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S. Anne Newell

Photo of S. Anne Newell
Categories: 2013 Alumnae, Human Rights, Public Safety


Anne Newell spent 23 years as an Anchorage police officer and detective. At 27 she was the first female police officer at the Anchorage Police Department with powers of arrest.

When she arrived in September 1973 she applied to APD with an associate degree in Science in Law Enforcement and with some police experience. Newell had no idea how difficult the job would be and how much time would pass before she would be as an employed APD officer. At the end of the first interview, she said: “The response was that ‘we do not employ women to be police officers.” Newell filed her lawsuit with the State Human Rights Commission against APD and the City of Anchorage.

She sued to provide women the opportunity to be police officers at APD so they could show they could do the job. The suit took more than two years to settle; in the interim Newell became a volunteer auxiliary police officer, working with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. At the same time she was working full time at East High school, and with her husband raised six children.

Her suit was settled in November, 1975, so she was able to attend a Police Academy and become a sworn officer.  While on the police force she endured the rude, vulgar and shortsighted behavior from some of her male counterparts. Her success as a police officer made it easier for other women to become sworn officers.

In 1976 she started as a patrol officer and four years later was transferred to APD’s Public Relations Section, where she did the traffic report, “Air Watch,” with KIMO television and Wilber’s Aircraft. In 1983, she went to Detectives and Burglary Section and subsequently moved into the new statewide Exploitation/Crimes Against Children Unit, where she worked closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She devoted 12 years to the Crimes Against Children Unit until she retired after 20+ years of service. She received the Alaska Women in Police award of Achievement in 1996, for successfully arresting sex offenders who were prosecuted and imprisoned.

Newell was born in California, was raised in many states and lived with relatives, friends of her mother’s, and in foster homes – all of which provided her with empathy for children in abusive homes. A significant influence about family life was Newell’s Sicilian mother-in-law, Clementine Audino, who lived with Ann, her husband and her seven children for many summers while Newell and her husband worked. Many of their children were foster children and were the beneficiaries of Audino’s consistent care and affection.

Newell also served as a lobbyist for the Anchorage Peace Officers Association, and therefore, traveled to Juneau and Washington, D.C., discussing proposed legislation. After Newell retired, she was a candidate in 1996 for the Alaska House of Representatives, where she won her primary election, but lost in the general.
During her career she volunteered for political campaigns as well as for KAKM/KSKA, public television and radio stations. In 1992 she joined Zonta International, becoming a volunteer tutor/teacher at the Anchorage Literacy Project. She continues there to this day as a board member and an active volunteer tutor. She creates a fun environment for her literacy students, where laughter is often heard from her classroom.

Newell has worked at many jobs but being a police officer was the most rewarding. However, she was pleased to have a chapter she wrote be accepted for publication in the 4th volume of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. She has also been a storyteller with the Storytellers’ Guild of Anchorage.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


  • 1994 Municipal Employee of the Year nomination, because of her efforts to arrest and prosecute sex offenders. Newell was nominated by citizens who went through Standing Together Against Rape counseling.
  • 1996 Alaska Women in Police award of Achievement for successfully arresting sex offenders who were prosecuted and imprisoned.
  • 2010 Golden Heart Volunteer Service Award, Outstanding Community Service
  • Volunteerism in Alaska
  • KAKM/ KSKA, 25years
  • Political Campaigns
  • Kindergarten Classroom w/ Kelly Carpenter nine years
  • HOBY Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation, 1984-1994
  • Z-Club (Zonta), 1992-1995
  • Basically Bach Board, three years
  • Anchorage Literacy Project 1993-2006, 2009-2013 tutor/teacher, board
  • Anchorage Conflict Resolution Board, three years
  • Anchorage Soil and Water Conservation District Board and citizen member 2003-2005


  • Alaska Peace Officer Assn. Life member
  • Toastmistress International (International Training in Communications) Life member
  • Bartlett Democratic Club member many years
  • Alaska Women’s Political Caucus member many years
  • Zonta International Club of Anchorage 20 years
  • Anchorage Genealogical Society
  • Another first: First female officer to retire from APD with 20+ years of service.

Helen Nienhueser

Photo of Helen Nienhueser
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Environmentalism


Helen was raised in Pennsylvania, received a BA degree from Brown University (Pembroke College) in 1957 and a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 1985. Helen first visited Alaska in the summer of 1957 for a summer job at the Fairbanks Girl Scout camp and moved permanently to Alaska in 1959, homesteading in the far reaches of Eagle River. She has been a significant player over the past fifty years in shaping Alaska. Helen’s contributions have been many and varied, as a community activist, professional planner, author and conservationist.

In 1970, she organized a successful state-wide grassroots movement to reform Alaska’s abortion law, making Alaska the third state in the country (and three years before Roe v. Wade) to permit a woman to choose abortion in consultation with her doctor. In 1971 Helen helped establish the Alaska Center for the Environment and served as volunteer staff and as a board member for nine years. As a professional planner at the Department of Natural Resources from 1976-1994, Helen developed procedures for state land selections and land use planning processes that attempt to balance development and conservation with genuine public input. At the Juneau women’s conference in 1996, Helen initiated the discussion that led to the formation of the Alaska Women’s Network. She has served as a trustee of the Alaska Conservation Foundation for thirteen years, including chair in 2007 and currently serves today. From 1996-2003, Helen chaired the Governor’s TRAAK Board which led to better land and trail management throughout the state. On the municipal level, she served for six years on the Parks and Recreation Commission and was involved in any number of conservation and recreational issues surrounding parks in Anchorage. In 1983, as a community activist and conservationist, Helen started advocating for a park in Midtown. It is due to her persistence and committed leadership over the next twenty-five years that the Cuddy Family Midtown Park became a reality and officially opened in August 2008. She currently serves on the boards of Common Ground and Alaska Geographic.

Helen is undoubtedly best known to tourists and Alaskans alike as the co-author of the pioneering hiking book 55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska. This “bible” has enabled generations of Alaskans and visitors to experience the wonders of the natural world in Alaska. Initially published in 1972 and now in its fifth edition, this work has set the standard for excellence and accuracy in Alaska hiking guides.

Helen has received numerous awards over the years in recognition of her many accomplishments. She has been honored by the Governor, Legislature, the Department of Natural Resources, Mayor, Municipality of Anchorage, as a YWCA Woman of Achievement and is an honorary lifetime member of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska.

Helen is a leader with ideas, who skillfully chairs meetings, works hard, and gets people working together. Her commitment to founding and then doing the hard work of our environmental, park and community organizations has made Alaska’s lands, trails and communities all better places.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Katherine Nordale

Photo of Katherine Nordale
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Politics


Katherine was a teacher and a bank teller before she served as one of the original Constitutional Convention Delegates. Katherine served as the first Regional Election Supervisor for the Southeast, the United States Collector of Customs from 1951-1953, and the Juneau Postmaster from 1964-1971.

Ruth Elin Hall Ost

Photo of Ruth Elin Hall Ost
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Community Activism, Missionary, Religion


An American-born daughter of Swedish immigrants, Ruth Elin Hall grew up in the Midwest. She married the Reverend Ludvig Evald Ost July 18, 1910, in Ashland, Wis., and the newlyweds arrived in Nome August 1st to work as missionaries for the Swedish Covenant Church.

From Nome, the Osts traveled to Golovin to run the Swedish Covenant Mission and Children’s Home. Three years later, a major storm destroyed most of the mission station and they relocated and helped found the town of Elim. With her husband’s help, Ruth persisted in keeping Elim quarantined from the outside world to prevent the deadly influenza from infecting the people of Elim in 1918.

During her years in Northwest Alaska (Golovin, Unalakleet, White Mountain, Council and Nome), Ruth ably assisted her husband in running and managing missions and children’s homes. She was a gifted musician who taught music, instruments and voice to many of the children in the children’s homes and the villages. She was a Sunday school director, a storekeeper, and a postmistress while raising her own eight children and one adopted daughter. Ruth provided midwifery services and lost only one baby, a remarkable record considering the many times she was the only medical person available.

Ruth served as correspondent and bookkeeper for the mission, and conducted a correspondence school for the Sunday school and Bible school teachers in the entire Alaska district for the Covenant Church. Tay Thomas wrote in Cry in the Wilderness: “Mrs. Ost was a remarkable woman who was credited with much of the success of the Covenant Church Mission in Northwest Alaska.” From an early age, Ruth had crippling arthritis. Upon her death, the executive secretary of the Covenant World Missions wrote, “Her wheelchair was an altar where those who came found salvation, restoration, healing and comfort.”

She and her husband owned and operated several businesses, including a reindeer herd and gold mine. They had a store and river-freighting and transportation service on the Niukluk River.

Ruth helped establish sound educational facilities and good health-care practices in regions of Alaska that had none. Her efforts to get territorial schools opened in rural Alaska communities have had lasting benefits for generations of Alaskans.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Tennys Thornton (Bowers) Owens

Photo of Tennys Thornton (Bowers) Owens
Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Art, Business


“Tennys Owens is not an artist herself, but if you’ve been in Anchorage, Alaska for any length of time you’ve seen her work,” said John Tracy in a tribute to her on KTVA Reality Check when she closed her “love child,” the art gallery Artique Ltd. on December 15, 2016. “She always has loved art, but her real passion is the challenge of marketing it, making a living for her artists, her employees and herself, and learning to move quickly to ride Anchorage’s booms and busts,” according to Kim Fararo in an Anchorage Daily News article.

