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Mary Ciuniq Pete

Photo of Mary Ciuniq Pete
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

Photo of Leah Webster Peterson
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

Photo of Ramona Gail (McIver) Phillips
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


Sandy Poulson

Photo of Sandy Poulson
Categories: 2020 Alumnae, Community Activism, Journalism


Poulson has been the co-editor and co-publisher, with her husband Thad Poulson, of the Daily Sitka Sentinel since 1969. Over the past 50 years, Sandy’s tireless work as manager and editor has built and sustained this remarkable community institution. Her work meets the highest standards of journalism, and in her personal and professional life, she has contributed immeasurably to civic life and society with her warm approach and steadfast adherence to the values of kindness and justice. 

Poulson was born on February 21, 1940 at home, a “little shotgun house,” in Seminole, Texas. She was christened Amabel Frances Gay Montgomery, but nicknamed Sandy as a baby. She was the fourth of seven children in a family who moved frequently all over the Southwest. Fortunately, she loved to move and loved going to a new school. Her first move was at the age of 6 months, to Hobbs, New Mexico. She graduated high school in Nowata, Oklahoma; the list of towns they lived between those places is part of the Montgomery mythology, reading like a road song: Blanding Utah, Coffeyville Kansas, Artesia New Mexico (twice), Cortez Colorado, Truth or Consequences New Mexico, Lenapah Oklahoma and Farmington New Mexico (this is not the entire list), as her father worked in oil and farming, and at one point owned a filling station. 

Poulson’s inspiration is her mother. Grace Whelan Montgomery did not always have electricity or running water, or even a well at one house, but would do all the family’s laundry, even ironing her husband’s underwear with sad irons, heated on top of the stove. “Mom set the standards.” It is hard to imagine the labor of washing all those clothes, diapers, and menstrual rags, even without having to haul water – by truck or wagon – and build the fire, using a wash board and hanging it all on a line, much less in August in New Mexico.

A memory Poulson has is of one of those moves, in her spot on the Pontiac’s floorboards behind her mother’s seat, driving through the night, listening to the border radio play ”Deep in the Heart of Texas,” seeing just the lighted tips of her parents’ cigarettes as they talked. 

Poulson’s mother was “a good strong mom. Home was always a safe place. Even if we didn’t have a bathroom.” “We always felt we were better than everybody else. And my momma was the smartest.” Her mother inspired all her children with the love of education and literacy. At every new town they moved to, Sandy’s mother would first get a library card and a subscription to the local newspaper. All seven went to college.

Poulson won a scholarship to the University of Tulsa by winning the “T.U. Going to College Quiz” contest. She majored in journalism, and was editor of the college newspaper, the Collegian, her junior and senior years. In 1962, her senior year, the Collegian was named Oklahoma’s Outstanding Newspaper by the Oklahoma Collegiate Press Association. 

Poulson interned at the Oklahoma City Times between her junior and senior years, which is where she started reading while walking, on the two miles to work. She then went to work as a reporter there when she graduated in 1962. She met Thad Poulson, an editor at the Daily Oklahoman, the morning paper published in the same office. In 1964 they married, and moved to Salt Lake City when Thad signed with the Associated Press. Sandy worked at the Salt Lake Tribune.

When Poulson left the Tribune at the birth of her first child, she began a humor column, “Hearth Throbs,” for the Tribune, which she wrote until 1981. The family moved to New York City when Thad was transferred there by the Associated Press, and child number three was born.

In 1968 Poulson and Thad came to Juneau as a team as reporters for the Associated Press; just a year later, in January 1969, they had the opportunity to come to Sitka to run the Sentinel. The newspaper had been purchased by Lew Williams Sr., publisher of the Ketchikan Daily News, who persuaded the young couple to manage and eventually buy the paper. Both were there full time, working long days, in the beginning doing nearly all the work themselves, from writing copy to running the printing press: they had a young woman come after school to help typeset. The enormous amount of work in the early years did not diminish, with more employees, with always new challenges of small-town Alaska. 

The first year in Sitka the Poulson kids had a babysitter, then when child number four was born in 1970, the Sentinel became their daycare and they grew up playing with paper computer tape and film opaquing pens, stuffing papers with grocery ads, and selling and delivering newspapers. Child number five, then grandchildren, also spent their early years at the Sentinel office.

