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A B C D E F G H J K L M N O P R S T U V W Z

Mahala Ashley Dickerson

Photo of Mahala Ashley Dickerson
19122007
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Civil Rights, Law

Biography

Mahala Ashley Dickerson

1913-2007

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

Photo of Beverly D. Dunham
1932
Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Community Activism, Journalism

Biography

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 https://youtu.be/AhN_nPvOEjY

Paula Easley

Photo of Paula Easley
1936
Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Responsible Resource Development

Biography

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 amazon.com

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 https://youtu.be/Lqn70XQ98QQ

Neva Egan

Photo of Neva Egan
19142010
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Music, Politics

Biography

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.”

Dr. Elizabeth (Fuller) Elsner

Photo of Dr. Elizabeth (Fuller) Elsner
1923
Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Education, Medicine

Biography

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:

“More.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/vhe33od225A

RESOURCES

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
19222016
Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Community Arts, Education

Biography

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 https://youtu.be/osriR69zHLg

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

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, http://www.homenews.com:

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

Homer Town Crier, Obituary, April 21, 2016.

Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com:

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

(1)

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
1951
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Law

Biography

Dana A. Fabe 

1951- 

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

HYPERLINK “http://judgepedia.org/index.php/Dana_Fabe

Kay Fanning

Photo of Kay Fanning
19272000
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Journalism

Biography

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
19222014
Categories: 2015 Alumnae, Community Service

Biography

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 https://youtu.be/_N643e8MC7g

Mary Jane (Evans) Fate

Photo of Mary Jane (Evans) Fate
1933
Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Native Leader

Biography

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 https://youtu.be/e6rDil9AaOI

Helen Fischer

Photo of Helen Fischer
19121986
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Politics

Biography

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
1938
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Community Activism

Biography

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 https://youtu.be/pvyWAMBi8gM

Carolyn Floyd

Photo of Carolyn Floyd
1933
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Education, Government

Biography

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 https://youtu.be/LKBXUoyk6aA

Lucy Frey

Photo of Lucy Frey
1932
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Business, Education, Feminism

Biography

Lucy is an educator, curriculum developer, businesswoman and accomplished rabble-rouser for all feminist causes. Raised in Missouri, she earned a bachelors degree in education, masters degrees in English and history, and a doctorate in women’s history. She lived in Alaska from 1957-1993. She taught school for 18 years, was the Social Studies Coordinator for the Anchorage School District and co-owned the Alaska Women’s Bookstore. She and her colleagues established “The Learning Tree,” a consulting firm that created curriculum and trained teachers from Barrow to Ketchikan. She helped found the Alaska Women’s Political Caucus and the Alaska Women’s Resource Center. Many remember her for fermenting feminist causes in her living room under the aegis of “Sing Alongs” and potluck dinners.

Lucy is the recipient of many awards for advancing women’s rights across Alaska. One of the proudest aspects of her life was the opportunity to work with youngsters – both boys and girls – teaching them that women are equal and that girls can do whatever they aspire to do.

Alice Stevenson Green

Photo of Alice Stevenson Green
1917
Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Advocacy, Education, Religion

Biography

Miracles and early life:

On July 21, 2017, for Green’s 100th birthday, the communities of Anchorage and Savoonga came together to honor her. The celebration recognized Green, who served as a religious leader, social advocate, gifted educator, courageous pioneer, and world traveler. The Municipality of Anchorage and the City of Savoonga both proclaimed Green’s 100th Birthday, “Alice Green Day”. The City of Savoonga sent the Mayor to Anchorage to attend Green’s Birthday Party. In honor of her birthday, Reverend Karns reported that Green was made an honoree moderator for the annual Yukon Presbytery meeting in October 2017.

