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Lucy Frey

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


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
Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Advocacy, Education, Religion


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


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.

Ann “Nancy” (Desmond) Gross

Photo of Ann “Nancy” (Desmond) Gross
Categories: 2020 Alumnae, Education, Political Activism, Public Service


Ann “Nancy” Gross made significant contributions to adult basic education, local government administration in Alaska, and to the Municipality of Anchorage during a career that started in 1953 and continued to 1991.  Cliff Groh, lawyer and long-time chair of Alaska Common Ground, wrote in a letter printed in the Anchorage Daily News in 2001, “The death of Nancy Gross earlier this month triggered a wealth of memories about this multi-faceted woman.  As a public servant and activist, she worked hard to make this state work better, particularly at the local level. . . . Nancy used to say that ‘the best thing about Alaska is that its young people don’t know what they can’t do.’  Alaska was lucky that at all ages Nancy Gross lived her life with that attitude.”

Born in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1931 and educated at Weymouth High School and Bridgewater State Teachers College, Gross accepted a teaching job at Tenakee Springs in 1953.  The Department of Education expected the one-room school (built before 1920) would have eleven student in four of the eight grades; Gross had thirty students, nine in the first grade because that year logging started in Tenakee Inlet and a floating crab cannery opened.  Gross moved to teach at Fort Richardson near Anchorage, and there she met and married another educator, Joseph Gross.  After three years out of Alaska, teaching took them to Woody Island, Kenai, Kodiak, and in 1963 to Anchorage.  In 1961, Nancy returned to Massachusetts and completed a Masters Degree in Education from Bridgewater State Teachers College.  The couple had four children: Joseph, Jr. born in 1957, Mary in 1961, Edward in 1962, and Michael in 1964.   

In Anchorage, Gross taught Adult Basic Education for Anchorage Community College.  The job included conducting workshops in rural areas of Alaska, particularly Kotzebue and Bethel, to train volunteers to teach adults in villages so they could get General Education Degrees (GEDs).  With her experiences as a teacher and trainer, Gross realized that for reading and other literacy programs to succeed in Alaska, particularly in the rural areas, the materials used by teachers had to be relevant to the students.  They needed to be about the state and built upon what they knew and how they lived.  Gross obtained federal grant funding to create the Adult Literacy Lab (ALL Project).  She served as the program’s first coordinator, authored culturally relevant instructional materials for adult students in Alaska, worked with others to develop materials, and trained teachers to use them.  The program continued at the University of Alaska Anchorage until 2004 and materials developed for it are in still in print and used in adult education programs. 

Gross took a job as a trainer and grant administrator with the Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs to help rural communities in Bristol Bay and the Aleutians Islands organize municipal governments and get needed infrastructure.  In this position she also coordinated an urban housing conference.  Gross moved to a position with the Alaska Division of Parks to coordinate the Land and Water Conservation Fund program, and then to the Division of Energy and Power Development to administer alternative technology grants and energy audit contracts for rural areas. 

Building on her work for rural Alaska communities, Nancy and colleague Frances Rose started working with the new City of Akutan in the Aleutian Islands as the community’s first City Administrators.  In 1983 Gross became City Manager for the larger city of Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands, and served in that position for five years.  While there, she was instrumental in creating the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference.  Later, Gross worked as Interim City Manager for Galena and Cordova, and as a consultant for the cities of Whittier, Bethel, and Atka when each community was in a period of transition in leadership.  Colleague Kate Troll wrote “For a lot of people when problems get bigger and more complicated they start to melt down into process traps,  but for Nancy it was the opposite  The bigger he challenge, the better for her problem-solving skill set.  Motivated by her innate desire to do good work for good people, Nancy did not let up until the problem was solved for the benefit of all involved.  Her tenacious competence inspired all who worked with her.”  Gross was at Unalaska during the boom years for the King Crab fishery and the establishment of huge fish processors for the Bering Sea ground fishing industry; at Cordova when the Exxon Valdez oil spill devastated that community’s salmon fishery; and at Galena when plans were announced to close the U.S. Army’s forward operating base there.  In her work Gross introduced and instituted the fundamentals of local government; educated residents and involved them in their government, and helped the community obtain basic infrastructure and establish city services.  In this arena Gross was a pioneer, one of the first women to be a city manager in the state.  

Gross also was a community activist for the Municipality of Anchorage, promoting planning, zoning, and growth and development that considered the needs and wishes of residents during the city’s boom years when there was great pressure from developers and industry.  After helping the Airport Heights neighborhood get a city park, Gross served on the Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission from 1974 to 1980—the pipeline construction years when the city experienced incredible growth.  She promoted green spaces and parks in neighborhoods, resident’s involvement, and planned, responsible development while meeting the critical needs for housing.

Gross long advocated for preserving, writing, and making Alaska’s history better known.  She was a member of the Alaska sites and monuments committee for the 1967 Alaska Purchase Centennial Commission and worked for establishment of Anchorage’s Centennial Park campground.  Later, Gross was an active member of the Alaska Historical Society, and brought her leadership and organization skills to it, serving on its Board of Directors and as its President.  In the communities where she worked as city manager, Gross steadfastly supported having a library, museum, and cultural center.

