and she and their two children, 5-year-old Wendy and 3-year-old Peter, were in a remote location on Bainbridge Island, WA. In the middle of the night, on the day after Christmas, long after the last ferry had left for Seattle, Elsner went into labor. The only alternative transport to hospital was to wake up a neighbor to drive her clear around Puget Sound on a long and bumpy road to town. She quickly ruled out that option, however, as the neighbor was a nervous guy to begin with, and not a particularly good driver.

Instead, Elsner collected towels, a Kelly clamp and ergotamine; climbed into the bathtub and delivered her son all by herself. She crawled into bed with her new baby, while her other two children slept nearby, and waited until dawn to call neighbors for help.

Elsner’s medical career in Alaska the second time around began in 1973—with her role as both a practitioner and educator. Once again, as a public health doctor, she promoted well-baby clinics, examined, screened, immunized and treated children in villages all over the state. Rural village flights, as many Alaskans well know, are not without danger. One native nurse, who had, by chance, been given Elsner’s empty seat on a missed flight, tragically lost her life, when the plane went down in bad weather near the west coast.

Her final employment was as campus physician with the student health service at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Elsner not only treated students, she also taught first-year medical students in the WAMI program, a compact of the western states to train medical students during an acute shortage of medical personnel and facilities in rural communities. Her medical students remember her mentorship fondly, as well as her unique and oldest medical license of all the doctors— issued by the Territory of Alaska. She trained nurses to become nurse-practitioners to better provide healthcare to rural Alaskans. Her nurse trainees remember her for the tender loving care she gave to all the students on campus who needed the human touch as well as her medical care.

Dr. Elsner was simultaneously caring, democratic and strong. She was assertive, particularly for those less fortunate, and especially if she thought someone was being treated poorly or unfairly. While Dr. Elsner led the university staff, she thought they were all colleagues, and stood up for them, perhaps even more so than herself. When she retired in 1986, she was as highly educated as any professor, yet not equally compensated. She advocated for her replacement (a former female WAMI student) to receive at least double the salary.

Perhaps the best proof of her impact the second time around is Dr. Jean Tsigonis, who was another first-year medical student when Elsner taught in the WAMI program. Today Dr. Tsigonis practices medicine in Fairbanks, Alaska where Elsner lives, and this month saw her newest patient: Dr. Elizabeth Elsner! Elsner’s son Peter was present during the visit and reported that Dr. Tsigonis was thorough, thoughtful and caring of her new patient. So, in a stroke of kismet, Elsner’s life’s work has come full circle and she is now the beneficiary of her own teachings.

All told, Elsner practiced medicine for 38 years. But even in retirement, she never retired. She remained in Fairbanks as a docent at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, taught elementary school children, served on the state and local boards of the League of Women Voters, and Planned Parenthood. She was elected to serve on the State’s Violent Crimes Compensation Board, and participated in the Adolescent Health Coalition, Substance Abuse Task Force and the Fairbanks Coalition for Privacy in Pregnancy Decisions.

Looking back at her life and medical care, Dr. Elsner said that her most satisfying work was having established the well-baby clinics so that the nurse-practitioners could carry on and ensure that good health care was available to all babies, and bringing medical care to poor, young women of color – people in the margins of the health care system.

In my February 2017 interview with Dr. Elsner, at her home in Fairbanks, just one month after celebrating her 70th anniversary with husband Bob, I asked her if she had any regrets – if there was anything she wished she had done. She answered in a word:


Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Van Cleve, M. 1991. Dr. Elizabeth Elsner is interviewed by Margaret Van Cleve on April 16, 1991. Series title: On the road recording old timers. Oral Histories 91-28, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Rasmuson Library, mp3 (90min).

Wilson, G.G. 1991. History of medicine in Alaska—The Elsners: Elizabeth Fuller, M.D. and Robert Ph.D. Journal of Alaska Medicine 32(1), issue 4: 39-40.

Mary Laurie (Espinosa) Epperson

Photo of Mary Laurie (Espinosa) Epperson
Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Community Arts, Education


Mary Epperson was considered to be the “creative center of Homer,” Alaska. She loved music, the arts and life-long learning and had a passion to share this love with others. She was the inspiration for, and the architect of the arts community of Homer and the southern Kenai Peninsula. Perhaps most widely known as an outstanding piano teacher, she gave private lessons to generations of children, and adults, over a sixty-year teaching career. In the 1980’s Epperson inspired and created the key institutions for the arts community to grow and to flourish. And perhaps her proudest achievement was that after years of dedicated advocacy she successfully convinced the University of Alaska to establish Kachemak Bay Campus as a “real” college in Homer with facilities and programs. Epperson’s influence was summarized by one observer as “…the ripple effects from her life will continue to shape our community for decades if not centuries…”(1)

Not much is known about Epperson’s early life. She and a sister were born of Mexican immigrant parents in Los Angles, CA. After completing high school she worked as a bookkeeper and during the early WW II years she worked in a factory where she met Jack Epperson, the man she married in 1942. Jack decided the family should move to Alaska which they did with their two children, Terry and Dean, in 1954.