Green, who was named after her mother, was born on July 21, 1917, in Scott City, Kansas. Green’s mother died giving birth. Green was born two months early with club feet and only weighing four pounds. Her family had difficulty finding formula she could eat and Green was not expected to live. Green’s Aunt Frances, a nurse, cared for her during her first year of life and subsequently married her father, thereby becoming her stepmother. During Green’s first year of life, while living in Scott City, Green developed whooping cough and pneumonia and had her club feet repaired in Kansas City, Missouri. Despite her battles, Green tripled her weight quickly and her stepmother is credited with saving Green’s life.

Green had two aunts she loved dearly. They were her Aunt Lottie and Aunt Frances (also Green’s stepmother). Both worked at Sheldon Jackson School between the years of 1914 and 1917. Green recalls their stories about Alaska which ignited her desire to come to Alaska.

Green had six siblings, two born with cerebral palsy. Green helped care for them before leaving home and it helped shape the person she is today.

Getting an education and Green’s impact on the church:

Green grew up with little money and a big family. A friend named Mr. Boggs who had been a member of her family church paid for Green to go to college and seminary. He knew Green had intended to go to college in Parkville, Missouri, which cost a mere $250 at the time including room and board for that price. When Mr. Boggs saw Green sitting at church after local college classes had already started, he asked her why she wasn’t at college. Green admitted to Mr. Boggs that her family lacked the funds to pay for her attendance. The family friend immediately paid for college for Green. Women at the time could not become ministers but they could be missionaries, so Green signed up and became a missionary.

Green earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from Park College (now Park University), near Kansas City, MO in 1939. Green had hoped to teach history at Sheldon Jackson School, but the plan fell through because Sheldon Jackson wasn’t looking for history teachers at the time. After obtaining her history degree in Secondary Education, Green taught 7th and 8th grade in Marble, Colorado, where quarries, owned by a company in Vermont, mined the stone for statutes, notably the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Lincoln Memorial, and sent it to Washington, DC. When the Republicans came into power under Eisenhower, marble was no longer obtained through the Vermont (Democrat) company, so the mine closed and Green was out of a job. That same year a gold mine reopened in Dunton, Colorado creating a need for a school teacher, so Green moved to teach grades 1-8. While Green was on summer vacation after her first year, the mine collapsed on a “change Sunday” (a day when no one worked). Alice was again unemployed. Green headed to graduate school.

In 1943, Green obtained her Master’s Degree in Christian Education from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. Shortly after, Green took her first assignment with the church in Maine, becoming a Sunday School Missionary. Then Green moved to Savoonga, Alaska in 1945. Green arrived by steamship, the SS Aleutian, in Seward, Alaska, and from there, she took a train to Anchorage, a plane to Nome, a U.S. Navy PBY to Gambell, and finally Green took a whaling ship into Savoonga, where she arrived on July 5, 1945. Aside from a one year furlough, Green stayed in Savoonga until 1955. Furloughs afforded Green the opportunity to share her missions’ efforts in remote locations, something she reportedly loved doing. Green described the remoteness of Savoonga but it didn’t stop her from loving the community and its people. She quickly made Savoonga home.

Green was the first woman Moderator of the Synod of Alaska-Northwest, a region that includes Alaska, Washington and Northern Idaho. The Synod, an advisory council, enabled Green to practice her skills and provide guidance and advice to leadership within the region. She reported what she enjoyed most about this position was moderating the yearly meetings, travel and interacting with representatives from throughout the Synod’s region.

Friendships along the way:

Green’s mentor in life was her pastor from junior high and high school named Reverend George Henry Green (a man who had the same name as her father and brother), also known as “G”. Henry Green. Green reported that Reverend G. Henry Green motivated her because “he was a loving Christian man who was particularly good with the youth.” Green reported that he helped shape her into the person she would become. She was the only woman in her group that went into the ministry. The other seven were men.

In July, 1945, when traveling to Savoonga, Green met her dear friend, Norma Hoyt, who was traveling from Seattle to Anchorage via the same steamboat out of Seward as Green. Green reported that she had planned to stay with a local minister, however, he was out of town when she arrived. Norma Hoyt invited Green to stay with her until the local minister returned to town, thus forging a 44 year friendship.