Gross’s leadership to help rural Alaskans in the areas of education and local government started before Alaska became a state, and was significant through the early years of statehood when municipal governments were created where they had not existed.  She continued to work in the arenas of education and local government through Alaska’s early oil-boom years.  Gross travelled to many places—not only in Alaska but around the world—seeing how other rural communities flourished and learning about education programs in other countries.  Ever the educator, Gross mentored many individuals in rural Alaskan communities. in academic subjects as well as in management and administration and community involvement.  She was, however, not only a determined individual and activist.  Her friend and colleague Frances Rose said she was smart, curious, and fun to be around.  A life well-lived, Gross died in 2001.   The University of Alaska Board of Regents passed a resolution recognizing her accomplishments on behalf of adult education for the university and substantial contributions to Alaska on December 6, 2001.

Karleen (Alstead) Grummett

Photo of Karleen (Alstead) Grummett
Categories: 2020 Alumnae, Community Service, Education, Historic Preservation, Writing


Karleen (Alstead) Grummett is an excellent role model for women of all ages. As someone who has spent her life volunteering, advocating for causes and using her writing to effect change, she observes what needs to be done and sees that it gets done. From writing a book and meticulously fact checking every detail to hosting a beautifully set lunch for friends, Grummett can do it. Whatever project she’s involved in, there will be efficiency and order. Women appreciate her recognition of their skills, her tact and respect for their feelings and her gratitude for whatever collaboration is offered. They appreciate her calm assurance that all will work out. She has devoted herself to volunteering for worthy causes and to caring deeply for her family.

Grummett grew up with her sister, Margie, on the Gold Street hill side of Juneau, Alaska, in the 1940s. Her sister, Mary, was born at the end of that decade. Grummett’s Norwegian immigrant grandparents lived three blocks away where she spent many happy hours. The Alsteads valued hard work to provide for their family. Her father and grandfather fished halibut in an era when fishing was a year-long profession. Her mother was a transplant during the Depression from a tough farm life in Vale, Oregon. Alone much of the and her mother-in-law were essentially single parents who learned the resilience necessary to persevere in an isolated community during those years. 

Grummett is a product of such an upbringing, but it wasn’t all work and no play. Grummett said, “The wonderful story tellers in my family, who often peppered their expressions with a strong sense of humor, influenced every bit of my life and writing, for I didn’t have one mentor in my life, but a collection.” This included a fun-loving aunt who took them on rollicking rides to the beach to swim or the lake to ice skate, singing most of the way. And a great aunt cared for Grummett when she was ill and she can still hear her aunt’s soft giggle while telling a funny story. She also showed Grummett that no one should be above hard work by taking a job as a janitor after her husband died. 

As an adolescent, her seventh-grade teacher instilled in her a love for the written word, and it was while creating an eighth grade newsletter that she learned the power of those words. In high school she kept writing, now for the high school newspaper. Afterward, Grummett began college at Oregon State University in the 60s and returned to Juneau summers to work. Two of them were with the Alaska Marine Highway where she served one as a hostess aboard the M/V Malispina’s first season. Returning to Oregon, she interrupted college to substitute teach with her sister Margie in Washington. 

The following summer she married Roger Grummett. They’ve been together 56 years in Juneau, and Grummett calls him her secret editor, because when she needs to hear a piece of writing out loud, he’s her guy. She figured if he didn’t understand it, no one would. Grummett gloried in becoming a mom to John and Stacy and the ability to stay at home to raise them. During that time, she turned some of her energy to volunteering for such organizations as the Gray Ladies who brought books, treats and comfort to patients in St. Ann’s Hospital, and the March of Dimes where she coordinated clinics for visiting University of Washington physicians. In fact, throughout her life Grummett amassed a community network by continually volunteering and serving for community groups whether it was producing the first Juneau Lyric Opera grand opera, Carmen, writing about alternative health options, which she published in the state funded Alaska Holistic Health Associaton’s newsletter, advising the Chancellor’s University of Alaska Southeast Campus Council as a member and president, or helping to impact opinion on the Juneau Empire Editorial Board.  

After she returned from her long academic hiatus to attend college, this time at the University of Alaska Southeast, Grummett joined a transformative group in the 1970s as a board member, lead singer and public relations person for the St. Paul Singers which was directed by her friend Dixie Belcher. An ecumenical group, the singers promoted music with a message while touring throughout Alaska, and Grummett learned how music can effect change. She took that awareness and co-founded the Juneau Friends and Neighbors singers with Belcher where she coordinated the tour and publicity for traveling to Alaska communities in support of the Save the Capital campaign in 1982. 

Once while Grummett was complaining about something, Belcher told her, “You can change that.” Those proved prophetic words for Grummett. When she saw thick woodstove smoke inundating the Mendenhall Valley, she turned her anger and public communications skills into action joining two other women who also wanted to improve air quality. Along with a public health physician, the women made a presentation to the City and Borough of Juneau assembly, which resulted in the city requiring a secondary heat source, a program that was phased in over a few years. Now when an inversion occurs, the city provides public service announcements to alert residents. 