Owens was born in the small, coastal town of Washington, North Carolina. Since she had always been interested in fashion design, her first choice for college was a college in New York City. However her parents “would hear nothing of the sort,” so like many women of that era, she elected to stay closer to home. She attended St Mary’s College in Raleigh, N.C. and the University of North Carolina graduating with a BS degree in education.

During her third year in college she began dating a local boy who was in his senior year at the Air Force Academy by the name of Tom Owens Jr. On December 19, 1961 they were married in a formal evening wedding in their home town of Washington, N.C. with a memorable reception at the home of the Bowers grandparents. Tom went back to his tour of Duty at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio while Tennys stayed in North Carolina to finish college and then on to life as an Air Force wife. From Ohio they moved to Durham, N.C. for Tom to enter law school at Duke University (taking a temporary leave of absence from the Air Force) while Tennys took a job as a third grade teacher with the Durham County school system. Thomas Preston Owens, III was born on April 1, 1965 at Duke University hospital.

In 1966, the couple moved back to Wright Patterson AFB. In 1967, they were transferred to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska with Tom working in the JAG division of the Air Force. Tennys was inspired to put her three years of teaching experience to work again a couple of years later and helped develop and teach in a nursery school on the air force base with young “Tommy” as one of the attendees. In 1969 their second son, Christopher Tayloe Owens was born at Elmendorf.

In 1970, Owens and friend artist, Jean Shadrach, realized the huge void of art galleries in Anchorage. A few small businesses took some art on consignment such as Howard’s Gun Shop and a paint store named The Color Center. However, the absence of a traditional gallery, representing artists on a consignment basis and working for artists as a marketing agent, was woefully absent. Owens and Shadrach set about changing that equation by contacting art professors and artists attending the University of Alaska as well as other artists of note, while leaving the gallery door open for unknown talent. In 1971, Alaska was teeming with new people including new artists. Artique Ltd. Alaska’s first “real” art gallery quickly became the art business center in the oil boom era of the Alaska frontier.

The small 950 square foot gallery, located downtown in the Central Building on G Street, was a huge success. The gallery was warm and inviting and customers were encouraged to make art a part of their life in one way or another. The gallery made efforts to increase public awareness about the creation of different art forms, visited numerous organizations and sponsored artists to throw pots in the gallery windows as well as other art demonstrations to promote public interest. Owens’ motto was that “no one should be intimidated or over whelmed by an art gallery.” She and her partner were also determined to make it possible for artists to live and work in Alaska.

As oil boomed in Alaska, so did the art community and major artists such as the famous Fred Machetanz and Byron Birdsall requested representation that lasted for over 35 years. The gallery continually added very talented regional painters and hosted noted national artists in invitational exhibits including Jamie Wyeth, Dale Chihuly, Yasu Eguchi, Robert Bateman and others. The Owens new motto became “Onward and Upward” for the duration of the gallery.

In 1983, at the invitation of U.S. Senator Ted and Catherine Stevens, Owens and her Artique staff created a major Alaska art exhibit which was displayed in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. The exhibit celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the U.S. Senate’s Passage of the Alaska Statehood Act. Numerous Alaska artists attended the exhibit.

Artique opened a second gallery in midtown. In 1984, Alaska celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Statehood and Artique Ltd became the sole fundraiser for the Anchorage celebration. Owens developed a marketing plan and solicited the assistance of major art print publisher, Mill Pond Press. Owner Bob Lewin had recently become the designated publisher of art work by Fred Machetanz. Owens and Lewin coordinated the sale of 950 prints entitled “Heritage of Alaska” by Machetanz for benefit of the Anchorage Silver Anniversary Celebration. Each print was hand signed by each of Alaska’s living governors and Fred Machetanz. Owens coordinated the print signing, marketing and distribution. Both galleries handled the “first of its kind” print sale the morning of January 2, 1984. The entire edition of 950 prints was sold out in two hours. Owens, Artique Mill Pond Press and Fred Machetanz declared “Mission Accomplished!”

Owens became sole owner of the gallery in 1985. Shadrach moved on to paint and Owens moved on with the art business.

When the Alaska economy went into a deep recession in1986, Owens saw the wisdom in consolidating the business into the original location downtown once again. 1987 found Anchorage still economically languishing due to the recession and Anchorage Mayor Tony Knowles tapped Owens to be one of the new founding members of an Anchorage economic development board. She agreed and began nourishing a business interest in economic development that would remain with her throughout her career. She served as the first woman chair of the board in 1993 and served on the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation board in excess of 30 years.

In 1990, Tennys received an offer to acquire the Alaska Souvenir and Gift Shop as part of the Duty Free Shoppers contract at the Anchorage International Airport. This presented another learning opportunity and challenge to add to her gallery experience. She readily accepted and worked in the business until 1996. As the economy recovered, so did the art business overall. A corporate and residential art design department was developed within the gallery to better serve local business art needs and that of residences. With a rebounding economy, the gallery moved “onward and upward.”

Owens decided that the time was right to expand her publishing business to give Alaska artists additional opportunities to compete in the new burgeoning print market. A network of wholesale dealers was developed inside and outside of Alaska to represent the artists on a print level. The publishing opportunity also gave Artique the ability to work with nonprofit organizations on fundraising projects. She went about the process of broadening the “business of art” into community service, demonstrating that art does matter.

With gallery publishing capabilities available, Owens implemented her concept of “Prints for a Purpose.” raising money for more than 100 nonprofits and community causes from the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts to the Loussac Library, Alaska’s 50th Anniversary and Anchorage 100th Anniversary. Other special projects surfaced as well, such as “Artful Violins,” working in conjunction with the Anchorage Symphony.

Owens did fundraising for Breast Cancer Focus, Inc. over 15 years, by developing and marketing a custom designed print collection published especially for the organization. “It is very important that businesses within the community work with the community as a team. When people work collectively, the results are more powerful and longer lasting,” Owens said.

In a 1993, an article of the Alaska Business Monthly, Owens was asked, “Is Alaska a good place for women entrepreneurs? What kind of advantages does Alaska have for women entrepreneurs? What advice would you give other women interested in starting their own businesses in Alaska?” Her reply spoke to who she was,

“Find your niche. The challenge for women entrepreneurs is to run the business in a manner which is respectable and honest. But I don’t tend to think in terms of men and women but in terms of good or not good business people. . . . learn something about business basics, maintain high standards, be adaptable to change, treat your employees with courtesy and kindness, and strive for a balance between your business and personal life.”

Tennys Owens was able to test and further develop her passion for working with community in 1998 when asked by Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom to develop and implement a plan for Anchorage to celebrate the arrival of the new Millennium. This was a daunting request and certainly something she had never done before. After days of somber contemplation, she decided to “strap it on.” She had a talented staff at the gallery to help her out and besides, it was a personal challenge she could hardly refuse.

The next two years were spent developing plans for “The Millennium at the Top” and Anchorage 2000 became a reality. Plans were drafted for a huge celebration on New Year’s Eve 2000 and a winter festival that would hold events until March. Additionally, a large July 4th multicultural celebration was planned for the grand finale. Anchorage 2000 came to be known as the “People’s Millennium Celebration, Working Together to Make a Difference.” Owens wore many hats during those two years, including serving as the event director and chair of a 35 member civic board of directors.

In an Anchorage Assembly Resolution, Owens was recognized and applauded along with event staff and volunteers for their countless hours coordinating the celebration. The Resolution said they had enabled the citizens of Anchorage to celebrate the Millennium through unity amongst people of all ethnic backgrounds and diverse cultures.

In 2005, she was recognized as one of the most esteemed leaders in the state by Alaska Business Monthly due to her with her record of business achievement, demonstrated business excellence, vision and innovation, inspiring leadership and community awareness. The magazine further stated “As a successful female business owner in Alaska, Owens has proven a woman can forge a niche in the business world and achieve.” In the same article, Owens was quoted as saying “By participating and offering a different perspective to a board, it opens the doors for other women to contribute and help make key decisions about Alaska’s future and I want to inspire leadership for women’s issues.”

According to an article written when Owens was selected to become an Alaska Business Hall of Fame Laureate, she felt participating in economic decisions for Alaska’s future served to create a sense of community. She continued to serve on multiple boards and committees. She has been honored by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce with membership in the Anchorage ATHENA Society and has received the YWCA/BP Women of Achievement award.

Owens also served on the private sector boards of National Bank of Alaska and Wells Fargo for 27 years. See the complete list of her activities and awards at the end of this article.

In 2016 Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz surprised Owens with a proclamation dedicating November 4th as “Artique Day,” at the final closing reception dedicated to artists and the community. Artique Ltd. closed on December 15, 2016.

Using art for the good of the community ultimately became Tennys Owens’ legacy and demonstrated “Art Matters.”