From 1945 to 1988, Alice Green reported that she often traveled for leisure and vacation, managing to go to six continents with her friend, Norma Hoyt. Green reports going around the world with her friend, traveling to Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Belgrade, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Denmark, Switzerland, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Iran, Jordan to Syria, and later Antarctica. Green and her friend Norma Hoyt were scheduled to go to Iraq, however, they cancelled the trip due to a cholera outbreak. Going to Iraq would have prevented them from traveling to some of the other destinations on their list of places to see because of concern about the spread of the disease. Green reported that Hungary offered the best food, wholesome and homemade, but Nepal was her favorite destination because they offered active programs for travelers. She enjoyed visiting the many clinics in the countryside in Nepal just outside Katmandu. Green claims she took that trip so that she could see the people of remote locations, comparing it to Savoonga which was also remote.

Green’s life in remote Alaska and its impact on the people:

Restricted by practice limitations of the church, Green served as a Presbyterian missionary from 1945 to 1954 in one of the most remote Alaskan villages, Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island, an island about the size of Connecticut in the Bering Sea approximately 50 miles from Siberia. When Green arrived in Savoonga, she moved into a tiny home that was a mere 15 x 16 feet in size. It was too small to hold her trunk, so she stored her trunk in the attic at the local school. At the time there was no church so she held services at the local school until the school burned down in 1946, when services were held in homes. Shortly after arriving in Savoonga, Green helped the community manage the construction of a church using volunteer labor. The “new” church was dedicated on Easter Sunday, 1950. The church is still there and in use after over 70 years. When Green is asked about her role in the construction, she quickly gives all credit to the local people of Savoonga, downplaying her role in the effort.

While missionaries often left negative impact on villages because of forced assimilation, Jenny Alowa reports Green wasn’t like that. She always had her services and hymns translated into Siberian Yupik for the local residents. She made people comfortable; she loved the people of Savoonga and they knew that. The key to her success while living there was ensuring she treated people with respect. When asked if it was hard living in Savoonga, away from all of the luxuries of the big cities, Green said: “Not at all. She loved the place and all of the people there. She never missed the city, and since she traveled, she was able to see amazing people and go amazing places while doing her work.”

Green was employed by the National Council of Churches and worked as a religious coordinator for the Alaska Native Service (ANS) at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage from 1955 until 1970. At that time ANS was treating tuberculosis (TB) patients. While working there Green met top Alaska Native artists, including George Ahgupuk and Robert Mayokok. Green pointed out that many of them had contracted TB carving ivory and had been institutionalized for treatment.

In the 1960’s many issues consumed congregations in Anchorage including space, locale, escalating costs and a need to sustain congregations into the long term future. Land was becoming expensive. As chairman of the Presbytery’s Committee on Mission Strategy, Green was instrumental in facilitating changes that included moving Faith Church and combining it with Woodland Park to become Trinity Presbyterian Church in Spenard. Faith Church had a mission outreach program in the Nunaka Valley area that originally operated out of homes, but eventually became Immanuel Presbyterian Church. The Korean Church moved into the Spenard space when Trinity bought property on Huffman Road so there was a south side Presbyterian presence. These changes drove down costs and allowed the churches to benefit from shared administrative duties.

From 1965 to 1972 Green attended national meetings twice a year for the Presbyterian Church, voting on budgets and opening or closing new church sites across the country.

In 1971, Green accepted an interim pastor position in Ketchikan where she served for a year. In 1972, when the rules changed to allow women to be ordained, the Savoonga church (following church protocol) called Green to be their pastor. Green became the first woman ordained in Alaska as a Presbyterian minister. After being ordained, Green returned to Savoonga and served from 1972 to 1982. In 1982, Green was required to retire from service with the Presbyterian Church because she reached age 65.