In 1984, Grummett completed her Bachelor of Arts in Public (Magna Cum Laude). While studying, one of her instructors, Joey Wauters, encouraged her to teach, eventually hiring her to learn on the job while she studied for her Master of Arts in Writing. Meanwhile, Grummett simultaneously continued freelance writing with assignments in public relations and for newspaper and magazine articles. Along the way, she received an award from the Alaska Press Women for Feature Writing. She also started her own writing and editing business, A Second Opinion and spent two years researching and writing Territorial Sportsmen 1945-1988, A Chronological History. A year later, she again collaborated with Belcher and publicized her Alaska Performing Artists for Peace’s trip to Russia.

In 1997, Grummett received her masters degree from Northeastern University. She said, “I decided I could be 56 with a masters or be 56 without one. I chose the former.” Grummett’s daughter, Stacy, said she learned from her mother’s example “that there is never an age when you stop achieving in life. She is authentic and has lived a full life of commitment to my dad and my brother and me.”

Grummett’s next writing project involved playing every golf course in Alaska with her husband and writing a book about it. She said her purpose was to finally get to see Kodiak, but the result was Golf Alaska! The Great Alaska Golf Guide in 2001. Other projects followed, including editing a history with Historian Bob DeArmond, Movie Man: The Life and Times of William David Gross 1879-1962 and documenting her family heritage with The Alsteads: From Berngarden to Juneau. As a member of P.E.O., a philanthropic group that awards scholarships and promotes continuing education for women, she wrote The Founding Sisters of Chapter G.

For Grummett, writing is a process of getting the words right, to get them to say what she means. She says, “It’s a lofty goal I don’t often reach, but it’s the trying that matters.” She finds writing a necessary isolation, but also wishes there were colleagues close by to discuss ideas. She learned a lot from the pressure of meeting deadlines and taking on a long project that she didn’t have a passion or curiosity for. Grummett said, “I spent two years mired in file cabinets and minutia writing about a subject that didn’t hold my interest.” She says it wasn’t until she was 40 that she heard validation from an editor that she had the ability to write. “I guess you could say I was a late bloomer,” she says with a laugh. “And I was 56 when I achieved my masters degree in writing,” she said. “That was 22 years ago. It’s never too late to follow your bliss.”

Grummett found her touchstone project a few years ago that required every bit of what she had acquired through her lifetime when she learned that her sister’s best friend, Mary Tanaka Abo, had been unjustly incarcerated during World War II. She consulted with local Historian Marie Darlin, who told her of Juneau’s war-time story involving classmates Walter Fukuyama and John Tanaka. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 sending all persons of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast to be incarcerated in 10 prison camps. This order affected 120,000 people, 200 of them from Alaska, including Native wives and children.

When John Tanaka, who was to be the valedictorian of the 1942 graduating class, left with his family before graduation, his classmates left an empty chair for him on the gym stage. Grummett, along with her sister, Margie Shackelford, saw an opportunity for Juneau to acknowledge the injustice that occurred in their town. They organized the Empty Chair Project Committee in 2011, which envisioned a Japanese American memorial, the first in Alaska. (

The funding campaign began in 2012 and ended in 2014 with generous community donations and a National Park Service Confinement Site grant to commission the sculptor, Peter Reiquam, to design a bronze memorial. It is a replica of a 40s folding wooden chair set atop planks resembling a gym floor and is located in Capital School Park. For the dedication, elderly survivors and their families returned to Juneau for a welcoming homecoming. 

As a result of their efforts, the Empty Chair Project has won the Alaska Historical Society’s Esther Bilman Certificate of Excellence and received an Alaska Legislature Citation in 2015 co-sponsored by state representative Sam Kito, Jr., III, whose father and grandfather were incarcerated, and by state senator Dennis Egan. The memorial was also recognized nationally with an Americans for the Arts Best in Public Arts award and given the Alaska Association of School Librarians Service Award in 2018.

To make sure Juneau’s World War II story was historically documented, Grummett wrote Quiet

Defiance: Alaska’s Empty Chair Story. Published in 2016, it includes historic photographs, interviews from primary sources and historical documents such as military lists with names of every person removed from their place of residence in Alaska. Grummett said, “Learning, researching and writing in collaboration with those who were incarcerated was by far and away the main highlight of my writing career.” Alice (Tanaka) Hikido, Abo’s sister, who often conferred with Grummett, said, “Karleen’s book not only lifted up the inspiring story of the Juneau community’s support during a period of wartime hysteria, she also recorded the history of the small immigrant Japanese community which would now be remembered.” Abo said, “Grummett’s book filled a large hole in Alaska’s history during that dark period. She wrote with a keen focus on social justice, family values, and pride in ancestry.”

The Empty Chair Project funds provided for the printing of 5,000 copies of Grummett’s book. It was accepted into the Juneau School District’s social studies curriculum and distributed to all Alaska schools, libraries, museums, historical societies and colleges. Additionally, it has been given to the Japanese consul in Washington D.C, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, and the Alaska Japanese American Citizen League. 

To reach a wider audience, the book is available from nonprofit bookstores of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum (Juneau, AK), the Alaska State Museum (Juneau AK), the Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, CA), the Japanese American Museum of San Jose (San Jose, CA) and the Minidoka Interpretive Center (Twin Falls, ID). Grummett is gratified that her book has reached beyond Juneau, Alaska. “I think it’s a cautionary tale that should never be forgotten, and it especially resonates in today’s climate of prejudice and injustice to immigrants and their incarceration along our border with Mexico.”