This dedicated, reliable and humble woman has been the spine of a daily newspaper that connects community members to each other, the state, the nation and the world. For the last five decades, Poulson has worked seven days a week, rising before dawn and  leaving after dark every weekday, working behind the scenes to edit national and state stories, write headlines, manage the staff and circulation, make assignments, lay out pages, ensure public announcements and legal notices are printed, cover the courts and police and write obituaries, and even deliver a route.  The daily is put out five days a week, 51 (of 52) weeks a year. When you multiply that by 51 years (January 1969 through January 2020), that’s 13,005 issues of the Sentinel, and counting.  

While it is one of the smallest circulation dailies in the nation, the Sentinel maintains the very highest standards for journalism with comprehensive, even-handed, accurate coverage of local government, issues and events by two full-time reporters plus coverage by other staff. This comes from Poulson’s and Thad’s commitment to the ideal of journalism as essential to an informed public, fundamental to a functioning democracy. As a journalism professional who came of age before the Watergate scandal, Poulson’s idea of the press is not a glamorous or dramatic profession, but a vital service that depends on diligent effort. 

The Sentinel with its emphasis on informative, and truthful, local news coverage has allowed the citizens of Sitka to participate more fully in their government, make informed policy decisions and build a stronger and healthier society. The Sentinel is the newspaper of record, a responsibility Sandy and Thad take seriously. The Sitka Sentinel publishes divorces, marriages, new businesses, estate settlements, court settlements, death notices, and public meeting notifications. This approach and steady commitment to accuracy is ever more rare, as news coverage is increasingly sensational or partisan, and local coverage disappears. 

Sitka, the state of Alaska, and the nation are stronger today because of the Sentinel’s work to inform the public. From time to time an event of national significance happens in Sitka, and the presence of this trusted institution is critical in bringing regional and national attention to an issue, helping citizens make meaningful change. These events are often tragic; the Sentinel’s compassionate and accurate coverage makes a difference, promoting resilience and recovery. As a recent example, Sitka experienced a deadly landslide in 2015 in which two young carpenters and the City Building Inspector were killed. There was tremendous loss of property, fear, grief and uncertainty. The Daily Sitka Sentinel reported on the tragedy and its aftermath with sensitivity and thoroughness. The Sentinel’s coverage of the tragedy, of community meetings and visiting experts, catalyzed new state efforts to conduct hazard and risk-mapping in the mountainous towns up and down Alaska’s coastline. Community organizations went on to secure federal dollars to conduct landslide research and develop a local warning system, which could be a model for the rest of the country. 

Building trust and maintaining high journalistic standards has been in addition to the complicated work it takes to publish and distribute a newspaper in rural Alaska, every day, dealing with power outages, printing equipment failures 800 miles from the nearest technician, communications that go down, and the increasing social and economic challenges of operating a small business in rural Alaska.

Poulson works tirelessly without wanting recognition and without ego. While the Sentinel has won many Alaska Press Club awards for its journalism, Sandy’s greatest achievements may be the kind that don’t have award categories, like working with families to write warm and wonderful obituaries; training  and empowering new generations of journalists; making all the staff feel part of the family at the Sentinel, especially the paper boys and girls; buying the paintings no one else wants at a nonprofit art auction, so no one’s feelings are hurt. When employees have personal challenges, Poulson will do everything she can to support them, from time off to babysitting. 

It is hard to describe the influence of Poulson’s compassion, knowledge, intelligence and ideals at the Sentinel – as a journalist, business owner and mother – on the community of Sitka. Poulson insists on a policy of not charging a fee or setting a word limit for obituaries — in a true democracy everyone’s story is important and newsworthy. 

Poulson’s motivation behind the hard work and long hours: “I really love working there. I just enjoy it. I love the news, my co-workers are just the best – they are good friends, and family.” She finds it interesting to be part of the community, but “believe it or not, I’m a shy person.” Poulson considers herself the “luckiest woman in the land.” For fun, she says she goes to the office. She also does crosswords, and always has a “walkabout book,” a paperback, usually a whodunnit, that she reads as she takes papers on her route or walks to the police station to pick up the blotter. She reads history and biography, but now reads mostly magazines and newspapers. 