During the 1980’s while Green worked at ANS, she became involved in the work of the Presbytery. Green was elected by the National General Assembly to serve on the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church USA where she served for seven years and was elected Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Yukon (1982-1991). Green helped establish the Anchorage chapter of Church Women United, a national ecumenical Christian women’s group that brings diverse cultures together for fellowship and prayer advocating for peace and justice worldwide. Green also served in a leadership role with both the Korean and Alaska Native Presbyterian Congregations at Anchor Presbyterian Church. She traveled to meetings and conferences throughout the Lower 48, took minutes for the local churches and continued to remain active in the church as a volunteer after her forced retirement.

Reverend Kurt Karns, explained what it means for Green to have been the Moderator of the Synod. The Presbyterian Church is broken down by regions and Green’s leadership roles allowed her to influence the regions from Anchorage to the North Slope, including having a say in providing pastors across the Presbytery. Green used her roles to help Presbyterian women advocate for peace and justice, ensuring that across the state women’s issues were always at the forefront. Her involvement in three churches: the Nome Presbyterian Church, the church on St. Lawrence Island and Anchor Christian Ministries significantly advanced the role of women and Alaska Natives in the church. Reverend Karns contributes much of Green’s success to her ability to network with others. He described Green as “knowing everyone”. Reverend Karns pointed out that Green’s ordination in Alaska was a controversial topic for the time.

Green often attended and traveled to other churches. Green helped organize the Jewell Lake Parish, a joint venture between Methodists and Presbyterians. Green was intent on trying to make better sense of the church’s mission by joining forces and streamlining reporting functions for the various churches. Green’s longtime friend (since 1982), Viola Markson, describes Green as a unique person who is a wonderful minister. She explains that Green ministers to all people and that there is never a wrong thing to say. According to Ms. Markson, Green is not critical, but she is stubborn.

While serving in Anchorage, Green also performed weddings, often for the people from St. Lawrence Island. As a ruling elder, Alice served at every judicial level of the church. Her knowledge of the people helped others better meet the needs of culturally diverse congregations.

Green played an active role in the Anchorage Chapter of Church Women United. Green reports that this Christian women’s movement makes the world better for all women and children. The mission helped bring diverse cultures and races together for fellowship and prayer advocacy for peace and justice worldwide. Locally, Green focused on serving both the Korean and Alaska Native Communities. When asked what drove her to advocate for these two particular groups, she noted many Alaska Natives were moving to Anchorage from the villages. She replied, “I felt we needed to be responsible to the people.”

Green’s advice to anyone who doubts the existence of God, is “there is no reason to doubt God. There has to be someone bigger than ourselves to help things move along the way they should.” Green pointed out that “she can’t see how things came into existence without a higher power: Allah, God, whatever that might be.”

Green’s personal life:

Green and her friend Norma Hoyt took their final trip together in 1988, when they went to Antarctica, just months before her friend died. Green always stopped at hospitals and mission stations along the way. Green and Hoyt drove across the country visiting old book stores, buying rare/out of print books on Alaska. She collected Alaskan books exclusively and had an amazing collection which she eventually sold and donated to local libraries and museums. Much of her collection can be found in the Nome library.

Green taught Bible study at Trinity Presbyterian in Anchorage until 2016, when she turned 98 and her vision started to fail her.

When asked if she made any mistakes along the way in life, Green said, “I made many, but what I learned is that I needed to find out what motivates people and to remember others may think differently but it doesn’t make them wrong.”

When asked what advice she would offer young women about how to accomplish their goals, Green quickly pointed out that “women should not give up and they should do what they want to do in life. Her advice is to get the education that you need to follow your dreams and just do it.”

Green stated that she got up every day to do the work she did “because it was her calling, it was what she was supposed to do!” She never detoured from her work and said she never wanted to change course. When given options to leave for assignments in the Lower 48, she chose to go to Anchorage instead because that was the only other available option and she didn’t want to leave Alaska and the people she loved.