Nora Venes Guinn

Photo of Nora Venes Guinn
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Law


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
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Law




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.


Creating Alaska web site, University of Alaska

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

Sandra “Sandy” (Gross) Harper

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


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

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 Lit Site Alaska$ Anchorage Press$

Lorene Harrison

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


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
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Politics


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.

Hazel Heath

Photo of Hazel Heath
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Business, Politics


Hazel Heath will long be remembered as the founder of the Pratt Museum, the first woman president of the Alaska Municipal League, and, with her husband Ken, the first owners of Alaska Wild Berry Products, which began in Homer, Alaska. They also owned a café, and an art shop and gallery in Homer. She was committed to Alaska politics and served many years as the Mayor of Homer. She was a National Republican delegate many times, and was a member of numerous federal, state and local boards and commissions, including the University of Alaska, local and state chambers of commerce, local and state museum boards, and state and national senior citizens advisory boards. In 1977, she received the Homer Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award and in 1989 Meritorious Service Award from the University of Alaska.

Hazel’s pioneering role in local and state government paved the way for many other women to get involved in politics. She possessed an acute doggedness when undertaking something that would make life in Homer and Alaska better for herself and others.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Juanita Lou (Lauesen) Helms

Photo of Juanita Lou (Lauesen) Helms
Categories: 2016 Alumnae, Leadership, Politics


Juanita Lou (Lauesen) Helms arrived in Alaska with her family in 1951, living most her life in Interior Alaska, including a cherished three years in the Denali National Park. Together with her devoted husband of 45-years, Orville “Sam” Helms, she raised four children in Fairbanks.

Helms started her professional career as an in-court clerk for Superior Court Judge Jay Rabinowitz, and then moved to administrative work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As Helms’ family grew, her focus shifted to the management of family rental properties, volunteer projects with the Girl Scouts and parent-teacher groups, and serving as an active advocate for neighborhood planning and land use issues. She volunteered on political campaigns to champion, promote, and support policies that impacted families.

In 1980, Helms began her political career as an elected, at-large member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. She ran successfully for a second term, serving five-years, including a year as Presiding Officer of the Assembly.

In 1985, distressed by the state of Fairbanks North Star Borough affairs, she ran for borough mayor. In what the media dubbed a “stunning upset” Helms unseated a two-term incumbent to gain the borough’s top spot.

After a successful re-election bid, winning over 60% of the vote, Helms served another three-year term as mayor. Helms stewarded the borough through difficult financial times, while accomplishing the construction of a community convention center, improving air quality, creating an Office of Economic Development, and establishing sister-city relationships with Japan and the Soviet Far East. She was known for her open-door policy, valuing and respecting all input from supporters and critics alike.

Helms was a long-time friend and strong supporter of interregional and international relations between Alaska and the Sakha Republic, and between the United States and Russia. Her diplomatic efforts led to the Treaty of Friendly Relations between the cities of Fairbanks and Yakutsk, signed 20 years ago, at a time when democratization was just starting to take hold in the USSR.

As the first woman to be elected as borough mayor, and through numerous organized efforts to mentor, educate, inspire, and bring women together through professional workshops and conferences, both internationally and locally, Helms served as a powerful leader and role model to generations of women in Fairbanks and beyond.

Upon her death in 2009, many community members reflected on her contributions, management, and leadership. A colleague, Melissa Chapin said, “She was so open-minded and so accepting, and just carried a practical, down to Earth, realistic, pragmatic approach to everything,” Dermot Cole wrote in a Column in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, “Two reasons for Juanita’s success in politics are that she knew how to be tough and how to get along with people. People enjoyed being around her, and Juanita liked to laugh.”

Last September, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly honored Helms for her 11 years of trusted leadership with a resolution to name the borough administrative center after her. The center, located in downtown Fairbanks along the Chena River, is now labeled the Juanita Helms Administration Center. Over the years, she received recognition and accolades from numerous entities, organizations and foreign officials, for her diplomatic efforts in developing and supporting sister-city relationships. To Helms’ tribute, after objectively serving in a non-partisan capacity for most of her career, the Alaska Democratic Party honored her posthumously with the Queen Bess Award for selflessly giving her time and energy to promote democratic principles.

At the end of her life, Juanita took the most comfort from the company of her grandchildren who she considered her life’s joy. Through them, she has helped prepare a new generation to carry on her life of service.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Abigale “Abbe” (Ryan) Hensley

Photo of Abigale “Abbe” (Ryan) Hensley
Categories: 2019 Alumnae, Education


Abbe Hensley has been a positive and impactful force for improving children’s early literacy and learning in Alaska and nationally.  Hensley was born in Anchorage in 1945.  Her mother, Gayle Strutz, was a second generation Alaskan – born here after her parents arrived in Alaska in the early 1900’s.  Hensley’s father, James Ryan, was a Californian and Hensley would grow up moving frequently between the two states.  She made her first trip down the Alcan at the age of 1 1/2 and was told that their car was one of the first private vehicles to travel over the Alcan!  Hensley’s father was from a large Connecticut family that had settled in Oroville, California in the late 30’s and when Hensley and her parents traveled down the Alcan they headed for Oroville.  Her father would then travel back and forth between California and Alaska to work construction and in canneries for a number of years.  Her Anchorage schooling included stints at Chugach, North Star and Denali.  High School years were spent in Oroville and Sacramento. With a significant amount of moving around during her school years, friends were difficult to make.  Hensley’s younger sister and her cousins in Alaska and California were important connections.