Community Involvement: Mayor’s Advisory Council on the Anchorage Centennial Celebration January 2013-December 2015; Co-Planner and State Coordinator for Anchorage Statewide Celebration of Alaska’s 50 Years of Statehood 2008-2009; Anchorage Downtown Partnership President 2006-2008; Anchorage Civic and Convention Center YES, Executive Committee to Promote Convention Center, Co-Chairman January 2005-April 2005, Member 2004-April 2005; Mayor Mark Begich’s Economic Development Council Member 2004-2007; University of Alaska College of Business and Public Policy Business Policy Advisory Council Member 2003-2007; American Heart Association Fund Drive Co-Chairman 2003; Mystrom for Anchorage Mayoral Campaign Co-Chairman 2003; Anchorage Civic & Convention Center YES, Executive Committee to Promote Convention Center, Secretary 2001-2002;

Anchorage Economic Development Corporation Founding Board Member, Chair of the Board (first woman) 1992, Executive Committee 1987-1999, Ex-Officio 1999-Present; Breast Cancer Focus, Inc. Founder of “Lend a Hand” Program 1999-2015; Anchorage 2000 (millennium event celebrations & community projects) Millennium Celebration Plan author and event planner, Chairman, Board of Directors 1998-2000; Anchorage Fine Arts Commission Member 1997-2001; Anchorage Museum Foundation Board Member 1997-Present; Alaska Command Civilian Advisory Board, Elmendorf AFB Member October 1994-2013; National Security Forum, Montgomery, Alabama, The Alaska Representative, May 1994; Anchorage Rotary Downtown Member 1988-1996; Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors 1988; Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors 1984-1991, Chairman, Annual Banquet Committee 1991, Chairman, Operations Personnel Committee 1988, Chairman, Community Membership Relations Committee 1987, Special Task Force Member 1986, Chairman, Elections Committee 1985-1986; Alaska Statehood 25th Anniversary Celebration Chairman, Fund Raising Project; Performing Arts for Peace Board of Directors 1985-1987; and Iditarod Fund Raiser Project Chairman 1985.

For Profit Boards: Wells Fargo Bank Statewide Advisory Board 2001-Present; National Bank of Alaska Board of Directors 1991-2001

Awards: Heart of Anchorage, George M. Sullivan leadership award, April 28,2017; Mayor’s Proclamation, Nov 4, 2016, Artique Ltd. Day; VISIT ANCHORAGE Special Community Award for Service 2016; ADN Best of Alaska-Best Art Gallery (Artique) every year since 2007; Anchorage Convention & Victors Bureau Seymour Award 2009; Community Organization Anchorage Statehood Celebration; Alaska Business Hall of Fame Laureate 2005; Mayor’s Public Service Award 2001; Municipality of Anchorage Mayor’s Distinguished Leadership Award 2000; Municipality of Anchorage Gold Pan Millennium Achievement Award 2000; Anchorage Chamber of Commerce ATHENA membership 2000; YWCA/BP Women of Achievement Award 1994; Anchorage Economic Development Corporation Outstanding Leadership Award as Chairman of the Board 1992; and several sponsorship awards for the Artique including: Alaska Run for Women 1994 & 1996; Breast Cancer Focus, Inc. 1998; KAKM Celebrity Art Auction 1982-1983.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Sources: KTVA, Dec. 15, 2016, Reality Check with John Tracy: Mayor’s Proclamation, Nov 4, 2016, Artique Ltd. Day; Alaska Dispatch News, November-December 2016, Letter to people of Anchorage, After 45 years, Artique Ltd. Is now closed, Tennys Owens and your Artique family; Alaska Life Publishing, 2016, Alaska Home, The Art of Buying Art, Sarah Gonzales; Tennys Owens made Anchorage her canvas; Alaska Dispatch News, 61 North Magazine, Sep 2014, Culture Affairs, Gallery Guide;; Anchorage Daily News, Tennys Owens, Jan 2, 2007, Downtown plan full of exciting changes; Alaska Journal of Commerce, Sep 17, 2005, Alaska art grows up and into a viable market; Alaska Business Monthly, Michelle Martin, Jan 2005, Tennys Owens: Alaska Business Hall of Fame Laureate, JA: Artique Ltd; Municipality of Anchorage, Assembly Resolution AR 2000-25 (S), Jan 25, 2000, A Resolution of the Anchorage Municipal Assembly recognizing and applauding the Anchorage 2000 organizers, board members and staff for their efforts and commitment in making the “Night of Light” New Year’s Eve millennium celebration a success; Anchorage Daily News, Jan 2, 2000, Bomb Scare Led to Magical Moment; Anchorage Daily News, November 8, 1999, Millennium drum is taking shape, New Year’s Eve Party to have big beat, Sheila Toomey; Alaska Business Monthly, Jeannie Woodring, Aug 1, 1993, Alaska: a mecca or myth for business women; Anchorage Daily News, Kim Farraro, Feb 22, 1993, Doing Business Mastering the Art of the Deal, and Vice Versa.

Dorothy (Guzzi) Page

Photo of Dorothy (Guzzi) Page
1921 1989
Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Community Activism, Historic Preservation, Political Activism, Writing


Dorothy Guzzi Page (“Mother of the Iditarod”) was born on January 23, 1921, in Bessemer, Michigan to parents Arcole C. Guzzi and Mary Mae Jago Guzzi. She moved with her family to Duluth and then to Minneapolis, where she spent most of her early life.

Following her high school graduation in 1939, Dorothy moved to Albuquerque then to Los Alamos, New Mexico.  She worked the front office, in medical records of the Los Alamos Hospital. She also worked as the chief telephone operator. She opened Dorothy’s Café in 1950, across from the famous Camel Rock Trading Post.

Page married Vondole Page, on June 17, 1959, in Taos, New Mexico. They operated the trading post and café until they took a vacation to Alaska in 1960. They never lived in New Mexico again and moved to Dillingham, Alaska.  Von worked as a Superintendent of schools and Page worked in the school office. In 1962 they moved to Wasilla, Alaska. Here she saw her first sled dog race, an event which would play a significant role in her many contributions to Alaska.

In 1965, Page was chairperson of Wasilla’s Alaska Centennial Committee. As a Centennial project, she initiated the idea of reopening the historic Iditarod Trail between Knik and Big Lake.Dog mushing had been the primary means of communication and transportation in the Bush and Interior by Alaska Natives for centuries and remained so for the Russian, American and French-Canadian fur trappers in the 19th century, reaching its peak during the gold rushes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the 1960s snow machines started to replace the dog teams and they almost vanished.

In her own words, Page, the self-described “history buff” wanted, “a spectacular dog race to awaken Alaskans to what mushers and their dogs had done for Alaska”. Page began the work of organizing support for her idea however, she unable to get the support of a single dog musher until she met Joe Redington, Sr. at the Willow Winter Carnival. Redington, who would later become known as the “Father of the Iditarod” used dog teams to perform search and rescue for the U.S. Air Force and owned a large kennel. He also had been lobbying to make the Iditarod Trail a National Historic Trail since the 1950s. Redington agreed to lend his support to the event on the condition that a purse of $25,000 would be divided among the winners. With Page’s determination, the money was soon raised.

The historic Iditarod Trail, which passed through both Wasilla and Knik, was an ideal stage for the first of many dog races. In February 1967, fifty-eight dog mushers competed in two heats along a 25 mile stretch of the old Iditarod Trail between Wasilla and Knik.  The race was modeled after the first large dog sled race in the state, the 1908 to 1918 All-Alaskan Sweepstakes (AAS) of Nome. The official name of this 1967 event was the Iditarod Trail Seppala Memorial Race and honored the three-time Sweepstakes champion, Leonhard Seppala.  While Seppala was most famous for participating in the 1925 serum run which saved the city of Nome from a diphtheria epidemic, Page reported “Seppala was picked to represent all mushers”. The 1969 race over the same trail with a purse of $1,000, attracted only 12 mushers and was the last until 1973, when, largely due to Redington, the race to Nome was established. Page continued to support the Iditarod in many ways throughout her life and, although she never raced, in 1997 she was posthumously awarded as an honorary musher.

Page served on the Iditarod Trail Committee’s board of directors since its inception. Throughout the years, Page served on many committees for the Iditarod, including the executive committee. At the time of her death, she was serving as the treasurer.

While leading the Centennial Committee in 1966, her drive to preserve the early history of the Valley was the force for establishment of Wasilla-Knik-Willow Creek Historical Society. She served as President.  She was instrumental in founding Wasilla Museum, Knik Museum and served as curator for both museums.  She served as a member of Wasilla Library Board for 20 years. 1973-1989 – Wrote, edited and published the Iditarod’s annual race program and edited the race’s news magazine, The Iditarod Runner.  She wrote weekly columns for the Frontiersman, plus feature articles and articles of historic interest for both the Frontiersman and the Valley Sun.  She served 4 terms on Wasilla City Council.  She served as Mayor of Wasilla 1986 and 1987.  She served as Wasilla’s Republican Committee woman from 1968.  She was a long-time member of the Alaska Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women.

Described by her friend, Gail Phillips, “Dorothy had the unfailing, innate and wonderful ability to get the right people involved in activities she felt they should be involved in, especially if she herself was involved.  Once she had scoped out a “victim’s” strength and abilities, and determined where that person was needed most, she would move mountains to make sure they got involved.  A large part of Iditarod’s tremendous success over the years can be attributed to Dorothy’s ability to get the right people involved in the right job. In addition, once a person was in a position to help, Dorothy continued to help – she didn’t leave people hanging out on a limb. She could always be counted on for support and help.”