Green reported that she often found herself outside of her comfort zone when dealing with family difficulties; she didn’t want to pick sides. She listened to both sides of every story and often stayed as neutral as she could, although she did occasionally have to pick sides and provide advice over issues. When needing to do so, she sought wisdom through prayer.

When asked about meeting the glass ceiling, Green pointed out that when she arrived in Savoonga there was no formal building for people to meet, but the community was organized. She fought for women’s rights and it worked. She became very much a part of the community and the community became a part of her.

For fun, Green plays double deck pinochle with friends on Sunday afternoons, she attends Bible studies on Wednesdays, since her eyesight has started to fail she is now an avid audio book reader and she likes to take walks. She loves reading non-fiction and is currently listening to a book on tape of a biography about the 2nd George Bush. She also reports listening to the 2nd book in a 4 volume set about Abraham Lincoln titled “The War Years” which was written by Carl Sandburg. Green reports her favorite book of all time is the Bible. Her favorite verse is a most famous bible verse, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) Green likes watching football, baseball, the nightly news and Jeopardy on television.

It is fitting that Green is being honored for her achievements, social rights activism, religious and educational leadership and long dedication to Alaska and the Presbyterian Church.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/n7dBYZUKjHg

References:

Green, Alice. (2018) Personal conversations.

Combs, Carol. Friend and teacher from Savoonga (2018) Personal conversations and written communication.

Alowa, Jenny. Life long-friend who grew up in Savoonga. Green was her pastor (2018). Personal conversations and written communication.

Karns, Rev Kurt. Executive Presbyter for the Yukon Presbytery. (2018) Personal conversations.

Markson, Viola. Friend and Bible Study peer. (2018) Personal conversations.

Alaska Dispatch News. (June 22, 2017) “72 years later, a missionary remains part of the village she went to serve”.

Green is one of the Pioneers in the book: We Alaskans, Stories of people who helped build the

Great Land, Volume II, compiled and edited by Sharon Bushell.

Nora Venes Guinn

Photo of Nora Venes Guinn
19202005
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Law

Biography

Best known for her contributions to the Alaska Judicial System, Nora Guinn, a Yupik Eskimo, was Alaska’s first woman and the first Native to serve as a district court judge. In territorial days, she dispensed local justice as a United States Commissioner, and after statehood, became Bethel’s first magistrate. As a judge she was the only non-attorney to be backed by the Alaska Bar for a judgeship. Sitting in her courtroom was an educational experience as she conducted court in Yupik and English so that everyone could understand and explained everything thoroughly. Nora Guinn helped Alaska’s legal system understand the concerns, needs and viewpoint of Alaska’s Native people.

Guinn was made a special master of the Superior Court so she could hear cases involving placement of children, and often produced results never thought of by social workers or attorneys. She had a special love for children and would often take a child who was having problems into her home.

Dorothy Awes Haaland

Photo of Dorothy Awes Haaland
19181996
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Law

Biography

HAALAND, DOROTHY J.  AWES

1945-1996

Dorothy Awes Haaland was born in Minnesota, received her law degree in Iowa and moved to Alaska in 1945 where she was one of the fist women to be admitted to the bar. In 1955 she was elected as a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention, where she chaired the Committee on the Preamble and Bill of Rights. In 1957 she was elected to the last territorial legislature and then went to work for the new State of Alaska as an assistant attorney general for 16 years. She remained in the legal field as an Anchorage district attorney and finally the magistrate of Cordova. Dorothy was a long time member if the League of Women Voters because she believed that women should always be involved in public policy.