Hensley was scholarly and diligent in school and was named a semi-finalist in the Merit Scholarship Program.  She enrolled in Mills College as a History Major.  After graduation she returned to Alaska and felt like she had truly “Come Home!”.  Her lifelong passion for advocating for children and families was about to begin.

From 1972 to 1974 Hensley worked for the Tanana Chiefs Conference and developed and implemented a needs assessment project for early childhood programs in interior Alaska.  As the coordinator of the Early Childhood Project Hensley developed skills that would serve her for many years and create a career that spanned 50 years of both community and work related service to young children and families.

Hensley married and moved to Anchorage in the mid-70’s, started her family and immersed herself in childbirth education.   She regularly taught childbirth education classes in Anchorage between 1976 and 1986 and also in Kotzebue from 1986 to 1989.  She designed and implemented the first program for pregnant teenagers in Kotzebue and was a trainer for childbirth educators statewide …. designing, presenting and implementing workshops and continually upgrading the program which was eventually offered for credit through the University of Alaska.  She also served on the Alaska State Medical Board during this time.

Hensley was an early leader in the Alaska PTA. She served as the elected President from 1989 to 1993.  As PTA President she designed, implemented and evaluated an innovative model for two statewide parent involvement conferences which were supported by the Governor’s Office.  She organized an Alaskan summit on parent involvement in children’s education that brought together leaders from statewide groups and organizations.  Hensley also served as National PTA Vice President for Leadership and felt that PTA needed to make changes in order to attract parents working outside the home to serve in leadership positions.  She led strategic efforts to promote more professional training, adopting leadership materials designed for businesses and re-working them for PTA training curricula.  The goal was to provide PTA leaders (mostly women) with training and education that they could use both in their PTA work and on the job.  Her expertise in and leadership of PTA’s in Alaska and nationally was recognized and she served on the Alaska State Board of Education and also served as the Board Chair.

Hensley’s work as Director of Education and Outreach with public station KAKM in the 1990’s created an unprecedented collaboration among the four Alaskan public television stations.  In 1995, KAKM became one of the first Ready To Learn stations nationally and Hensley implemented the project in Anchorage, Mat-Su and on the Kenai Peninsula.  In 2001 she moved into the national position of Director of Outreach Services/Ready To Learn for Public Broadcasting.  In this national PBS position she administered the outreach component of a five year, $100 million US Department of Education funded project that worked towards improving the early literacy and school readiness of young children.

Hensley’s family had grown to 4 children over the years and she and her husband, Willie Hensley, returned to Alaska in 2006.  Abbe as the founding Executive Director of Best Beginnings, a statewide nonprofit that mobilizes people and resources to ensure all Alaskan children begin school ready to succeed. In 2018, an amazing 112 Alaska communities – more than 18,000 children – participated in the Imagination Library (Dolly Parton’s monthly free book program for children age birth to 5 years of age) under the Best Beginnings umbrella.  Nationally, the Alaska program is seen as a model for the Dollywood Foundation.  The 2 millionth book was placed in a child’s hand in Alaska in 2018.  As state support dropped off for the program, Hensley marshaled impressive private support and retooled the entire nonprofit so that they could continue to provide books to young Alaskans.  She created an impressive yearly fundraiser,  The First Ladie’s Tea for Best Beginnings.  This Sunday afternoon event raises between $30,000 and $40,000 yearly and has motivated current and former Alaskan first ladies to support and promote early childhood education and reading opportunities.

The creation, growing and maintaining of Best Beginnings can be seen as Hensley’s crowning achievement in a professional life devoted to the education and support of young children and their families.  Her life’s work has been as an advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves – the youngest among us.  She has sought to empower parents and children alike throughout her long career and has been an exemplary role model as a wife, mother, grandmother, civic leader and executive.  She and her husband Willie and their 5 children have benefited from her commitment – as has the rest of our population.  She has been absolutely committed to growing the next generation of leaders, both nationally and in Alaska.

Among the many honors and awards that Hensley has received are:

The Shining Lights Award (with Willie Hensley) from Congregation Beth Shalom, 2016

Anchorage ATHENA  Society inductee, 2014

Little Red Wagon Advocacy Award, Alaska Association for the Education of Young Children, 2012

Service Award, Arlington Community Action Program (Virginia), 2000

Honorary Life Member of the National PTA and 17 state PTA’s

Legislative Citation, Alaska State Legislature, 1993

Women of Achievement, Anchorage YWCA, 1990

Friend of Education, Northwest Arctic Education Association, 1987

Hensley has chosen to concentrate her life’s work in an area that completely alters people’s lives – improving the early years of our youngest citizens.  Her work and her volunteer activities have all endeavored to increase learning, safety and resources for those who can’t take care of themselves and who need advocates the most.  In doing so she has lifted up and made visible these concerns to all men and women of our state and has served as a role model for all of us to learn from!