Her main challenge? “Time.” Her main frustration is “being slow” and feeling inefficient, even when there aren’t diapers to change. In earlier days, when stories came over the wire and were coded onto computer tape, new leads would come in over the day that would have to be spliced into the story. Now that everything is done visually, and electronically, that work and the work of physically pasting up the newspaper copy isn’t needed, but the small staff at the Sentinel, especially in the early days, means one person being sick puts a strain on the operation. Another new problem is having kids not show up to do their routes as life gets ever more complicated.

As editor of the Tulsa University student newspaper, Poulson once wrote an editorial “against motherhood” as exemplified in a white mother smugly barring the school door against a black child. UPI (United Press International) picked up the story about her editorial. All her life, Poulson has been passionate about justice and fairness; the middle child of a large family, she is a natural mediator, never taking sides, offering compassion and non-judgmental ear to employees, grandchildren, and disgruntled citizen alike. This is perhaps her most remarkable and outstanding attribute. 

No matter the news subject, no one has ever heard her say “I don’t care.” Poulson has a lack of cynicism (but not skepticism), an immense compassion and an incredible ability to take whatever time necessary to hear out, calm down and reason with even the most irate reader. Poulson has been a role model as a professional woman, and as a steady, dependable, caring human being. A granddaughter is now in college pursuing journalism, and many other grandchildren and former employees and members of the community have been inspired by her kindness and professionalism and dedication to fairness.

Her advice to people coming up in journalism? “Choose your parents very well.” Her other advice: “Do work hard. Be kind. And always proofread.”

Her passion for justice, fairness and responsibility to our neighbors is reflected in her service on the Salvation Army community advisory board and other boards, and membership in the Soroptimists then the Sitka Women’s Club. Poulson is notorious for buying the unwanted items at charity auctions, so no-one’s feelings are hurt. Her family teases her about this but are genuinely proud of her boundless compassion. Thad and Poulson are known for supporting community organizations, especially arts and culture. The Sentinel has won awards for community service as well as for journalism and photography. 

Poulson has dedicated her life to the betterment of her community, the state and the nation through quality journalism and the hard work to publish a newspaper and build a workplace that reflect her values of truth and fairness.

The quality and approach of the Sentinel builds faith in our democracy and in our society. Sandy has helped to build a better, more caring, more democratic and connected community. She has done this not only professionally but through her relationships with employees, family, peers and community members. She is a role model in her gentle way of not drawing a hard line between work, community and family. Through her example, of hard work, high standards, and of listening and caring, she teaches those around her how to be a better human being.  

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.

Sharon Richards

Photo of Sharon Richards
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Community Service, Education, Non-Profit Leadership


Volunteer, activist, educator, non-profit leader, elected official and small business owner are the broad titles Sharon Richards has carried during her life in Alaska. In all of her roles, Richards has reached out to people from minority communities and has been a tenacious advocate for women, children and families. Richards has led a life of non-profit leadership and volunteerism which has inspired many. She is a quiet leader who looks for people’s strengths. She believes in a public process which involves all people, not just the well connected. In 1988 Richards worked with a group of women to establish a YWCA in Anchorage, resigning as president of the organizing board to become is first executive director and growing the organization for the next 14 years from a staff of one to a staff of 14 operating out of their own building – Richards retired in 2002.

Prior to the YWCA, Richards was director of Community Relations at United Way and trained hundreds of non-profit boards of directors from across Alaska in legal and financial responsibilities. She also taught that studying issues made people informed voters and participants in society which turned them into leaders. She encouraged young women and minorities to take charge of their lives, to develop small businesses and to ecome college and/or career educated in order to become better leaders. Through this work, Richards has served as a role model for young women in the community who aspire to public service and political positions.

Before moving to Alaska, Richards had worked as a classroom language-arts teacher for junior-high-aged students. In 1967 she made the transition to Anchorage with her first husband and 18-month-old son – she also was four months pregnant with her daughter. This is when her life-long commitment to volunteerism and training others to become community and business leaders began. During this beginning she also had a third child, a son.