We do know of one major influence in her early years: her father loved music and filled the house with sound. They listened to the radio together and at a very early age he observed that she could “play by ear”, having the ability to pick out the notes on a piano of a tune she heard him whistle or heard on the radio. Recognizing that she had this talent, he insisted that she be given piano lessons, starting at an early age. Her daughter Terry, has commented that once her mother was introduced to the piano, playing and later teaching others to play became Epperson’s life-long passion and love.

The early years in Alaska were difficult. They first filed for a homestead in Happy Valley, located between Ninilchik and Anchor Point, living in a one-room cabin without running water, electricity, indoor plumbing or a piano which had been left in Los Angeles. Also, it was a two-mile walk to the road where her daughter could catch the school bus. Deciding that it would be too difficult to spend another winter in that cabin they filed for a new homesite in Ninilchik, choosing a site opposite the school. Again, the cabin Jack built lacked running water and indoor plumbing, but it did have electricity and the school had a piano. Epperson immediately started giving piano lessons at the school and at pupils’ homes. She also became a substitute teacher and taught singing and gave accordion and guitar lessons. They next homesteaded at a site outside of Anchor Point, now known as Epperson Knob, where Jack built their cabin and started a cattle ranch. While this cabin was larger, there was no road to it. This required Epperson to travel to her pupils’ houses for their piano lessons. Finally, they decided they needed to find “real” jobs to earn money and moved to Homer.

Epperson served as treasurer/clerk of the City of Homer for eighteen years. She retired in 1981 and devoted full time to teaching piano, volunteering and advancing the arts and education. She acquired a small building in the downtown area, fixed it up to be her music studio and named it Etude Studio. It quickly became the cultural hub of Homer where people could “hang out”, find tickets, learn what was happening in the arts and, of course, take music lessons. A newcomer to the Etude Studio would immediately be quizzed by Epperson to ascertain what musical instruments he or she played in the hopes of recruiting new talent for the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra.

Her community activism in the arts started In the 1980’s when she founded the Homer Council on the Arts, serving on its board of directors as president and treasurer for many years. Epperson founded and organized the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, serving as president of the board and for thirty years was its bookkeeper. In 1991, she was one of the primary founding trustees of the Homer Community Foundation. She supported other art organizations as well, including the community band, Inlet Winds, and the Homer Youth String Orchestra Club. She sold tickets every summer in support of the Pier One theatre productions.

In addition to her love of the arts, Epperson was deeply interested in opportunities for securing life-long learning opportunities and higher education. She believed in learning for learning’s sake. Her daughter observed that once she learned something Epperson felt compelled to share it with others. She served on the Campus Advisory Board of he Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College, University of Alaska, for thirty years, many as chair. She campaigned extensively and with dedication for “real” college campus facilities to be located in Homer and lobbied for many of the certificate and degree programs and services now offered to students and the community. In 2011 the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska recognized Epperson’s dedicated and successful effort in championing the college and awarded her the Meritorious Service Award. The citation read in part “demonstrated profound, unwavering commitment to developing our local campus of the University of Alaska”. At the awards ceremony, KBC Director Carol Swartz declared: “While she may be small in stature, she has been a giant when it comes to making the needs of KBC known.” (2)

Epperson received many honors for her lasting contributions which helped build and promote Homer’s arts and educational institutions. She received the Governor’s Award for the Arts, 1988; was declared Homer’s Citizen of the Year, 2004; Homer’s Mayor and City Council issued a Proclamation in 2010, declaring June 6th, Mary’s birthday, as “Mary Epperson Day” and this municipal proclamation has been reissued multiple times. In her honor, the Campus Advisory Board created the “Mary Epperson Campus Support and Scholarship Fund”. This endowed fund was successfully funded and awarded its first three scholarships in 2017.

What were the personality traits, leadership and teaching skills this remarkable woman possessed to enable a former homesteader and music lover to make such lasting impacts on her community and so many individuals ? First off, she loved people and in turn people loved her, sensing a genuine concern. Epperson was very proud of her students and respected everyone’s contributions. She was generous, kind, very humble, modest and did not need, and did not take, credit for her accomplishments. She was determined, would follow through and knew how to connect and collaborate with others. As an intuitive person, she was always able to find, and convince, an appropriate person to do something. When that certain something was completed she would say: “I was just the pusher”. (3)

She was a natural teacher, using patience and praise, and knowing when and how to give extra attention to a young person when needed, whether pertaining to life or a music lesson. As one former student commented: “Her sessions were not dry drills or lesson but infusions of self esteem”.(4) In the book entitled “The Talent Code: Greatness is Not Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How”, author Daniel Coyle, declared Mary Epperson to be a “master teacher”.