Although Dorothy Page is most famous for being the “Mother of the Iditarod”, many people remember her as a tireless advocate for building and preserving communities in Alaska. After her passing, many people wrote in to The Iditarod Runner to share their personal stories and thanks to one of Alaska’s most treasured women. Page’s friend, Representative Curt Maynard wrote, “Dorothy’s spirit is the legacy I would like to recognize and honor. It is her enthusiasm and diligence that has inspired others to pursue their goals and dreams. I know of many of my neighbors in the Valley watched her get the ball rolling on the Iditarod and they caught the “volunteer spark”. Anyone who’s life was touched by Dorothy was stirred to do a little more, try a little harder, give more time and energy to their neighborhood, church, or school. The Valley has a rich history that through Dorothy’s efforts is preserved for our children and grandchildren. The common bond that she created by her spirit insures a rich future also. Thank you Dorothy and we hope to see you on down the trail.”

List of Awards received by Page:

1984: Recipient of the Governor’s Volunteer Award presented by Governor Bill Sheffield.

1986: Dorothy received the Wasilla-Knik-Willow Creek Society Gold Pan Award.  She won both state and national awards for her Iditarod Trail Annuals.

1989: After her death, the Wasilla Museum was renamed the Dorothy G. Page Museum.

1989:   She was the recipient of the Mayor of Wasilla’s proclamation honoring Dorothy’s life in.

1990: She was the recipient of the State of Alaska’s Legislative Citation by the 16th Alaska Legislature.

1997:  She was named the Honorary Musher for Iditarod 25.  She is commemorated by the Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award, given to the first musher to reach the halfway point of the annual race, in Cripple in even-numbered years and in Iditarod in odd-numbered years.

She received State and National Press Awards for her publication of the “Iditarod Trail Annual”

She was recognized for her years of service to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough by resolution recognizing her “Distinguished Service to the Community”.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Sarah Palin

Photo of Sarah Palin
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Politics


Sarah Palin was the first woman and the youngest person elected Governor of Alaska in 2006 when she was 42. She was also the first Alaska woman to serve as a candidate on a national ticket when she was selected as the Republican U.S. Vice Presidential running mate to Senator John McCain in 2008.

Prior to her election as governor, Palin served two terms on the Wasilla City Council and two terms as the mayor/manager of Wasilla. Palin is also past chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

Ellen Evak Paneok 

Photo of Ellen Evak Paneok 
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Art, Aviation


Ellen Paneok was the first Alaska Native woman pilot. She worked as a commercial pilot in Alaska for 17 years and ferried everything from dynamite to live wolverines, the U.S. mail, passengers and medical patients. Paneok accumulated more than 15, 000 miles of flight time during her life. The elders called her “Owl Eyes” because she could see and fly in any type of weather. To her knowledge, she was the only Native American (Eskimo) woman pilot.

Paneok was born in Bedford, Va., in 1959. Her mother, Bernice Evak Burgandine, was an Inupiaq Eskimo from Kotzebue. Her father, Ron Burgandine, was in the United States Air Force stationed in Alaska. Her parents divorced when she was in the fifth grade and after the divorce, her mother moved Paneok and her two sisters to Anchorage. From the age of nine she took on the role of mother to her two sisters. A state social service agency broke the family up when she was 12 – her younger sister was adopted and she and her other sister were sent to separate foster homes. Paneok bounced around foster homes until she was put in “girls’ lock down” at the age of 14. Fortunately, her last foster home was a loving environment and helped her turn her life around.

When she was 15, Paneok found a flying magazine and after reading it decided she wanted to give it a try. At the age of 16 she received a $1,500 dividend from the Cook Inlet Regional Corporation and used it to take flying lessons. Eventually, the money ran out and Paneok started doing pen-and ink-drawings that she sold for $10 each. At the age of 17 she began ivory carving and scrimshaw, selling her work to tourists. She used the money to complete her training. Never liking school, Paneok would skip English and History to take flying lessons. At the age of 20, Paneok received her GED and her private pilot’s license.

By the time Paneok was 23, she had her commercial and flight-instructor certificates. In 1983 her first flying job was in Kiana, flying a Piper Cherokee Six. She chased polar bears from runways in the line of duty. “The most challenging part,” she said in the 1997 book “Women and Flight,” “is the off-airport work, like landing on the sandbars, landing on top of a mountain with big tires, maybe on a 20-degree grade, landing uphill and taking off downhill – to me, that’s the epitome of Bush flying.” Paneok said she was honored to be one of the few pilots authorized to fly the vintage aircraft owned by the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. After flying for air taxi operations throughout the Bush, Paneok worked for the Federal Aviation Administration for five years as an operations inspector, then for the Alaska Aviation Foundation as the Statewide  viation Safety Coordinator.

Paneok was published widely in such magazines as AOPA Pilot and Alaska Magazine and was featured in numerous books on women and aviation, including “Bush Pilots of Alaska” and “Women Pilots of Alaska”. She was also referenced in a number of other publications for her unique experience and knowledge of high-Arctic flying.   Her article “With Trusting Eyes Behind Me” was included in “The Last Frontier,” a  collection of the best of Alaska Magazine. Paneok was included in Ann Lewis Cooper’s Book “Stars of the Sky, Legends All”. She was one of only 37 pilots featured in the “Women in Flight” exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. She is remembered as a “heroine in aviation”. That was the name of an exhibit sponsored by the Chicago Airport System which also chronicled Paneok’s extraordinary life.

Paneok created ivory scrimshaw that hailed from her Inupiaq tribal traditions as well as her interest in the changing world. She exhibited her work at many Alaska Federation of Natives conventions and arts-and-crafts shows. Her work can be found in art and antique galleries in Anchorage and Haines and in Minnesota and Maine as well as in many private collections.

Paneok was a long-time member and supporter of the Alaska 99’s, the International Organization of Pilots. She also volunteered her time and sat on the board of the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, the Alaska Airmen’s Association, Big Brothers and Big Sisters Anchorage, the Alaska Historical Commission and Challenge Alaska. She spent countless hours inspiring the youth of Anchorage and village communities to look to the sky and to their own dreams. When Paneok spoke to groups of at-risk kids, she could relate from her own personal experience. She told them: “I was just like you. I got no encouragement. When you decide to do something, don’t let anyone or anything discourage you. It’s up to you.”

Shortly after her death in March of 2008, Paneok was honored by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Congressional Record.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Elizabeth “Betty” Parent

Photo of Elizabeth “Betty” Parent
Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Advocacy, Advocacy for Native Peoples, Education, Leadership, Mentorship


Elizabeth (Betty) Parent began her life in the small Alaskan village of Crooked Creek on the Kuskokwim River. In an area known for the blending of Athabascan and Yupik cultures, her family lived a traditional subsistence lifestyle steeped the culture of Deg Xinag (or Deg Hit’an) Athabascan people.

Early life was challenging for her. She and her two sisters suffered the loss of their parents through death and tragedy before school age. Betty subsequently lost her two sisters to childhood disease. She moved from family to family but always excelled in school and grew to love learning. She was guided in her life by her aunt Alice Harris who taught her to maintain a positive attitude and to work hard. Along the way, Betty acquired a great sense of humor which allows her to laugh at the ups and downs of life.

Parent spoke the Yup’ik language exclusively until she was five years old. Yet when she began primary school in the single room schoolhouse, the school only taught in English so she lost her bilingualism.

At the age of 18, she moved to Fairbanks to attend the University of Alaska. Right away she became involved in college and community life in the Interior. The 1960’s were historic times of change for Alaska Native people and Parent was in on the ground floor of many important movements. She helped organize cultural and social supports for Alaska Native students on campus through the Alaska Native Club; she worked in a leadership position in Head Start, moving seamlessly between parent advocacy and administrative roles. She organized Head Start parents to fight for culturally relevant education for young children in the Fairbanks School District.

Parent became involved in the early advocacy for the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act. Important to that work was the publishing of the Tundra Times, a weekly newspaper that gave a political and cultural voice to Alaska Native people. Parent served on Tundra Times Board, supporting editor Howard Rock during many years as the paper operated on a shoestring but produced important political advocacy.

While at the University of Alaska she met a brilliant UAF professor Gene Wescott. They married in 1961 and had three children Brian, Siobhan and Liam.

In 1964 Parent earned a B.A. in Anthropology, with minors in English and Education, as well as the dubious distinction of being only the thirty-second Native to graduate from the university.

Given the lack of support for Native students in the UA system at the time, she did not feel encouraged to continue graduate study in her home state. In later years, the University of Alaska Fairbanks honored her for her contributions.

After graduation she took advantage of Native student support opportunities at Harvard University, where she earned an M.A. in Education Administration, was awarded a Certificate of Advanced Studies, and was the first Native American to serve on the Editorial Board of the Harvard Educational Review – all while balancing the responsibilities of being a single mother of three small children.