Souces

Creating Alaska web site, University of Alaska

http://www.alaska.edu/creatingalaska/convention/delegates/awes.xml

Obituary: OBITUARIES OF ALASKA’S PIONEERS,as extracted from “END OF THE TRAIL” a feature article of Alaska – The Magazine of Life on the Last Frontier, William Morris III, Publisher and Ken Marsh, Editor4220 B St., Suite 210, Anchorage, AK http://files.usgwarchives.net/ak/obituaries/pioneers/akpione_l.txt

Sandra “Sandy” (Gross) Harper

Photo of Sandra “Sandy” (Gross) Harper
1940
Categories: 2016 Alumnae, Collaboration, Cultural Entrepreneurship

Biography

Sandy grew up with an older brother and an entrepreneurial mother who owned a womenʼs clothing store and a father who was responsible for the storeʼs public relations. While growing up in this small town in the midwest (Centralia, IL), she eagerly participated in her schoolʼs plays and dramatic events. Her parent supported these interests, taking her to see major theatrical productions in the near-by city of St. Louis. Then, at the age of sixteen, she received a scholarship to a summer theatre camp and fell in love with theatre and the course of her life was set. Determined to be in the theatre world, Harper, at the urging of the life-long friend met at the camp, enrolled in Boston Universityʼs well-known theatre department. She then was invited to attend the highly regarded Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Following the conventions of the day, Harper entered into a marriage at too young an age. The marriage did not last. Harper credits the social and political ferment and upheavals of the 1960ʼs-the anti-war protests, the black power, racial justice and womenʼs movements-as teaching her how to grow up. That exposure to the social and political movements influenced her approach to theatre and taught her to value plays with a social message. Her education in the theatre arts continued through summer stock opportunities and in Los Angeles where she and Jerry, the love of her life, trained together in an innovative new theatre form under Rachael Rosenthal known as “Instant Theatre” and “Instant Fairy Tales”. This new technique involved training in how to be totally present in the moment and how to engage in instant improvisation. Harper considers theatre to be a life-long education, since all experiences can be “grist for the mill”, providing stimulus for a lifetime of continuous curiosity and never-ending exploration and discovery. Harper followed up her interests in human consciousness, awareness and the creative imagination with formal academic study, obtaining a Masterʼs degree in Human Development at Pacific Oaks College in 1985. Earlier in 1979 she had received an undergraduate degree from Immaculate Heart College. She further explored human consciousness through performing the research for a book entitled “The Aquarian Conspiracy” written by Marilyn Ferguson, which discusses consciousness research and social transformation and popularized the idea that society and individuals were experiencing a paradigm shift. Arriving in Anchorage in the late 1980ʻs when husband Jerry inherited the historic 1915 Loussac Building from his stepfather, they opened a cultural mini-mall in the building featuring a bookstore and movie theatre. When competition later crippled the profitability of the bookstore, they decided to build a theatre in that space and thus created, in 1992, Cyranoʼs Off-Center Playhouse, the home of Cyranoʼs Theatre Company. Under Harperʼs leadership the company has provided an eclectic menu of professional quality performances of cutting-edge, classic, contemporary and original plays. It has established itself as a vibrant presence in the life of downtown Anchorage and is known
throughout Alaska. From the beginning, the theatre’s mission has been not only to provide stimulating and thought-provoking entertainment, but to offer the opportunity for Alaskan theatre artists to participate in live theatre and to practice their craft as playwrights, actors, directors and technicians. In recognition of the time and talent dedicated by artists, Cyrano’s has, from the beginning, offered participants a small stipend to underscore the professional nature of their work. Additionally, the company has always offered affordable ticket prices as part of their mission. As the  Producing Artistic Director of Cyrano’s Theatre Company, Harper nurtured, encouraged and commissioned Alaskan playwrights, leading to Alaskan and national premieres of new works. Over the years, she sought to identify, foster and mentor new talent from throughout Alaska, with a strong focus on women and Native cultures. Harper believes that in the theatrical world you learn your craft by “doing it” so when talent was identified, she encouraged the writer, challenged the inexperienced to direct and recruited the shy one to act. She is particularly proud of the theatre’s history of providing opportunities to women artists, including directors and playwrights. Important aspects of her programming choices were the inclusion and reflection of Alaska’s diverse demographics as well as the playʼs social message. Under her spirited leadership and vision, Cyrano’s Theatre Company became an important incubator of Alaska’s theatrical talent and has been the original home of “Scared Scriptless”, “Arctic Entries”, and “Black Feather Poets”, among others. The company’s ability over the years to successfully mount a different play nearly every month of the year is solid proof of the multiple training opportunities this small theatre company with little money has provided to the immediate community and the state overall.  Cyranoʼs has also taken several productions to underserved areas of the state, such as Homer, Seward, Yakutat and Kodiak.  Cyrano’s Theatre Company is an active participant in the annual Valdez Last Frontier Conference, frequently presenting new works at this nationally famous, important theatre conference. Harperʼs insistence that all productions, wherever performed, meet a high professional standard has set the bar for quality productions throughout the state.  In addition to the various formal positions Harper has held in Cyranoʼs Theatre Company, she is best known in the community as a cultural entrepreneur and collaborator. These traits, talents and skills were perhaps inherited, in part, from her parents, particularly her mother. Harper believes strongly in partnering and collaboration. By its very nature, theatre depends on collaboration and awarenessbetween the playwright and actor, between the actor and the audience, between the director and the actor. As a way to collaborate with the audience, Harper added contextual richness to the company’s productions by organizing lobby displays and special panels or talkback discussions. Collaboration with UAA’s theatre department over the years has provided graduates with their initial professional experience. In another example, she invited a number of prominent local citizens to partner with the company and play a role in the play when “Adam’s Rib” was produced in 2006. Believing that awareness of the arts must be part of public life, Harper made a point of joining and collaborating with various business, civic and nonprofit organizations. Her