In summarizing Mary’s enormous personal and community influence, Shannyn Moore, a well-known commentator and radio host from the area, stated: “I can’t image Homer or myself without her guidance.” (5)

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Cline, Dorthy Roberts. Mary’s Gift Alaska’s Remarkable Mary Epperson.

Glen Erin Press, 2016.

Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness is Not Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. Bantam, 2009.

Tony Lewis and Clark Fair. Keeping the Fire Burning; 50-Year History of Kenai Peninsula College (2)

Personal Conversations with Dean Epperson and Terry Harrington, February, 2018.

Homer News,

Local News, April 14, 2016, Michael Armstrong, “Homer’s ‘creative  heart’ dies”.

Homer Town Crier, Obituary, April 21, 2016.

Alaska Dispatch News,

Carey Restino, April 15, 2016, “Devotion, Passion for Life made  Epperson a mentor”, commentary first printed in the Arctic Sounder.


Mike Dunham, April 15, 2016, “Coda: Mary Epperson”. (4)

Shannyn Moore, April 17, 2016, “Homer and Alaska lose one of their  best in beloved inspiration Mary Epperson”. (5)

Dana Fabe

Photo of Dana Fabe
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Law


Dana A. Fabe 


Achievement In:       Law 

Dana Fabe has had a varied, distinguished and unique career as an attorney and judge in Alaska. In 1996, she became the first woman appointed to the Alaska Supreme Court. In 2000, she was elected as the first female Chief Justice and in 2006 initiated her second term as Chief Justice. She started her career as a law clerk for the Alaska Supreme Court in 1976, moving to a position as a staff attorney at the Alaska Public Defender Agency in 1977. Governor Jay Hammond appointed her as Chief Public Defender for Alaska in 1981. In 1988, she was first appointed as a judge, to the superior court in Anchorage, and subsequently served as the Deputy Presiding Judge and Training Judge for the Third Judicial District. Through the years, she has served on local, state and national professional committees and in 2009 became President-Elect of the National Association of Women Judges. Along the way, she has mentored many young women attorneys and students.

In addition to her accomplishments on the bench and as an attorney, she has been active in a wide variety of community settings. She has trained young students as judges for the Youth Court, chaired the planning committee for the women’s reentry program, “Success Inside & Out”, at Hiland Mt. Correctional Center, traveled to large and small Alaskan communities to host the “Open court” public outreach program and served on the boards of Soroptomists and the Anchorage Museum of History and Art.

The key to her many accomplishments lies in her own words:” I’m a pretty good problem solver. I enjoy helping people resolve their disputes”.

1973          Cornell University, B.A.

1976                   Northeastern Univ. School of Law, J.D.

The Women of Alaska, Vol. III, A Compilation of Interviews 1996-1997


Kay Fanning

Photo of Kay Fanning
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Journalism


Kay Fanning loved journalism. She served as editor and publisher of the Anchorage Daily News, editor of the Christian Science Monitor, and first woman president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Kay came to Alaska in 1965. She worked at the Anchorage Daily News, where she met and married Larry Fanning. Together they purchased the paper, which he edited until his death from a heart attack at his desk in 1971. She then managed and edited the paper and transformed it into a hard-hitting, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative paper and increased its circulation from 12,000 to 50,000–overtaking the circulation numbers of the larger Anchorage Times. In 1983, she moved to Boston and became the first woman to edit a national newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor. She broke through journalism’s prejudices against women and modeled success for the next generation of female reporters, editors and business managers.

Dolly Farnsworth

Photo of Dolly Farnsworth
Categories: 2015 Alumnae, Community Service


Dolly Farnsworth somehow found the time to homestead, raise four children and be a civic leader in Soldotna. Farnsworth was one of those great ladies who bridged the years from territorial Alaska to statehood, exemplifying the legendary character of the era.

She came to Alaska in the late 1940s with fiancé Jack Farnsworth. They married at Fort Richardson and in 1948 they moved to the area where the City of Soldotna now thrives and homesteaded the location which became the intersection of the Sterling Highway and the Kenai Spur Highway. They built their own house, as many folks did then, on the 160-acre federal allowance, a modest home in which Farnsworth lived until her death.