Resume of Abigale (Ryan) Hensley

Interview with Abigale (Ryan) Hensley

Best Beginnings website

Nomination submitted by Jo Michalski

Nomination submitted by Barbara Brown

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Mildred Robinson Hermann

Photo of Mildred Robinson Hermann
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Education, Law, Public Service


Mildred R. Hermann 


Mildred Hermann was a lawyer, an articulate spokesperson on statehood for Alaska, a forceful delegate of the Alaska Constitutional Convention, a wife and mother and a life long advocate for research and treatment of tuberculosis, which was so prevalent in Alaska. She was born in Indiana, taught school for 9 years and came to Juneau, Alaska in 1919, where she began her study of the law with James Wickersham. She was admitted to the AK bar in 1934 and was the first woman to practice law in Juneau. She was a defense attorney for poor clients. From 1949-59 she served as Secretary of the Alaska Statehood Commission, the official organization responsible for organizing statewide support for Alaska’s admittance into the Union. At the Constitutional Convention Mildred was elected the Temporary President on the first day of the convention and was chosen as the delegate to close of the convention, in honor of her long service on behalf of statehood. Mildred was an imposing woman and was most comfortable with a rolling pin in her hands, which she kept on her desk to accentuate her points. The convention lasted 75 days and with the wave of her rolling pin, Mildred reminded her colleagues daily of the volume of work to be accomplished to meet the schedule. After the convention she became a reporter for the Anchorage Times covering the state legislature and the new state government she had helped to launch.

She was an active member of the Alaskan Federation of Women’s Clubs, the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, the National Association of Women Lawyers, the National Association of Press Women, the Soroptimist Club, Republican Women’s Association and served on the board of the Alaska Tuberculosis Society for 18 years.


Creating Alaska web site, University of Alaska

 Kristin Boraas, “Mildred Robinson Hermann: Queen Mother of the Alaskan Statehood”

Women in the Legal Profession, for Professor Barbara Babcock, Fall 2000

Diddy R. M. (Seyd) Hitchins Ph.D. MBE

Photo of Diddy R. M. (Seyd) Hitchins Ph.D. MBE
Categories: 2013 Alumnae, Education, International Relations, Political Science


As a founding professor of Political Science/International Studies at University of Alaska Anchorage, Diddy Hitchins brought the world into classrooms in Anchorage. She informed and challenged students to think outside of the U.S.A., about different social, economic and political influences on world affairs. She taught students how to analyze and understand the way different political systems worked and interacted so that students could perform political risk analysis. She compelled students to be critical thinkers and precise writers and to see the U.S. within a global framework, particularly encouraging their analysis of U.S. foreign policy. Hitchins has mentored and inspired generations of students to read, consider, debate and understand why the nation-states of the world have the political systems, international relations and foreign policies that they have. She has taught students not only to understand but also how to evaluate these situations in order to be able to advise policymakers in today’s world. She required them to adopt the interests and articulate the points of view of the countries they represented in the Model United Nations program and to think globally about the worldwide process of governance.

Hitchins designed the Political Science curriculum at UAA and was responsible for teaching Comparative Politics, International Relations, International Law and Organizations, and U.S. Foreign Policy. She also led the way in developing the multi-disciplinary and team-taught Canadian Studies Program and obtained financial support from the governments of Canada and Quebec to launch the effort in Alaska. The UAA program was a founding member of the Pacific NorthWest Canadian Studies Consortium, which developed and offered opportunities for faculty development in British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon.

As the Cold War receded and opportunities for Alaskans to interact with Russians from the Far East opened up, Hitchins provided briefings on the Russian political system at the request of the governor and the Legislature for delegations going to visit the Russian Far East, and was a member of UAA’s first official delegation to the Russian Far East in 1989. Building on the success of the Canadian Studies Program, she then served as the founding director of UAA’s International North Pacific Studies Program, which covered the North Pacific Region from Hong Kong to Seattle and offered UAA students the opportunity to study China, the Koreas, Japan, the Russian Far East and Western Canada. To develop faculty capacity for this program, Hitchins obtained Fulbright Hays funding for faculty development and student travel in the Russian Far East. Following the development of these programs, much of Hitchins’ research and publications focused on developments in the Arctic with emphasis on the significant role of indigenous peoples in the Arctic and in Alaska.

One of her unique curriculum efforts was the establishment of the Model United Nations Program,which brings high-school students from around the state to participate alongside university students from UAA, University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast in an annual authentic simulation of the United Nations. This program focuses each year on a topic of vital interest to Alaskans and Alaska youth. For two decades this program has initiated high-school students from across the state into the world of international studies

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Beverly “Kikikaaq” Hoffman

Photo of Beverly “Kikikaaq” Hoffman
Categories: 2019 Alumnae, Advocacy, Community Activism


Beverly Hoffman of Bethel was born in 1951 into a large family of Yup’ik and European descent. Hoffman graduated in 1969 from Dimond High School in Anchorage. After attending a Florida college and living in San Francisco, she moved home in 1975. 

Along the Kuskokwim River, there is a long history of death by drowning. Hoffman is a founder of the Y-K Delta Lifesavers, which began a campaign for a pool in the 1980s to teach people to swim and to provide healthy recreational and fitness outlets. The $24 million facility opened in 2014. Hoffman continues to raise funds for an endowment supporting access, so all people can use the pool, regardless of economics.

Hoffman was an early organizer of the Kuskokwim 300, the world’s premier mid-distance sled dog race. She managed the event for several years and raced for 40 years in K300 and village-sponsored dog races.