direct civic involvement includes: former president, Anchorage Cultural Council; board member in Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Anchorage Downtown Association and Rasmuson Foundation; member, national board, Last Frontier Theatre Conference; creator and ten-year co-host, Alaska Radio Reader Rambler at public radio station KSKA. In addition to partnering with civic entities, Harper tried to coordinate theatre activities with municipal and state activities and celebrations. A prime example of her emphasis on the importance of civic engagement is the 2015 summer celebration of Anchorage’s centennial wherein  “Anchorage:The First 100 Years—A Theatrical Tour” was presented. This involved a new play being written and produced each week to highlight each of Anchorage’s first ten decades. In 2009, she commissioned five new works from Alaska writers to celebrate Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood while in 2011 she hosted a first-time reading of nine new plays from Alaska Native writers organized by the Alaska Native Heritage Center. As a cultural entrepreneur, she initiated and organized cultural events, always striving for collaboration with other artistic organizations and civic activities. For example, Harper saw a need in the cityʼs cultural life, created a coalition of booksellers, educators and libraries as “Partners in Literacy”, which resulted in the founding of the Alaska Center for the Book and the Reading and Writing Rendezvous. It was often her practice to invite a nonprofit organization whose social mission is aligned with a play’s theme to participate in the opening night and to give the evening’s proceeds to that organization.  For example, for “Pinkalicious!” the honored non-profit organization was Best Beginnings, which promotes early childhood literacy and love of books. Her numerous awards and honors demonstrate the communityʼs regard for her theatrical contributions, civic involvements, and recognition of her effectiveness as an advocate for the arts. They include: Governor’s Award for the Arts to the Cyrano Theatre Company for outstanding arts organization, 1975; “Contribution to Literacy in Alaska” award to Sandy Harper as founder of Alaska Center for the Book, 2002; Harper Performing Arts Touring Fund, initiated by Rasmuson Foundation, in recognition “of the contributions made by both Jerry and Sandy Harper to Alaska’s quality of life, both as artists and long time Rasmuson Foundation Board members”, 2005; Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Arts Organization to Eccentric Theater Company (now Cyrano’s Theatre Company, 2005; YWCA Woman of Achievement award 2005; ATHENA Society inductee, 2009; Soroptimist Award for encouragement of women in the arts, 2010; Alaska State Legislative Citation honoring Cyrano’s Off-Center Payhouse, “a standing ovation” to Jerry and Sandy Harper “for their influence and consistent quality of state theatre that has made a lasting impression on the statewide progress of the performing arts culture”,2011; Lorene Harrison Award (Special Lifetime Achievement Award) Anchorage Cultural Council, 2011; UAA, Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, “In recognition of a lifetime of fostering the arts in Alaska”, 2011; and, the 2016 Governorʼs Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities to Cyranoʼs Theatre Company. While husband Jerry was a gifted actor and director and performed many roles, Harper preferred to operate behind the scenes, creating the opportunities and environment for events to come together. As Producing Artistic Director over many years, she selected
the plays to be produced, appointed the directors, chose the actors and commissioned new works. Harper frequently described her role in this phrase: “I throw the party.” According to a long-time colleague of Harperʼs, her outstanding talent as a producer was her ability to create a team for each play, from the director to the set designer, which led to successful productions. Another admirer credits her success to Harperʼs having a “great vision” for theatre and a “steady hand” on its production. Harperʼs theatrical training, combined with her interests in human awareness, consciousness and creativity provided a very natural and successful foundation for her career in the theatre. When asked to judge her own accomplishments, Harper pointed to three: co-founding the bookstore and theatre; creating the Alaska Center for the Book and working with her life partner on something they both loved. And, on a different level of accomplishment, she is proud of having raised a daughter and being a grandmother to two grandchildren. Her advice to young women about achieving goals echos her own experience: have the courage to try, keep your focus and be persistent in facing and overcoming the inevitable obstacles that will spring up. Through her personal efforts, Harper has demonstrated what a strong, determined woman with a clear vision can build and accomplish. After twenty-three years of producing a different play almost every month of the year, in 2015, management of Cyranoʼs Theatre Company initiated a shift from a “founders” board to a “governing” board, effective in 2016. Harper relinquished her direct role in the workings of Cyranoʼs Theatre Company, but It is a certainty that she will continue to be engaged in the artistic and theatrical cultures of Anchorage and Alaska.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/o2NwxdNxTx0