During a Radio Kenai interview, Nina Kersten, Farnsworth’s daughter said about her mother: “She heard about a fellow that homesteaded down here and had a little cabin on the property and his wife decided that she was not going to go live in the wilderness so he had to give it all up. A friend of a friend told my dad about it, so he bought the cabin and then came down here and staked the claim and they decided to homestead. My mother had always wanted to own land.

In those early years Farnsworth was a relative rarity in having some post high school education including an accounting degree acquired in 1942 which she used during the war with an aircraft manufacturing company. As Soldotna grew she used her accounting skills to open Soldotna Bookkeeping in 1959. It was, for years, the only bookkeeping company in the area and helped many a small business get on its feet.

Farnsworth acted as the City of Soldotna’s city clerk’s office from the time it became a fourthclass city in 1960 until 1967 when it became a first-class city.

Farnsworth helped to found the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library in Soldotna in 1960. In 1965 she became the first woman to sit on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. She sat on the Soldotna City Council in 1972 – 1973 and again in 1983 – 1984.

She never had a problem getting elected; it was just finding the time to make the commitment she knew each post required. In 1976, to strengthen that commitment, she went back to college studying public policy and political science for an additional degree at Willamette University.

From 1984 to 1990 Farnsworth served as mayor of Soldotna. She also addressed the shortage of medical resources in the region, helping to establish the Central Peninsula General Hospital, on whose board she served from 1992 to 2001.

Farnsworth was also mayor of Soldotna from 1984 to 1990.

Early on she saw the necessity and justice in settling the Alaska Native claims. After the act was passed, Farnsworth found a special joy in her time at Wildwood Station in Kenai teaching local Alaska Native people about the Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. She and her students created a family tree for the Wilson family of Kenai that would later be used as an eligibility guide for Native land claims in the area.

Farnsworth received many honors and awards during her life including: 1994 – Soldotna Chamber of Commerce commendation for dedication and support of the community; 1996 – State of Alaska commendation for outstanding service in developing the Kenai River Management Plan; 1998 – Soldotna Chamber of Commerce commendation for outstanding service as board chair from August 1995 to July 1998; 1998 – Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Pioneer Award; 2000 – Resolution by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly commending Farnsworth for her service and dedication as a member of the Central Peninsula Hospital Board of Directors; 2001 – Soroptimist International Woman of Distinction Award for professional accomplishments in the area of economic/social development in education and health; 2005 – Central Peninsula Health Foundation for contributions as a founding member.

Farnsworth was a role model for many women in Soldotna and on the Kenai Peninsula. She set an example for young women everywhere by her resilience as an Alaska Pioneer, her success as a business woman and her dedication as a public servant. Homesteader Dolly Farnsworth left a permanent mark on the community.

Farnsworth’s daughter added to her Radio Kenai interview: “She was wonderful, everybody loved her. She was very hospitable and very knowledgeable. Of course she basically grew up with the area so she knew just about everything there was to know about the area and the city. She had a mind like a steel trap; she never forgot about anything. She was a mentor … for many people. She loved Alaska, she loved her homestead and you couldn’t get her to leave here.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Mary Jane (Evans) Fate

Photo of Mary Jane (Evans) Fate
Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Native Leader


Born Sept. 4, 1933, Mary Jane (Evans) Fate, a Koyukon Athabascan born in Rampart, labored tirelessly to improve all aspects of Alaska Native people’s lives. As one of the original Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act lobbyists, she worked with others to convince the White House and Congress of the fairness and justice in conveying 40 million acres and $1 billion to Alaska Native peoples through the passage of the Native claims act in 1971.

After graduating from Mt. Edgecumbe boarding high school in Sitka in 1952 she went on to become one of the first Native women to attend college at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks where she studied accounting. Because of her numerous accomplishments, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from UAF in 1992.

Fate was recognized for her leadership abilities by becoming the first woman co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1988-89. She served on her Alaska Native village corporation board, the Rampart Village Corporation (Baan O Yeel Kon), since its inception in 1972 until recently and was its president for many years. She is also a founding member and past president of the Fairbanks Native Association.

She helped found the North American Indian Women’s Association and in 1975 was its third national president. She directed a national research project which was presented to Congress and made an impact on the treatment and care of Indian children and women.

The Alaska Natives Commission was created by Congress in 1990 at the urging of many Alaska Native groups. The first meeting was held in 1992 and within months Fate and Perry Eaton were named co-chairs. They led the commission’s two-year study, including holding nine regional hearings across the state which produced a three-volume report designed to serve as a blueprint for change regarding the way the federal and state governments deal with Alaska Native issues. Co-Chair Fate stated: “Above all else, the Commission focused on the needs of people. If the world can make drastic changes overnight for rights for animals, bugs and even future fashion styles, we surely must and can make great changes for our Alaska Natives.”