Early in her career, Richards worked as director of the Volunteer Center during Mayor Tony Knowles’ administration. In this capacity she established the annual city-wide volunteer recognition and Volunteer Service Awards. For six years she served on an Anchorage School District committee that dealt with minority concerns. After chairing it she was appointed and then elected to the Anchorage School Board where she served nearly eight years (1988-1995) twice elected president by her colleagues. She also served as secretary-treasurer for the state-wide Alaska Association of School Boards.

Some of her other community commitments have included: president of many organizations including the League of Women Voters, KAKM, Anchorage Downtown Rotary Club, Association of Non-Profit Corporations and the Anchorage Association of Volunteer Administrators plus chair of the Anchorage Daily News Neighbor-to-Neighbor Fund. She was also on the boards of directors of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Community Foundation. Because of Richards leadership and hard work she received the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce ATHENA award in 1999; the YWCA Women of Achievement Award in 1998; the Citizen of the Year Award from the Alaska Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers in 1994 and was recognized by LULAC, a Latino organization for outstanding commitment, involvement and contribution to the minority community in 1986.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

2000 ATHENA Society Directory, Profiles in Leadership

Michelle “Mish” Ridgway

Photo of Michelle “Mish” Ridgway
Categories: 2018 Alumnae, Conservation, Education, Exploration, Marine Ecology


Upon the sudden death of marine scientist, educator and conservationist Michelle Ridgway, there was much discussion on social media. One comment, though, seemed to capture them all. It came from former legislator Andrea Doll … “I am mourning the loss of someone greater than life.”

Life-long Alaskan Michelle Ridgway was, indeed, a larger than life figure. Whether piloting a submarine to explore the ocean’s largest undersea canyon, helping document a new species of kelp or whale, fighting for marine conservation across Alaska or building the next generation of Alaskan scientists with her marine science camps … Michelle was at once memorable and impactful.

Michelle developed her love and appreciation for marine life while growing up on Ketchikan’s shore. She later pursued her education in marine biology, algal ecology, and fisheries sciences at Evergreen State College, the University of Washington, Kobe University (Kobe Japan), and University of Alaska Fairbanks.

While working as a fisheries biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in the 1980’s, Michelle loved conducting fisheries fieldwork throughout Alaska. She later worked as a Research Associate with the University of Alaska and ultimately developed a career as a private contractor, creating a consulting firm (Oceanus Alaska) and educational portal (Alaska Deep Ocean Science Institute) through which she was actively engaged as a marine ecologist, researcher, and educator for nearly three decades.

Michelle Ridgway was a marine ecologist in the most comprehensive sense of the term. She was fascinated by the intricacies and inter-relationships of marine species, from microscopic zooplankton to the massive whales they nourished. She studied, described, and measured the bio/chemo/physical properties of the marine environment needed to sustain marine species, helping to define species’ Essential Habitat in objective and mathematical terms.

Michelle believed the only way to truly understand a marine species and its habitat was to observe it in situ— alive and underwater. So she dove, she ran Remote Operating Vehicles (ROV), and she piloted submarines. She was at home underwater. She explored marine realms from the tropics to the ice-covered arctic, from intertidal pools to ocean canyons, observing and then sharing this unique perspective with others.

A highlight of her career was to be among the first scientists to ever explore the Zhemchug Canyon, an 8,500-foot deep canyon that plunges into the Aleutian Basin near the Pribilof Islands. Sponsored by a research expedition of Greenpeace, Michelle piloted an 8-foot-long solo submarine to explore, document, and sample deep-water denizens of the canyon’s depths. Her observations during these dives shed new light on the distribution of zooplankton communities in Zhemchug Canyon depths. Rather than living only in the upper water column and raining down to depths as detritus as was commonly believed, Michelle found these tiny creatures (that form the basis of the entire marine food web) even at depths of nearly 1800 feet in the Zhemchug Canyon. In her own words, Michelle noted, “The entire water column was teeming with a very dense aggregation of zooplankton. It’s rich and living at every depth we examined.”

Michelle never just observed and documented marine life. Her passion was in sharing what she knew. This sharing of knowledge— through elaborate descriptions, intimate photos, and underwater video— was Michelle’s unique gift. Her fascination and appreciation of marine species, their habitat, adaptations, and ecological connections was contagious. She would explore tidepools with a 5 year old in the morning and testify about Essential Fish Habitat before federal resource managers in the afternoon… and both audiences would come away with a new awareness of their marine environment.