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
Porco, Peter. Sandy Harper Northern Lights. American Theatre Magazine. March 2011, p. 40-44.
Stadem, Catherine and Strohmeyer, John. The History of Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska 1915-2005: From a Wilderness Tent to a Multi-Million Dollar Stage. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2009. AK Alaska Public Media http://www.alaskapublic.org/sandy-harper/ Lit Site Alaska$ http://www.litside.org/index.cfm?section=Libraries-andBooksellers&page=Bookstore-Profiles&viewpoint Anchorage Press$ http://www.anchoragepress.com/search/node/Sandy%20Harper

Lorene Harrison

Photo of Lorene Harrison
19052005
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Business, Culture, Education, Music

Biography

Lorene Harrison came to Anchorage to teach music and home economics in 1928 and launched herself into Anchorages cultural activities. She organized the United Choir of all Faiths, which was the forerunner of the Anchorage Community Chorus, served as first president of the Anchorage Concert Association, was on the founding boards of the Anchorage Arts Council, Anchorage Civic Opera and Anchorage Little Theatre, and served as First Presbyterian Church Choir director for 29 years.

Throughout her life she appeared to have the philosophy “if Anchorage doesn’t have, create it yourself.” The main lobby in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts is named after her.

Cornelia Hatcher

Photo of Cornelia Hatcher
1867Unknown
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Politics

Biography

Cornelia Templeton Jewett came to Alaska in 1909 and married gold prospector Robert Lee Hatcher (of Hatcher Pass fame). Cornelia campaigned for women’s rights and prepared a petition to be sent to Alaska’s first Territorial Legislature (formed in 1912 by the Organic Act of 1912) asking for voting rights for women. The Legislature enfranchised women in 1913. Cornelia was also a leader in the Temperance Movement. Her campaigns resulted in a dry Alaska from 1918 to 1934.