She was awarded another fellowship to pursue her doctorate at Stanford University. Her dissertation, “The Educational Experiences of the Residents of Bethel, Alaska: A Historical Case Study,” focused on educational challenges faced by Alaska Natives students enrolled in Christian missionary schools, the predecessor to Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Dr. Parent then held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles, during which time she also hosted a bi-monthly radio show on Pasadena Community College’s KPCC and became known as the ‘Treaty Lady’ because of her attention to issues of Native American treaty rights.

Parent worked hard to bring the Native American perspective to the forefront in academic life. During her time as a doctoral candidate at Stanford she was a lecturer in Native American Studies at Berkeley—traveling several hours around the Bay area by bus each week to fulfill her teaching and research responsibilities.

When she obtained her doctorate, she accepting a tenure-track appointment as an assistant professor of American Indian Studies in the nation’s only College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. She took on the responsibilities of chairing the program, guiding American Indian Studies to department status, developing the minor emphasis, and became the department’s first full professor. After establishing a precedent of excellence in teaching, research, and community service that many American Indians academics and programs seek to emulate, Dr. Parent retired and earned Professor Emerita status in 2000.

She worked hard to integrate Native American Studies into the general education requirements so that students could choose these courses to satisfy their core requirements. This innovation made Indian studies accessible to a broad audience in the student body of SFSU.

Her academic career was marked by so many firsts—first Alaska Native woman to earn a PhD, one of a very few Alaska Native students to successfully gain degrees from both Harvard and Stanford University and the first Alaska Native woman to obtain tenure as a full professor. Upon her retirement, San Francisco State established the Elizabeth Parent Achievement Award in her honor. The award is bestowed annually to deserving students who exhibit academic success and leadership in American Indian communities.

Beyond the formal recognitions, most meaningful are the hundreds of young people who were mentored by Parent in their academic, social and cultural development. She was known on the Stanford campus for hosting student gatherings in her tiny on-campus apartment—always with a good home cooked meal.

When she learned of a new student who might need support, she would call them up- sometimes several times- until she made contact to let them know she was there if they needed help. She attended student presentation for moral support, she cooked thousands of meals for student potlucks and she was a strong supporter of Native American cultural centers wherever she lived. Sometimes the smallest gesture meant a huge amount to students who were struggling far from home.

Dorothy Pender, an Alaska Native student who completed her PhD, wrote, “Betty took me under her wing when I was an electrical engineering grad student at Stanford University. She proudly supported me as I defended my doctoral thesis, and both Stanford professors and students assumed she was my mother!

Likewise Karen Perdue, a young Stanford undergraduate from Fairbanks came to rely on the Parent household as a second family –for parental advice, food and the ability to decompress including hosting sleepovers in the Stanford dorm for Betty’s daughter Siobhan.

Pender also remembers how Parent encouraged her to become involved in assisting others. Parent is a Sequoyah member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), which is a lifelong membership- “Betty encouraged me to become an AISES Sequoyah member, and a board member.”

In her 75th year, Parent remains an active participant in Native American education and journalism circles, as well as broader Bay Area Native community organizations and events, such as her role on the Board of Directors for the Native American Cultural Center in San Francisco. She continues to be honored and recognized by her peers for her contributions.

Over her lifetime, Dr Betty Parent has progressed from a one room school house in a remote Alaskan village to the academic halls of America’s most prestigious Universities. She has never forgotten her roots. All through her career she has focused on the needs of young people by teaching and mentoring on a daily basis. She has committed herself to social and educational justice for Native American people.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Elizabeth Peratrovich

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Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Civil Rights


An important role model for all women and men who want to do something about injustice, Tlingit leader Elizabeth Peratrovich worked tirelessly to bring equality to Alaska. She raised awareness, rallied support, and lobbied the legislature to pass Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act in 1945, the first such law in the nation. As Grand Camp President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Elizabeth provided the crucial testimony that brought about passage of the Anti-Discrimination bill.

When asked by the Senate, “Will the equal rights bill eliminate discrimination in Alaska?” Elizabeth answered: “Have you eliminated larceny or murder by passing a law against it? No law will eliminate crimes, but at least you as legislators, can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination.” Her speech split the opposition and allowed the bill to pass.

Mary CIUNIQ Pete

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Categories: 2019 Alumnae, Arctic Policies, Education



Mary Ciuniq Pete came from humble beginnings in the small Bering Sea coastal village of Stebbins, learning subsistence life skills from her family, which she carried on throughout her life and through teaching others. Pete went on to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1984.

Pete was an outstanding role model by all who knew and worked with her.  Appointed by Governor Tony Knowles as Director of the Subsistence Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. President Obama appointed Pete to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission twice.  Her work helped positively shape subsistence and arctic policies far into the future.

Pete was tireless in advocating for women and children’s needs, especially those who were less fortunate.  She was widely recognized for her work in this area, serving on the Statewide Council on Domestic Violence. She clearly valued education, and strongly advocated for her students to succeed, especially her Indigenous ones. She was the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus Director in Bethel from 2005 until her death. Additionally, she would probably have said one of her greatest achievements was developing a bachelors’ degree program for the Yup’ik language.

There are countless people across Alaska who count Pete as their role model who promoted, mentored and advocated on their behalf.  Her mentorship is evidenced via folks now in the media, educational, political and public advocacy arenas. 

Many have said that Alaska is a kinder and better place because of her and her dedication to those things she worked so hard for and cared about with family always coming first in her life. 

None could be prouder of Pete and her accomplishments than lifetime partner/husband, Hubert Angaiak and their teenage sons Conor and Chase.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Leah Webster Peterson

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Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Anchorage Pioneer, Art, Education


In 1939 Leah and her husband Chester arrived by steamer at Karluk village on Kodiak Island to accept teaching positions with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They were the first teachers in the village for many years and as such were made very welcome. In 1941 they moved to Anchorage where she taught in the only school, Anchorage Territorial, as one of 43 teachers staffing all levels of education from elementary through senior high school. Leah remained in the Anchorage school system fulfilling 42 years of professional service as a classroom teacher, remedial reading specialist, supervisor, curriculum coordinator, elementary director and the first female principal in Alaska. She was teacher of the year in 1948.

Retirement didn’t stop Leah Peterson from public service. She served as the first president of Central Alaska Retired Teachers’ Association; president of the Alaska Retired Teachers’ Association; State Director of the National Retired Teachers’ Association; was appointed by the governor to serve on the State Board of Retirement, and was president of the Anchorage Schools Administrative Association.

For more than 30 years, Leah actively served on the Board of Trustees for Alaska Pacific University and was a member of the College Fellows, University of Alaska. She was worthy matron of Eastern Star (1052); member of Anchorage Woman’s Club and PEP Chapter P; state founder of Delta Kappa Gamma, Territory of Alaska, and an honorary member of Beta Gamma State, both national organizations for meritorious women educators. Leah was one of the 41 charter members of Zonta Club of Anchorage, founded in August 1961.

Leah received her teaching certification from Nazarene College in Idaho, bachelor’s degree from Colorado State College, and master’s degree from University of Alaska Anchorage. She returned to the Northwest Nazarene University after 73 years, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in recognition of her service to the profession of education, her community and society at large (2001), and then an Honorary Doctorate from Alaska Pacific University (2005).

Leah gave of herself, time after time, in service to the profession of education, her community and society at large. She brilliantly wove the story of her humble beginnings, hopes and dreams, and the impact education had on her life during college and throughout her life. In 2007, she made a generous gift to the new children’s gallery in the expansion of the Anchorage Museum at Rasumson Center. A special area, to be named Leah’s Corner, will feature an array of children’s literature and activities on Alaska topics in art, history and science.

Leah Peterson was a pioneer of education in Alaska, helping build an educational system from frontier instruction to a solid educational organization. She published, “This is Alaska”, a social science text and workbook for third and fourth grades that was adopted by the State of Alaska in 1959.

Leah devoted her life to the service of others. She remained young at heart while mentoring, counseling and attracting admirers of all ages.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Alice (Snigaroff) Petrivelli

Photo of Alice (Snigaroff) Petrivelli
Categories: 2016 Alumnae, Advocacy for Aleut People


In 1929 Alice was born in Atka village to Cedor and Agnes (Zaochney) Snigaroff, where she lived a traditional Aleut life. Alice remembered the house always being full because her mother helped raise many other relatives in the village along with her three brothers and a sister.  But that all changed when she was five years old and her mother died, soon after, her two younger brothers also died. Her family became her father, sister, and brother. She was then the youngest in the family and often describes herself as a “tomboy.”

Normally in the village, women and girls, men and boys carried out gender specific tasks in everyday life. Women had tasks like gathering grass to weave baskets, picking greens and berries, and sewing clothes. Men hunted for seals, sea lions, ducks, geese, reindeer, and trapped fox to earn cash. Fishing was usually carried out as a family activity. Of course, the lines were not always that rigid, because the whole family traveled to seasonal camps to carry out some of these activities and Alice was always fond of saying it never felt like work when she was involved in gathering activities since she was outside and she loved being out of the house. Because of her mother’s death, when her father left to trap foxes, she and her sister were left with other relatives, but sometimes, she was able to convince her father to let her come along on the trips to trap on island of Amchitka and at Old Harbor on the north end of Atka Island.