Appointed at the end of 2001 by President George H.W. Bush, Fate served as the only indigenous member on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission for a little more than four years with her last meeting held in June 2006, USARC’s 80th meeting which was held in Barrow, Alaska. This Commission, formed in 1984, was to establish a national policy for scientific research in the Arctic including its natural resources and its Arctic residents, to obtain the broadest possible view of Arctic research needs and then to communicate its policy recommendations to the President and Congress.

In 2003 President George W. Bush appointed her as a member of the U.S. Census Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Populations to expand the committee’s awareness of Alaska issues, enabling it to better respond and advise the Census Bureau on this population.

Fate played an important role in numerous organizations helping found several, including the Tundra Times and the Institute of Alaska Native Arts.

In 2012 Fate was honored by her Native regional corporation, Doyon, with their most prestigious award, Citizen of the Year: “for her leadership, strong commitment, competence and sensitivity in the educational and cultural survival of Alaska Natives.” At the award ceremony Georgianna Lincoln said: “Fate was one of the early Alaska Native women leaders, and her obvious outer beauty never affected the woman’s inner beauty.”

Her achievements do not stop at serving only her people. Fate was among four prominent Americans honored nationally for promotion of cancer awareness in 1998. She and Nancy Murkowski, wife of then-U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, along with Sam Donaldson, ABC News White House correspondent, and Sue Ann Thompson, wife of Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, were chosen to receive the awards. Fate’s was given because she was long an advocate for educating the public about the value of prevention and early detection in the fight against cancer. During the 1970s and at the height of the oil pipeline construction, mammograms were very difficult for women to obtain. She, along with Nancy Murkowski and other Fairbanks women, organized to solve the problem. Through their efforts, the Breast Cancer Detection Center, a non-profit organization, opened in 1976 to provide education and mammograms to interior Alaska women regardless of their ability to pay.

Fate served as director on the Alaska Airlines board for 25 years, the first 23 years as the only woman to do so. Appointed by Governor Hickel, she was the first woman and first Alaska Native to serve on the Alaska Judicial Council from 1981 to 1987. This body screens and nominates judicial applicants and evaluates the performance of judges making their evaluations available to the voters. Hickel also appointed her a Regent for the University of Alaska where she served from 1993 through 2001. She has also served on the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education and the Alaskan Command Civilian Advisory Board.

Sheila Justice, president, Rampart Village Council says: “Mary Jane is a gracious, caring, kind person who has helped numerous individuals, from providing a home for those in need, to writing letters of recommendations for jobs and scholarships. She is admired for her contribution to the advancement of the Alaska Native community and the well being of women in particular and her kindness and grace toward people from all walks of life. She is a role model for Alaska Native women and for all women.”

Mary Jane Fate married Dr. Hugh “Bud” Fate and together they have raised three daughters and her cousin and the couple now has a dozen grandchildren.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

April S. Ferguson

Photo of April S. Ferguson
Categories: 2020 Alumnae, Political Activism, Visionary


A life-long Alaskan, April Ferguson has been steadfast and effective in her vision for bringing industry and development to the Bristol Bay Region. She is the architect of a program to improve economic growth and business development for the village corporations of the Bristol Bay region, created to enhance the communication and collaboration between the regional corporation and the village corporations/tribal councils. This has allowed for the sharing and leverage of knowledge and resources to bring greater opportunities for Native communities. As Chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Legislative and Litigation Committee, Ferguson has worked tirelessly to develop and monitor state and federal legislative/policy decisions for the well-being of all Alaskans.

Ferguson has provided substantial leadership at AFN and always showed a tireless capability to act and respond to challenges affecting all Alaska Native people. She led the effort to advocate for Alaska Native traditional hunting and fishing rights while also supporting the need for responsible resource development in Alaska. Ferguson consistently uses a common sense approach to bring her legal knowledge and understanding of life for rural Alaska Native people to consistently advocate for their equal rights and prosperity.

Ferguson is also a fierce advocate for a transparent and fair redistricting process in Alaska, as well as actively working with the “Get Out the Native Vote” initiative year after year. She is a life-long learner, avid reader, and is always looking for opportunities to shape the future of the Native community, whether it’s for economic development, rural energy, communication technology or through tribal sovereignty.

Ferguson began her tenure at Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) in 1997 as a Vice president and General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. She now serves on the BBNC Executive Team as an Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary. She has participated on the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union; Trustees for Alaska; SpecPro Inc.; Vista International Inc.; Kakivik Asset Management, LLC; and Bristol Environmental and Engineering Services Corporation and currently serves as Chair of the AFN Legislative and Litigation Committee. 

A life-long Alaskan, Ferguson received her Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and received her Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1992. She then clerked for Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Jay Andrew Rabinowitz and later attended the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Training Without Walls in 2000.