Hoffman fights tirelessly to protect the Kuskokwim River and its salmon for future generations. She served as chair of the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group, the regional voice for salmon issues. 

As an owner of Kuskokwim Wilderness Adventures, Huffman is the first woman on the Kuskokwim with her six passenger Coast Guard license. She welcomes and guides visitors to the region, sharing local history and traditional knowledge. 

Hoffman received the Bill Bivens Award from Bethel’s Chamber of Commerce, the Yukegtaaq award from Tundra Women’s Coalition, and the luminary “Community Spirit” award from the Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation.  She is a past Bethel City Council member.  

A community activist, Hoffman continues advocating for the region, protecting fish habit and the environment, volunteering for public radio and the K300, and pursuing a community gym. 

She and her husband John McDonald have two grown children, son Colin McDonald and daughter Casey McDonald.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Shirley Holloway, Ph.D.

Photo of Shirley Holloway, Ph.D.
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Education


Shirley Holloway is best known for establishing the Quality Schools Initiative, calling for high expectations for all students in Alaska and proving that all students, no matter their social, economic or ethnic background, can be academically successful. Holloway has been recognized as a woman breaking the glass ceiling to become one of the first female superintendents (North Slope Borough School District), the first female National finalist for Superintendent of the Year, and the first female Commissioner of Education in Alaska.

Shirley holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Gonzaga University, has published and presented numerous papers, and served on many boards and commissions. In 2005, she founded the Avant-Garde Learning Foundation, a non-profit foundation that helps communities, families and schools prepare young people for bright, successful futures. She has actively reached out to girls and women to help them, through mentoring and support, to achieve their desired goals. Today, many educational leaders in Alaska and Outside attribute their success to her inspiration and effective influence. Her guiding philosophy is Children Come First.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Lorrie Louise (Angelo) Horning

Photo of Lorrie Louise (Angelo) Horning
Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Community Arts, Community Service


Lorrie Horning is best known as the founder of Alaska Junior Theater (1981), a private, non-profit organization presenting professional theater arts from around the word to young audiences and families in Anchorage and around the state. It was started at Horning’s kitchen table as a grassroots effort and three years later was recognized with an award by the Children’s Theater of America. It continues to thrive serving an audience of nearly a million parents and students over time.

The Horning family lived in Seattle for about ten years and during that time participated in the Seattle Junior Programs, one of them a theater program that the entire family could attend and enjoy. Horning served on the board for two years and is where the Alaska Junior Theater idea came from.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Washington, the oldest of four children. She and her future husband attended St. Joseph elementary school. Then, she went on to attend Providence Academy in Vancouver, a Catholic girls high school where she was the Sodality President. She continued her leadership at Marylhurst University in Oregon serving first as the student body treasurer and then student body president. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1964 and some twenty years later received a Master’s of Arts in Education from Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. She taught elementary education in Bellevue, Washington (1964-67) and again (1969-71) in Seattle, Washington.

Many people talk about marrying their high school sweetheart. Lorrie and Morris Horning’s story has a much longer time frame. They have known one another since they were 10-year-old neighbors, attended the same elementary school but did separate after the eight grade. Each attending their own boys and girls’ Catholic high schools. They went to separate colleges and married each other (June 26, 1965) a year after graduating. They have two children, Kevin, born in New York City, 1967, while Morris completed a medical internship at Montefiore Hospital and Shawn was born (1971) in San Francisco while his father served in the U.S. Army.

While living in Seattle, a medical school friend of Morris’s offered a practice position in Anchorage, saying there was plenty of opportunity and a great place to raise their children. They decided they would have another adventure and planned to stay for two years.

Before coming from Seattle to Alaska in1980 they went on a year’s sabbatical traveling and living in Europe. The adventure took them and their sons to 13 countries with a four-month residence in Wales. Several of the months included the parents of both Lorrie and Morris traveling with them, all eight in two camper vans. During this time the boys were home schooled with a brief time attending school in Wales.

After arriving in Anchorage, Horning missed the presentation of theater arts for children, so she and five friends who were also parents formed the Alaska Junior Theater. They wanted to provide an atmosphere for stimulating and nurturing children’s creativity and imagination and to provide entertainment, fun, laughter, empathy, wonder, the formation of new attitudes and the development of future adult audiences. During the first five years, continuing to operate from her kitchen, Horning served as executive director/president, and the board volunteered for everything from fund raising to contacting and scheduling teachers for school time shows to counting out the 10,000 flyers that Alyeska Pipeline printed for free into bundles and delivering them to schools to be sent home with the students and much more. She and her husband continue to serve as fund raisers, consultants, and at times help with the school time performances.

Horning has created other, non-theater related entities as well. While serving as Anchorage Medical Auxiliary President, she developed and organized an infant car seat loaner program, PECABU (Protect Every Child And Buckle Up) (1984). This program operated out of Providence Hospital and Alaska Humana Hospital, making infant seat restraints readily and inexpensively available for newborns to new parents, military parents, those new to Anchorage as well as new grandparents with visiting grandchildren. The program was awarded first place by The National Safety Council, Child Safety Division six months after it started. It also received commendations from Mayor Tony Knowles and US Senator Ted Stevens and the Alaska Highway Safety Planning Agency. Horning received an award from the US Health and Human Services, NW Division for her work in developing the program and for her leadership with the Child Passenger Safety Law Task Force. In Alaska Medicine magazine, Volume 26, 1984, page 77, published an article written by Horning entitled “Infant Seats Can Save Lives Buckle Up Save a Life.”