Then in 1942, when she was 12 years old, after Dutch Harbor was bombed by Japan, the United States military relocated Atka families to Killisnoo, an abandoned fish cannery near Angoon in Southeast Alaska, where she lived for two years. Aleuts from eight other villages were also evacuated to other locations in Southeast Alaska. The Atka people were only allowed to pack one suitcase, the night before they left they were told by the Navy to go to their fish camps. During the night they saw flames in the village. When they left the next morning, everyone thought that they whole village had burned, but three houses were left standing one of which was theirs. Those years were very difficult. Alice and the other Aleut people experienced limited food, substandard housing in unheated, abandoned buildings that lacked operating running water, sewer and lighting systems. There were no schools or health care. The transport ship dropped Atkan families at Killisnoo with the suitcase, four days worth of food, and a mattress for each person.

The whole family went to work in a nearby fish cannery, earning money to try to improve their living conditions, eventually getting a boat, guns, nets, and other equipment to fish and hunt for food and saving to buy materials to improve the building they lived in. During the three years Atkan families lived in Killisnoo, 17 of the 88 people died.

Alice stayed at Killisnoo for two years; she had the chance to leave and go to a boarding school in Wrangell and then transferred and graduated from Mt. Edgecombe High School, an Alaska Native Boarding school. Upon graduation from the second graduating class of the school, she returned to Atka for the first time after the war. The rest of the people had returned earlier to the charred remains, except the three homes, which had been stripped to just walls and foundation. They rebuilt the homes, church, school, and a store and tried to return to normal. She spent the summer there and then left to go to the Haskell Institute in Kansas where she received a scholarship and earned an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration. She returned to Alaska in 1952, and eventually she went to work in Bethel for the Indian Health Service.

There she met and married Frank Petrivelli, who was in the US Army and from Boston, Mass. They raised six children; so Alice devoted herself to family life. They moved around the country, transferred to various military posts, until Frank’s Army retirement in 1969, when they returned to Alaska. Alice and Frank remained married until his death in 1993. He supported her in her efforts to protect her land and Unangan culture and language.

When the family returned to Alaska, Alice started to attend Aleut League meetings and in 1972 found her way to a job as a receptionist for the new Aleut Corporation. Her first job was to review enrollment, which meant assembling the family histories of the people connected to the Aleut villages, so they could know who was eligible to become a shareholder. Thus, her life-long association with the corporation began.

After involvement in the corporate process for four years, she ran for election to the Board of Directors of the Corporation in 1976, with a goal “to protect the land and our culture.”

In 1977, she joined Lillie Hope McGarvey and other Aleut leaders to sue the Corporation management for sending misleading information in a proxy solicitation. In 1979, the lawsuit, McGarvey vs. the Aleut Corporation, was successful and resulted in overturning election results and a new election was held for the board members. [Source: For their leadership, Lillie and Alice received the AFN Citizens of the Year Award.

The next effort that Alice engaged in was to seek restitution from the US government for lands that Aleuts were not able to select on Attu after WWII and to secure assistance for the Aleuts relocated by the US government. In all, during WWII 880 Aleut people from nine villages were interned for years in drafty, abandoned fish canneries, in primitive conditions that resulted in the death of about ten percent of them. Those who returned home after the war found their houses and churches destroyed or ransacked, often by the U.S. troops who had lived in them.

The “Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians” investigated the five Aleut camps in Southeast Alaska and condemned government “indifference” to “deplorable conditions” there. The official report stated, “The standard of care which the government owes to those within its care was clearly violated by this treatment, which brought great suffering and loss of life to the Aleuts.”

With vigorous support from The Aleut Corporation, in 1988 Congress authorized reparations to the Aleuts, issued a formal apology, and compensated evacuees for land, homes and churches lost because of relocation. Congress adopted the “World War II Reparations Bill” (H.R.422) into law. It provided for a trust fund to be set up to help Aleut survivors and their descendants. $1.4 million was earmarked for restoring churches in six villages as well as lost lands. Finally, the Aleut Corporation was awarded $15 million as compensation for Attu Island, which was occupied by the military after the war and remains closed to its former inhabitants to this day. Alice was the Chair or Vice Chair of the Board of Directors or the President/CEO from 1986 through 1995, so was a key figure in advocating on behalf of Aleut victims of relocation.

Another example of her leadership was one of her first acts as the President/CEO. She led the Board to affirm a contribution to the Aleutian Pribilof Island Associates to undertake production of a video tape history of the internment of Aleut people during World War II. It was later produced in a feature film underwritten by the corporation and other businesses in 2011.

As the President/CEO she led the corporation to stable financial investments and increased earnings, so the corporation established a shareholder permanent fund. Under her leadership the Aleut Corporation was recognized by the Alaska Business Monthly as one of Alaska’s Top 49 businesses in 1995. Increased profits allowed the corporation to make larger contribution for educational scholarships to the Aleut Foundation.

While living in Atka in the 80s, before she was hired as the President/CEO of the Aleut Corporations, Alice was employed as the President of her own village corporation, Atxam Corporation. She also taught Traditional Foods, History, and did Storytelling at the Urban Unangax^ Culture Camp. There she shared traditional family recipes and recipes she learned from watching others as she was growing up. She also passed on traditional values of her people to the students. As a fluent speaker of Unangam Tunuu, she naturally incorporated language into all of her activities.

Alice’s goal was always to help Aleuts recall their Unangan traditions and to also succeed in today’s world. She helped create the Aleut Foundation, nurturing its mission to assist Aleuts achieve educational and cultural goals.

In a video interview in 2001, when asked by Sharon McConnell on the 30th Anniversary of ANCSA, “What do you think the next 30 years are going to hold for ANCSA and the Native people of Alaska?” Alice said,

“I think it will go on for a long, long time because number one, our young people are getting educated. Me, I live in two worlds. During the day when you’re working you live in the Western world, and then you go home and live your own Aleut lifestyle. When I’m home I speak Aleut. Today the young people are more used to the Western culture than they are their Native cultures. They’re educated and sophisticated. They’re learning to negotiate, and they’re learning the aspects of how to do business. That knowledge could still be around for a long, long time.”

She served as a Board member for 30 years and as President/CEO for 6 years. Her life-long goal was always “protecting the land and our culture.”

She also served as the President of the Aleut Foundation and on many other Boards and Commissions, including: Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Alaska Native Heritage Center Academy Board, and Aleutian Pribilof Islands Cultural Heritage Advisory Board and was a Commissioner of the Alaska Native Science Commission.

Alice devoted much time to teaching young people about her language, values and culture. But she spent more time mentoring the young Native women who were following her path to the Board of Directors or the management of the Aleut businesses and nonprofit organizations. She also raised and inspired three daughters, four sons and five grandchildren to be involved in their communities.

Alice received the AFN Citizen of the Year Award in 1990 for her continued and effective leadership in her region and her service with the AFN Board of Directors. She has been honored by the Aleut Corporation, the Aleut Foundation, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and by the Elder’s and Youth Conference of the Alaska Federation of Natives. She was a respected Elder in Alaska and passed in 2015.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech





Ramona Gail (McIver) Phillips

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Categories: 2015 Alumnae, Community Service, Government, Politics, Public Service


Only two women have been elected speaker of the Alaska State House and both their legal first names are Ramona. Ramona Barnes was the first, followed immediately by Ramona Gail Phillips as the second. When asked why she has been known her entire life by her middle name, Gail says when she was born there was a popular song called “Ramona.” However, an older cousin who was living with the family at that time was named Ramona so in an effort to keep the two separate, Phillips’ folks started calling her by her middle name – it stuck and she only uses Ramona when signing legal documents.

Gail is a champion promoter of Alaska and its history says one of her younger sisters in her nomination of Phillips. She continued by saying Phillips has always been outspoken for the rights and betterment of all people.

Leadership comes naturally to Phillips. She was named one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Alaskans by the Alaska Journal of Commerce four times. In 1995 she was the highest ranking woman on the Journal list placing number 7; placing number 11 in 1996, number 5 in 1997, and number 14 in 1998. Some of the reasons are obvious. She was elected twice as speaker of the Alaska State House, serving four years (1995-1998) and she was the majority leader prior to that (from 1993-1994).

Of national note: when an Alaska ferry was being held hostage by Canadian fishing boats, Phillips was not going to be bullied. She stated to the media that the ferry was much larger than any of the fishing boats and that the captain should just get himself out of there.

In the mid-nineties Phillips, with other western legislative, county and local officials, along with some business people who together represented more than 44 million Americans, formed the Western States Coalition. This was done so they could speak with one voice to the federal government about their common concerns. “This is a very good thing for Alaska so we are not so isolated,” said Phillips in a news release. She served as co-chairman of the group from 1995- 1998.

During her State House speakership, Phillips delighted in inviting and conducting the U.S. House speaker and two Florida congressmen on a Western States Coalition tour of Alaska where she had the opportunity to talk about some of favorite subjects: tourism, economic development, international trade and military and veterans’ affairs.

Even in her younger years Phillips was a leader. While in high school she was elected to the student council and became their president. She served on the legislative (student) council for three years while attending the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. A lifetime Republican, she was an active member of the Young Republicans serving as president both in high school and university.