Ferguson is a strong mentor and empowers young Alaska Native professionals. She has mentored numerous interns over the years, sharing her knowledge and experience in the professions of law and business. She is known and appreciated for the high expectations she sets for each of her mentees to grow their resilience and confidence in real life situations.

Helen Fischer

Photo of Helen Fischer
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Politics


Arriving in Alaska in 1945, Helen Fischer became involved in political activities and the struggle for statehood. She was elected to serve as a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention (1955-56) where she served on the Committees on the Legislative branch and the structure of the Administration. She argued unsuccessfully to include gender in the non-discrimination clause of the Alaska Bill of Rights, “Mr. President, I think sex definitely should be (protected) in this proposal because there are still states in the Union where women are not allowed to serve on juries.”

Ms. Fischer served in the last Territorial House of Representatives in 1957-59 as well as in the first legislature of the new state. She returned to the legislature from 1971-75 where she was a tireless advocate for women’s rights. She also served as the Alaska representative to the Democratic National Committee from 1956-1963.

Nan Elaine (Lanie) Fleischer

Photo of Nan Elaine (Lanie) Fleischer
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Community Activism


Lanie moved to Anchorage in 1971 from Washington, D.C., where she had enjoyed exploring the area by bicycle. She was astonished to find that Anchorage had no trail system that would allow residents to connect with the outdoors, explore the greenbelts or view the mountains. Her vision was a trail system that would connect children to schools, parks and libraries without having to be driven. When three hundred enthusiastic people turned out for the “bike in” event she organized, Lanie and the Bike Committee went to work. In 1973, the group succeeded in getting a bond issue passed to finance construction of Anchorage’s first paved trail, the four-mile Chester Creek Trail.

Lanie has been an activist in a myriad of local and statewide issues. She considers her work on the Anchorage Citizens Committee for Goals and Objectives for the Comprehensive Plan in 1973 to be some of the most important work she has undertaken. She was one of the original volunteer staff, and, later, board member of the Alaska Center for the Environment; president, Parks and Recreation Council of Anchorage, 1972-78; Parks and Recreation Commission, 1981-85; on the original KSKA Board, 1978-81; organized the original eight community councils and created the Federation of Community Councils; member of the Town Square Advisory Committee (after successfully fighting to save Town Square Park); founder of the downtown Anchorage Saturday Market and Market Master for three years; helped start the optional school choice program and served on the parents’ committee for Chugach Optional School. Lainie also served on the Performing Arts Center Board of Directors; South Addition Community Council member and president; ACLU Board of Directors; and on the citizens committee to develop the master plan for the Park Strip. Gov. Hammond appointed her to the State Growth Policy Council and the State Investment Advisory Board (which drew up the legislation creating the Permanent Fund). Gov. Knowles appointed her to the TRAAK (Trails and Recreational Access for Alaska) Board and, in 1995, appointed her to be chair. She was also appointed to the Statewide Charitable Gaming Task Force to advise on regulations for this industry. Lanie currently serves on the Task Force, Anchorage Veteran’s Memorial Committee and continues to be active in the South Addition Community Council.

Lanie raised three children in Anchorage. Over the years, she has used the trail system as a skier, runner, biker, hiker and even as a roller blader. In her professional life, she was the executive director, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Anchorage, 1990-2005.

Lanie, considered to be the “Mother of the Trail System,” was recognized and honored by the mayor and assembly in 1994 when it named that initial trail the “Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail”. For her civic work, she has received a number of awards, including the Woman of Achievement, Anchorage YWCA; Ethics Award, East Anchorage Rotary; Woman of Distinction, Soroptimists International of Anchorage; State Senate citation for initiating a world-class trail system; and Jay Rabinowitz Public Service Award, Alaska Bar Association.

Lanie’s sense of civic responsibility and involvement sets a standard for activists throughout Alaska. Reflecting on her experience, she advises that if you speak up with a good idea, others will join in; you need not be an expert to make a meaningful contribution; to be a leader means that you must have followers. Lanie knew her vision had been realized when she heard two young boys playing in Goose Lake say “we just saw this trail and followed it; we never knew there was a lake here.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Carolyn Floyd

Photo of Carolyn Floyd
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Education, Government


Carolyn Floyd is a leader and advocate in education and municipal government. She was instrumental in starting the Kodiak Community College, serving as its first president from 1969 to 1987 and growing the college from a few small classes in the Kodiak High School to a comprehensive community college program located on its own 57-acre campus. In recognition of her legacy, the college library is named in her honor. Floyd also served as mayor of the City of Kodiak for l8 consecutive years. Throughout these years she served on and chaired both statewide and national boards, educating officials throughout the nation about Alaska and its distinctive issues.