Another program Horning developed was The Wish List 1989, a 40-page booklet containing the wishes and specific needs of over 70 Anchorage non-profit organizations. The Anchorage Daily News printed each organizations’ list. It continued to be published for 13 years. She received the Anchorage Association of Volunteer Administrators Volunteer Award for this project. The Wish List was recognized by the National American Medical Association Alliance.

During a time long before cell phones, Horning created a Student Emergency Wallet Card in 1993, listing emergency and call for help numbers. Working with the Anchorage School District the cards were distributed to 11 junior and senior high schools in Anchorage.

Horning has spread her community activities across many organizations including serving as treasurer of Lake Otis Elementary School; member of the boards of directors of Anchorage Community Schools and Catholic Social Services; member of the Municipality of Anchorage Arts Advisory Commission; treasurer for Saturday Night in the Stacks, Friends of the Library; President, Anchorage Medical Auxiliary and Alliance (five years); President, Alaska State Medical Auxiliary; member of the Clare House Advisory Board and newsletter editor. She and her husband have been volunteers and team leaders on 13 trips building and teaching English with Habitat for Humanity, Global Volunteers and Global Citizen’s Network to Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, Vietnam, Mexico, Cook Islands, Italy, Ireland, including another team in Mexico building homes with Jimmy Carter. They also enjoyed meeting the Carters in Plains, Georgia.

The awards she has received are many and include: Alaska First Lady Volunteer Awards, (1982-84 and1985); Distinguished Volunteer Award, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Pacific NW Division, (1984); Clare House Newsletter Editor Award of Excellence from Public Relations Society of America (1992); Alaska Women of Achievement (1990); Anchorage Association for Volunteer Administrators Community Service Award for The Wish List book (1992); and with her husband, Hospice, Heroes of Healthcare National/Global Community Service Award (2003).

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Joerene Savikko Hout

Photo of Joerene Savikko Hout
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Advocacy, Education, Health Care


Born in Juneau to parents who were teachers in the winter and fished commercially in the summer, Joerene Savikko Hout’s elementary and high school years were spent in Ketchikan. When her parents were away fishing, she lived with Anna Rosenblad in the Tsimshian Indian Village. Anna, a widowed mother with seven children was instrumental in Joerene’s choice of profession. As a young girl, she observed the difference in health care and social acceptance. Three of the Rosenblad children were congenitally deaf and four had no physical disability. Some were allowed to attend the Ketchikan public schools and others had to attend the Indian school.

Achieving her B.S. in Nursing from the University of Washington in 1957, Joerene had interned at Firland’s Sanitarium in Seattle, a hospital for Native tuberculosis and special needs patients. Joerene discovered young patients who had no idea where their parents were and found they were often placed in foster homes rather than returned to their villages because of lost records and lack of communication in the health system.

Becoming a public health nurse, Joerene was determined to be a catalyst for change in how Native people were treated in the public health system. When she discovered that many children were taken from their village homes and transported to Anchorage or Seattle for medical care by the public health service without consent forms or informing the parents of the children’s location and condition, she was determined to be the liaison to assure and secure travel rights for one parent to accompany the child. Joerene became an advocate to reconnect children with parents.

Returning to Juneau in 1957, Joerene became a school nurse for Juneau-Douglas School District. As a public health nurse at Fairbanks Health Center (1961-1963), she volunteered to teach evening pre-natal classes to couples expecting their first child, and taught home care for families with a disabled family member. As the first itinerant public health nurse in Bethel (1963-1976), she founded the Bethel Prematernal Home to dramatically reduce the death rate of mothers and children in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. In 1963, there were two maternal deaths each month. After the Prematernal Home was established, there were no deaths from childbirth in 10 years. In the Prematernal Home expectant mothers could stay prior to their children’s births – whether or not they had money – and receive medical care and learn to care for their babies.

Joerene brought creative educational programs to Alaska to assist employers in understanding needs, qualifications and modifying techniques to help men and women with disabilities do their jobs well. She chaired the Governor’s Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities under both Gov. Hammond and Gov. Sheffield. Between 1982 and 1984, she was secretary and chairman of the National Conference of Governors Committees on Employment of the Handicapped as well as serving on the President’s Committee in planning and the executive board.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Frances Howard

Photo of Frances Howard
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Law Enforcement


Frances Howard worked for the Department of Public Safety as Clerk-Dispatcher in 1967. She was then given a special commission to administer drivers tests because no commissioned trooper was available. Problem was, she was still being paid a clerk’s salary. In 1969, Alaska ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, and friends encouraged Frances to apply for a position as an Alaska State Trooper. She was accepted and became the first female Alaska State Trooper and the first unrestricted female state officer in the United States. The newspapers reported the event, adding that the largest challenge for the state was coming up with a proper uniform for her.

Equality was not entirely won with her appointment and consequent pay raise. When she married a fellow trooper, John Elmore, she was forced to resign because of stringent nepotism rules in the department.