Phillips has lived almost exclusively in Alaska, the middle of five generations of her family. Only while Walt, her husband whom she met at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, was on temporary assignment with the trans-Alaska (Alyeska) pipeline design team, did she live in Texas (1971-1973).

After coming back to Alaska in 1973, the Phillips first lived in Anchorage, and then settled in Homer in 1978. They lived there until after she left the Legislature.

Phillips was born in Juneau to the pioneering Ost family but left as an infant and was raised in Nome. She attended public schools grades 1 – 12 with her six younger sisters then went on to attend the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Phillips graduated in 1967 with a B.A. degree in business education. She has also taken a variety of additional courses there.

Phillips life isn’t all about politics. The “Iditarod bug” bit her and her husband early in the formation of the race. They became dedicated volunteers. One of her first jobs was making presentations to many local communities with Joe Redington, known as the father of the great dog race. In 1975 Phillips and her husband arranged for a babysitter for their young daughters, Robin and Kim, spending many evening hours volunteering at the race headquarters after work. As the years passed, both their daughters also became avid supporters.

In 1975 Phillips was elected to the board of directors serving through 1979. She took on the all consuming duties of race coordinator for the 1977, 1978 and 1979 races, and was the last person to fulfill this position on a totally volunteer basis. Phillips and her husband were the first officers or board members that were neither dog mushers nor directly connected to the race. At the beginning of 2015, they were two of 11 people called The Old Iditarod Gang who authored, published and distributed a seven-pound, 422-page coffee table book, an anthology about the first 10 years of the Iditarod called Iditarod – First Ten Years. They used Kickstart to raise the initial money. Both look forward to volunteering at the next great race.

Owning and managing a business in Homer, Quiet Sports Store, from 1978-1984 just wasn’t enough for the energetic Phillips. She became active in the Alaska Visitors Association; was elected vice chair of the Homer Convention and Visitors Association (1979-1980), and then served as president of the Homer Chamber of Commerce (1980-1981). From that position she ran for city council; to quote the Homer News, Oct. 1, 1981, she was “an outspoken advocate of tourism and we believe she would do a good job.” She served from 1981-1984. No longer owning the store, she ran for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and served from 1986 to 1988 and also chaired the Alaska Municipal League’s Legislative Committee 1986-1988.

During most of this time she also was the elected state secretary (1982-1988) of the Republican Party of Alaska’s State Central Committee. She was a member of the University of Alaska College of Fellows, as well as the Kenai Peninsula College Council where she was chair and board member. The granddaughter of Methodist missionaries, she was a member of the Homer United Methodist Church. As a member of the Resource Development Council’s statewide board she continued her pro-development activities and is a long time member of Igloo #1 and Igloo#14, Pioneers of Alaska.

In 1983, Phillips and her husband, with one of her sisters and her husband (Barbara and Stan Lindskoog), combined their two last names to form Lindphil Mining Company. The two families, including their four daughters, formed the work crew that actively mined Goose Creek about 50 miles inland from Nome for about six years. They worked their medium-sized placer mine from the time the ground thawed until their sluice box froze or about the first of July through the middle of September. In 1989 they sold their claims to a larger company.

In 1988 Phillips ran for the State House but was defeated. She went to Juneau anyway working as a legislative aide to Senate President Tim Kelly for the next two years.

1990 brought a different result to her campaign for the State House. She was the top vote getter from among the Democrats and Republicans in the primary and went on to win the general election by almost 1,000 votes. Thus her Legislative career began. The last two of 10 years in the State House she served as the powerful Legislative Budget & Audit Committee chair.

In Phillips’ last election she ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002. She has since formed Alaska Campaign Strategies and has participated in a number of winning campaigns.

Other positions Phillips has held include:
Alaska 50th Anniversary Celebration Commission Chair, 2004-2006
Industry Liaison, Dept. of Labor – Business Partnership, 2006
Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, 2003-2006

Phillips has received a number of awards, some are:
Canadian Consul’s “Smashed Brick Award,” 2003
YWCA’s “Woman of Achievement” Award, 2009
Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, “Anchorage ATHENA Society” member, 2003
UAF’s “Distinguished Alumnus” Award, 2013

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


  1. Gail Phillips’ personal and business resumes State of Alaska Official Election Pamphlet, 1990, ’92, ’94, ’96, ’98,
  2. Alaska Journal of Commerce supplement, Top 25 Most Powerful Alaskans, 1995, ’96, ’97, ’98
  3. Homer News, October 1, 1981, full page political ad
  4. Homer News, October 15, 1981,
  5. Editorial Box Gail Phillips for State House, political brochures from various years
  6. Katherine Anderson, younger sister, quote from Nomination for 2015
  7. Interview with Gail Phillips by Bonnie L Jack, December 2014
  8. Email from Gail Phillips to Bonnie L Jack answering questions, January 2015
  9. Iditarod, The First Ten Years, published by The Old Iditarod Gang, LLC, 2014


Verna E. Pratt

Photo of Verna E. Pratt
Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Literature, Parks


Verna Pratt was raised in a big family on a small farm in Massachusetts. The flowers in her mother’s large garden fascinated her as did the wildflowers she found while wandering through the surrounding fields.  Part of her fascination was that the plants “stayed still” and could be closely observed This early interest led Pratt to become a self-educated, amateur botanist who not only has shared her extensive knowledge with generalists in Alaska, but is a recognized, internationally known expert in Alaska’s native plants, wildflowers and berries. Though as a child Pratt was painfully shy, as a teacher, she is friendly, modest and generous; eager to share her knowledge and enthusiastic about helping others to learn what she knows. Pratt, whose expertise has been achieved through self-study and dedication, knows firsthand how difficult it is to learn something new and considers that her greatest accomplishment is that she has helped someone to learn about Alaska’s native plants, wildflowers and berries.

With her husband, Frank, in the military, they lived in a variety of locations throughout the country and, in each location, Pratt studied the local plant life and created flower gardens.  Arriving in Alaska in 1966 she began to teach herself about the Alaska native plants but found little to guide her. With her “hobby” turning into an “obsession,”  Frank realized that if he wanted to spend any time with his wife, he needed to join her on her trips. He decided to photograph the wildflowers she was trying to observe and learn about. The only materials available were big, heavy scientific books with inadequate black-and-white drawings which were very difficult to use in the field for identification. Frustrated by how difficult it was to learn about Alaska’s plants from such books, Pratt and her husband, without any prior experience, decided to write and publish a guidebook for the Alaska generalist interested in learning about native plants. They decided the guidebook had to meet three stipulations: good color photographs, scientifically correct text and stitched binding to insure the book would not fall apart after heavy use in the field. Pratt then made a creative and key decision: to organize the plants by color; not scientific classification. This decision provided a new, easy way for a novice to learn about plants, their similarities, differences and, above all, to appreciate their beauty.

Pratt’s job was to write the text, choose the photographs she or Frank had taken and, using an artistic sensibility learned in her public school art classes, design and do the layout of each page and the book as a whole. Frank’s job was to research, learn and use an appropriate software program to make the book “camera ready” for overseas printing. After much hard work, the “Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers Commonly Seen Along Highways and Byways” was published in 1989. This was followed in 1991 by “Wildflowers Along the Alaska Highway, Wildflowers of Denali National Park” in 1993, “Alaska’s Wild Berries and Berry-Like Fruit” in 1995, and in 2003, “Travel Notes for the Wildflower Enthusiast,” for drawing and field notes. Upon discovering that there were no suitable books on the market which introduced children to the plants of the forest and meadow, Pratt and her husband wrote and published “Linnaea’s World,” a children’s book, in 1996.

Pratt has shared her expert knowledge in a variety of other ways and venues as well, from teaching classes to leading field trips to conducting formal lectures. Her leadership of field trips has earned her the title of “mountain goat” from her friends and students due to her agility in navigating difficult terrain in search of that one elusive wildflower. She has conducted classes through the Anchorage Community Schools program, been an adjunct lecturer at the University of Alaska Anchorage in the Alaska Wilderness Studies Program and continues to lead Alaska Geographic Society field trips at the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park and Preserve and at the Portage Visitor Center. She has taught at the Alaska Botanical Gardens and in the Anchorage public schools. As a recognized expert, she was invited to speak at the Long Island, New York, chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society in 1991 and in 2001 lectured on Alaska wildflowers to the International Rock Garden Plant Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Pratt has long been a leader in the Anchorage gardening community and beyond. In 1982 she and her husband founded the Alaska Native Plant Society and she served as its first president from 1982-88. In 1997 she founded the Alaska Chapter, North American Rock Garden Society and also served as its first president. She holds memberships in the Wildflower Garden Club and the Alaska Master Gardeners Association. Pratt participates directly in the local community in other ways as well – by helping to care for and maintain the gardens at the Alaska Botanical Garden, Campbell Creek Science Center and she volunteers as one of the Weed Warriors with the Alaska Native Plant Society.