Floyd’s love of education and community has shaped her life and that of the City of Kodiak. Her love for Kodiak began in l955 when she arrived there as a young bride with her husband Joe, a teacher. The couple settled there for good in l963 to teach at Kodiak High School – Carolyn now with her own degree in business education. In l966 she completed her master’s in business education and became an “adjunct instructor” for the University of Alaska Off-Campus Programs in Kodiak. Classes were held in the high school. At first there were few students and instructors, but Floyd immediately saw the need and possibilities for a full time college in Kodiak. “I didn’t see this as an impossible challenge,” she recalls. “I just wanted to get a real college going here.” And she did. Students who wanted more opportunity came to the classes and invited their friends. She convinced the university that a community college could be successful in Kodiak, and in l969 Carolyn Floyd was appointed the first campus president of the new Kodiak Community College. She served as president for l8 years, convincing the Kodiak Borough to set aside land for the college, attracting new instructors and new students and arranging financing for new buildings. The Kodiak College Carolyn Floyd Library, located on campus, was dedicated in l989.

A successful college requires community support and Floyd worked to build that support. She was so well respected that in l993 she was asked to run for mayor of the City of Kodiak. She served as mayor for the next 18 consecutive years. In her first term as mayor she was instrumental in establishing the Kodiak Multicultural Forum which includes representatives from Kodiak’s many ethnic groups and continues to be active today.
During these years she also served as president and board member of the Alaska Municipal League, president and member of the Alaska Conference of Mayors, board member of the National League of Cities, and member of the National League of Cities Advisory Council, a position she still holds today.

Among her many honors, Floyd was listed in “Who’s Who in International Education” (1985); awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education, University of Alaska Anchorage (l989); awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Alaska Municipal League (2003) and a Community Leaders of America Award by the same organization (l990); Certificate of Achievement in Leadership Excellence, National League of Cities (2008) and honored as one of six finalists for the Women in Municipal Government Award, National League of Cities (2010).
Pat Branson, mayor of Kodiak, who nominated Floyd for the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame on behalf of the City of Kodiak, says, “Carolyn has worked to improve programs and services for citizens for nearly 50 years. Her legacy will serve Alaskans for many years to come. Carolyn Floyd leads with honesty, strength, dignity and grace. She has served as a role model throughout her professional life.”

Carolyn and Joe Floyd will soon celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary. They have four children: Virginia, JoeMax, Scott and Patrick.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Heather (Lundgren) Flynn

Photo of Heather (Lundgren) Flynn
Categories: 2019 Alumnae, Education, Government, Philanthropy


Headline in the Anchorage Daily News over Flynn’s picture: “Velvet and Razorblades.” January, 1983 

Heather Flynn may not always be gentle.  Her reputation for thorough preparation, asking piercing questions and demanding truthful and understandable responses has earned her the above caption of Velvet and Razorblades.

Knowledgeable, passionate, fierce advocant and tenacious fundraiser – that’s Heather Flynn.  Hard work, depth of knowledge and breadth of experience all describe Flynn. 

She began her 50 years of service working as a teacher for every group from preschoolers to graduate school.  As a Romig social studies teacher, she stressed the understanding of and respect for world cultures and religions.  Her students were required to have knowledge of local, state, national and international issues.  Many of her students went on to serve in education, business and human services.

Flynn’s teaching didn’t end in the classroom.  In all her pursuits, both political and professional, she mentored staff, students and women in transition.  Former staff members observe: “She pushes me to be a better person.”  “She confronts me with hard truths, she stands up for me, always has my back.”  “Heather works for a better community, quality education; family services; quality, affordable child care; access to arts and recreation.”  “Heather can seem like a whirling dervish, but her brain just works fast.  As a boss, she has high expectations of you, and won’t ever ask you to do anything she won’t do herself.”

The League of Women Voters provided a strong basis for Flynn’s activism in education, housing, land use planning and welfare reform.  It was the League that developed the Alaska Legislative Information Office and optional education programs.  She credits the League for encouraging her to put her knowledge and training into public office.

She was elected to the Anchorage School Board in 1975, serving six years, twice as president.  Noted for thorough homework and financial expertise, the ASD Superintendent of Finance once said, “I know the budget balances when my numbers agree with Flynn’s.”  For several years, she worked in Juneau to enhance education funding not only for Anchorage, but for school districts throughout rural Alaska.

Flynn was elected to the Anchorage Assembly in 1983 and served 10 years, five as the only woman.  Once again, thorough in preparation, she was an expert in budget and finance, planning and zoning, and utilities. 

Always an advocate for women and children, she supported quality, affordable, accessible childcare, parks and recreation programs, libraries and, of course, adequate school funding.