Pratt has received local, statewide and national honors and recognition for her contributions to educating the public about Alaska’s native plants and wildflowers. In 1991, and again in 1993, she received the Helen S. Hull Literary Award from the National Council of State Garden Clubs for “literary production of horticultural interest” and in 1999 she received the Meritorious Service Award for “producing books to help people learn.” In 2000 she was honored locally as a Woman of Achievement by the Anchorage YWCA and in 2002 was elected to the (national)  board of directors, North American Rock Garden Society.  Pratt also is a recipient of the Edgar T. Wherry Award given by the North American Rock Garden Society (date unknown) for “outstanding contribution in the dissemination of botanical and/or horticultural information about native North American plants.”  In 2009 Pratt and her husband were the first persons awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Anchorage Chapter of the Alaska Master Gardeners Association. On that occasion, it was humorously pointed out that they were being recognized: “For your ability to teach and teach and teach and run up mountains with people following you.” Anchorage garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels perhaps best summarizes Pratt’s reputation and contribution to knowledge about Alaska’s native plants and wildflowers in these words: “In the wildflower world around the country, everybody knows Verna Pratt,” and “if you want a book on wildflowers in Alaska, this (the first field guide) is the one you get, period.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Photo courtesy Michael Dineen, copy and reuse restrictions apply.

Alaska plant pioneers receive lifetime award, Anchorage Daily News, Oct. 22, 2009 Easy Rock Gardening, Homer Garden Club newsletter, March 2010

The hills are alive: talking wildflowers with expert Verna Pratt, KTUU.COM, Aug. 4, 2010

Organizing Beauty, Lorena Knapp, ALASKAMAGAZINE.COM, July/August 2013

Sisters of Providence

Photo of Sisters of Providence
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Hospitals, Medicine, Religion


After an invitation from the community of Nome to establish a hospital and provide medical care, four Sisters of Providence nurses traveled by horseback, train and boat from Montreal, Canada, and arrived in Nome, a city of 10,000 people, on June 10, 1902. They went straight to work fulfilling their mission, and then in 1910 moved on to Fairbanks where they built and operated a hospital. In 1939, the Sisters of Providence established a two story, 52-bed hospital in Anchorage. As Alaska’s largest city grew, this facility was replaced in 1962. Today, they continue to operate a number of hospitals, schools and orphanages throughout Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada.

The order began in 1843 in Montreal, Canada.

Margaret (McMullian) Pugh

Photo of Margaret (McMullian) Pugh
Categories: 2019 Alumnae, Commissioner of Corrections



Margaret Pugh served as one of the first women leaders in the management of Alaska’s correctional system. During her career she worked at McLaughlin Youth Center, Johnson Youth faculty and several state prisons, including as Superintendent of Lemon Creek Correctional Institution. She served as Commissioner of Corrections in the Knowles Administration from 1994 t0 2002.

During her tenure she introduced and implemented the concept of Restorative Justice, which emphasizes treatment for mental health and substance abuse for prisoners to reduce recidivism.  She established the first institution for female offenders and replaced the last of the old territorial prisons.

Governor Knowles said, “Margaret Pugh emphasized the importance of keeping prisoners in touch with their family, so she maximized in-state facilities rather than sending prisoners to private outside facilities. She fought for juvenile justice reform and zero tolerance of child abuse. Her public service helped advance a better and safer society for Alaska”

Pugh’s involvement in Girl Scouts in Alaska dates back to the early 70’s. She served first as a troop leader, then as camp facilitator (persuading people to donate their boats, trucks, buses, and helicopters for the camp), travel coordinator (helping coordinate little girl scouts from across Southeast back and forth between their homes and Juneau which included housing girls while waiting for state ferries. Years later she served as a board member and then as board chair for the Tongass Girl Scouts, continuing during the merger with Susitna Council to form the Girl Scouts of Alaska.

On reflection, Pugh expressed gratitude for all who taught, inspired and mentored her on her journey in Alaska. She and her husband John Pugh, former Chancellor of the University of Southeast, raised two children who became able and generous adults who provided two beloved granddaughters, Sophia and Elle.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Cathryn “Cathy” (Robertson) Rasmuson

Photo of Cathryn “Cathy” (Robertson) Rasmuson
Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Community Service, Philanthropy, Public Service


Cathy Rasmuson’s impact as active Vice-Chair of the Rasmuson Foundation since 1997 is immeasurable. Her caring influence can be felt everywhere—from Alaska’s Native villages and urban cities to health care and the arts—with thousands of Alaskans every day benefitting from her passion to make Alaska a better place to live.

Rasmuson has been guided by a generous heart her entire life. She grew up in a modest household in Canada, but one rich in empathy and compassionate awareness for others. Her parents’ faith and their example as role models gave her a strong moral compass.

She believes everyone has strengths and gifts and it’s important to recognize who you are, what your gifts are, and make the most of them. As a young girl, she realized that she had a particular gift for organization and strategic thinking. These gifts have served her well in all her endeavors—from her service on the Rasmuson Foundation championing causes to hosting innumerable events, receptions, and dinners for a myriad of organizations from The Foraker Group to Sitka Fine Arts and many others.

One of the Rasmusons’ significant achievements has been to nourish the growth and expansion of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. Rasmuson has a particular love of the arts and museums. When she is traveling, she never misses a museum.

Some of Rasmuson’s personal commitments include being the co-chair of the successful capital campaign for the Providence Cancer Center and as a founder and long-time Board member of Covenant House. She has been instrumental in establishing the pediatric/newborn intensive care unit at Providence, as well as being involved in supporting Catholic Social Services and the McAuley Moms. Rasmuson has initiated and shepherded many Rasmuson Foundation programs, such as expanding dental services in rural Alaska. In the last thirty-five years, she has served on numerous boards, including Alaska Children’s Services and the Alaska Repertory Theatre, in addition to countless committees. Rasmuson commented that the board and committee experiences have taught her to listen and to be grateful.

It was her sense of adventure that brought her to Alaska, where she met her lifelong mentor and loving partner, Ed Rasmuson, appropriately enough at a Valentine party. It was also this sense of adventure that provided her with one of her most memorable experiences. One year, Joe Reddington, the father of the Iditarod, offered a trip to anyone who would like to actually do the Iditarod trail. Joe schooled them in the art of dog-mushing and gave them each their own team—and then they began the 1200 mile journey! This is not for the faint of heart—it is cold, hard work and dangerous. They were all novices making their way to Nome. Those who made this journey became lifelong friends—as you do when you go through adversity together. The compassion that each had as they helped each other through some very rough times has stayed with them. Accomplishing this goal required enormous mental strength and determination, lessons that were transferred to the rest of her life.

Rasmuson loves to dance and is usually game for when “volunteers” are called for, be it the hula, flamenco, Irish, or Native dancing. Of course, she does extensive community volunteering. For example, when in the desert, she makes weekly visits to an elementary school for underprivileged children in Indio.

Ironically, Rasmuson dislikes fundraising, though she knows it is essential to seek funds to support causes she cherishes. However, her passion for a cause and commitment transcends that challenge, which takes her out of her comfort zone.

It is her temperament to wake up every morning and want to make the best of each day. She greatly values her friends, particularly their loyalty. She also enjoys reading—and thus her support of statewide libraries is well-known. She does enjoy cooking and her favorite specialty cuisines are Moroccan, Indian, and Italian. Rasmuson loves to golf, but has yet to hit that elusive hole-in-one. In addition to golf, she loves hiking, which led her to another adventure of hiking the historic Chilkat Trail with friends.

Her travels have included nearly every region of Alaska. Through these onsite visits, she sees firsthand the needs of each of these communities by meeting with elders and community leaders and hosting town meetings to learn about their vision of how their villages and towns can move toward a brighter future.

Key to Rasmuson’s character is not to seek the spotlight or acclaim for her many achievements and spheres of influence. Rather, she always gives credit and recognition to her partners, collaborators, and teams for the successes that were achieved. She has been honored, though, with the Ed and Cathryn Rasmuson Hall at UAA, the Lizzie Award from Covenant House and has been recognized as a YWCA “Woman of Achievement”. Her bio on the Rasmuson Foundation website is modest and brief, simply stating her board service with the Rasmuson Foundation and that her family is important to her life. She has three children and eight grandchildren and devotes her time to being a friend, a grandmother, the Rasmuson Foundation, and travel.

Rasmuson has truly been the heart of the Rasmuson Foundation. Her generous spirit and heart have touched many. As Alison Kear of Covenant House Alaska states: “She tirelessly gives her time to her friends, to those in need, and to the community. She is a selfless and powerful role model.”

She has always been powered by a passionate commitment and she has done a great deal of good for the state of Alaska.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Individual comments from Barbara Baugh, Pamela Brady, Alison Kear, Julie Fate Sullivan, Diane Kaplan and direct conversation with Cathryn Rasmuson



Mary Louise Rasmuson

Photo of Mary Louise Rasmuson
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Community Activism, Military, Philanthropy


Mary Louise Milligan entered the United States Army with the first group of American women selected for the Women’s Army Corps. She retired 20 years later as a Colonel after serving the last six years as Director of the Women’s Army Corps. Mary Louise broke down barriers for women in the U.S. armed forces successfully pursuing a career previously unavailable to women at a time when it was not popular to do so. She was a consistent advocate for improving the opportunities for women in the Army and for people of color to receive equal treatment in pursuit of military careers and engaging in community life.

In 1961, she married widowed Elmer E. Rasmuson and moved to Alaska. She and Elmer founded the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, now the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. She has served on the Board of the Rasmuson Foundation since 1967 and has set a model for personal philanthropy that will impact the state forever.