And equal opportunity – In 1971 Flynn successfully challenged the school district’s maternity policy of forced resignation in the fourth month, thereby teaching to her own due date and opening equality of opportunity to all women.  And she passionately advocates choice for women.

Service in public office did not pay the mortgage, so working full time in nonprofit management drew her talents.  A colleague once stated that her business card should read “resurrectionist.”  She took on challenges, organizations that had financial, personnel or governance issues, often all of the above, stabilized them raising capital, training staff, even recruiting board members.  She often trained her successors, and moved on to the next challenge. 

An advocate for women and children, she passionately educated the community on the high cost of violence.  As the executive director of AWAIC, Flynn utilized her simultaneous service on the Anchorage Assembly as an opportunity to work with and train police, the courts, human service agencies and the business community.

Utilizing her AWAIC experience, she was a primary force behind the establishment of a shelter for abused women and children in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia in 1995 and consulted in the development of shelters in Oregon, Arizona and Turkey.

Flynn worked to align non-degree programs (GED and workforce development) at University of Alaska Anchorage.  She finally retired in 2000.  But that ended quickly when she joined another grassroots foundation to earn money for education. 

A renown fundraiser, upon receiving the ATHENA Award in 2010, it was announced that “when you see Heather coming, just get out your checkbook.”  Among others, AWAIC, AWRC, United Way, YWCA, Alaska Community Foundation, Planned Parenthood, public radio, Anchorage Museum, Anchorage Symphony and innumerable political candidates owe their success to her fundraising efforts.

Flynn’s efforts weren’t limited to fundraising.  Whether addressing an employee about career development or scolding a man about his unhealthy smoking habit, she inserted herself where she believed it was needed.

All these organizations and individuals benefit from her personal philanthropy.  In addition to supporting her undergraduate institutions, Flynn donates 50% of her gross income to her passions annually and has dedicated her estate to the ongoing success of organizations that serve the needs of women and children, education and the arts and to make our community a better place.

Finally, Heather takes pride in her wonderful children, Patrick Flynn and his wife Tina Grovier and their two children; and Lucy Flynn O’Quinn and her husband Brian O’Quinn.  Having an activist mother (or mother-in-law) isn’t always easy.  Flynn appreciates their support (and good behavior!) and their own contributions toward making Anchorage and the state of Alaska an even better place for everyone.

She has served on the following boards and commissions: Anchorage Equal Right Commission, League of Women Voters, Alaska Municipal League, National League of Cities, Anchorage Opera, YWCA, National Public Radio Council, Anchorage Museum, Denali Federal Credit Union

Alaska Community Foundation, Anchorage Senior Center Advisory

Soroptimist of Cook Inlet and Anchorage East Rotary. 

Flynn has received the following honors and awards (among others): YWCA Woman of Achievement, ATHENA Award, Alaska Legislative Service Award, AFP Philanthropist of the Year and Willamette University Distinguished Alumni Citation. 

Flynn’s Resume (2019)

Heather Flynn

836 M Street, #307

Anchorage, Alaska

Heather Flynn has more than 45 years of professional, political and volunteer experience in nonprofit development and management, fundraising and community relations.

Heather has directed two nonprofit human service agencies meeting the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, pregnant teens and recovering substance abusers.  She has trained United Way agency directors and served as allocations chair.  She is retired from the University of Alaska where she was the Director of the Adult Learning Center, managing all ABE, ESL and GED programs as well as the development and management of multiple Welfare to Work and HUD programs.  

Ms. Flynn served two terms on the Anchorage School Board and ten years on the Anchorage Assembly where she distinguished herself in matters of budget and finance, labor relations, planning and zoning, health issues and utility regulation. She is past president of the Alaska Municipal League and served on the Board of Directors of the National League of Cities. 

Ms. Flynn has volunteered in many civic, social, educational and political arenas.  She was instrumental in the development of the Legislative Information Office and has served on boards as diverse as the Anchorage Opera, the Equal Rights Commission, the YWCA, the Alaska Community Foundation and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.  She has consulted with school districts, municipalities and nonprofit organizations in several states, Mongolia and Turkey.  She currently serves on the boards of the Anchorage Museum, Denali Federal Credit Union and NPR Council.

Ms. Flynn has published articles and academic papers on subjects ranging from property appraisal to school curriculum to economic development, and wrote a regular column for the local newspaper.

Heather has a B.A. from Willamette University, attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and has a Master’s from UAA.

Ms. Flynn has been widely honored for a lifetime of achievement including the Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Award, YWCA Woman of Achievement, Alaska Legislature Service Award, AFP Philanthropist of the Year and Willamette University Distinguished Alumni Citation.

Heather is a widow, has two children and two grandchildren.