But Michelle connected uniquely with young minds and beginning in 2005, she collaborated with local conservationists, school districts, and Native entities to develop and deliver intensive Marine Science Camps. Over ten years, she directed more than a dozen week-long marine science camps in Old Harbor, Juneau, Akutan, the Pribilof Islands, and Sitka. After tailoring a curriculum for each oceanic locale, local culture, and research/vessel resources available, Michelle directed these camps as action-packed, research-based scientific expeditions for students. She taught her students to observe without preconceptions. As a result, she and her student scientists collected data and samples during these camps that were instrumental in documenting a new species of kelp and beaked whale. NOAA is now emulating her design of marine science camps as a way to bridge government scientists with student groups.

Michelle’s impact on her students went beyond the Science Camps. Karin Holser, a teacher in the village of St. George, says, “She was willing to do whatever was needed to inspire them to want to learn more and to understand the ocean that surrounded their island. She was an incredible mentor to many of the kids of both St. George and St. Paul Island. She took these science camp kids to the Smithsonian to work with the new whale species that was discovered on St. George. She took them to NYC to the Explorers Club, she coached them to be keynote speakers at a North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) conference, and they got an award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation.”

To the students in these science camps, Michelle was on the level of famed oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle (dubbed “Her Deepness” by fellow scientists). Michelle mentored and inspired them to the same degree that Sylvia Earle inspired her. It should be no surprise to learn that Michelle joined Sylvia as a member of the prestigious Explorer’s Club, an international organization of scientists, adventurers and philanthropists, promoting exploration throughout the world.

Beyond her exploratory nature, Michelle was known in the marine fisheries and conservation world as an unblinking advocate for marine species, habitats, and resources. Her dedication to science-based marine conservation led to Michelle’s service as an early board member (1995-2001) of the Alaska Marine Conservation council (AMCC) where she helped build a community-based conservation program. Michelle inspired the new organization to address large fishery management challenges by focusing on the whole ecosystem and the fishing communities that rely on healthy oceans. She guided the program to be rooted in science while boldly challenging the status quo.

In 2000, Michelle was appointed to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (NPFMC) Advisory Panel where she served from April 2000 through December 2008. It was in the policy forum where she used her marine ecology acumen to scrutinize decisions that most others at the table considered from narrower perspectives.

David Witherell, the current Executive Director of the NPFMC, says, “Michelle was a passionate advocate for resource conservation and habitat protection in the marine waters off Alaska. As a scientist with first-hand knowledge and direct observation of seafloor habitats, she brought a unique perspective to the Advisory Panel’s discussions and deliberations on the best approach to conserving and managing the fisheries off Alaska.  Michelle had a great influence on the development of major conservation policies, including actions taken by the Council to protect vast areas of deep-sea corals, reduce bycatch, and reduce potential impacts of fishing on Steller sea lions.”

Michelle also served as an advisor to NOAA on the National Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee from 2010-2014. Later she worked closely with Alaska Native Tribal communities to help nominate the Pribilof Domain of the Bering Sea as Alaska’s first National Marine Sanctuary.

Although leading a full career as a marine ecologist and conservationist, Michelle always made time to reach out to young people— and especially women— aspiring to become marine scientists. In her own notes about her career, Michelle stated that she mentored dozens of young women in high school and college. One of these dozen young women is Emma Good currently a student at Western Washington University. Emma Good says, “What I will remember most is Michelle’s passion and commitment to not only help, but inspire young scientists like myself to succeed in the field. For young students it is so important to have strong role models and I hope one day I will be able to give back to this community in the same way that Michelle mentored and cared about me.”

In her personal life, Michelle embraced life with the same degree of passion she exhibited in her professional life. She sailed, mushed huskies, was a volunteer fire-fighter/EMT, and played a mean game of tennis and hockey, among many other activities. But foremost in her life was her fierce loving loyalty to family and friends.

Michelle believed one thing that wove together the many strands of her life:  What you do matters.  Whether exploring the waters depths, teaching a friend to mush dogs or visiting distant relatives, she made an intentional effort in every moment of her life.  She believed it mattered.

Additional Resources:

Anchorage Daily News story about her trip into Zhemchug Canyon –

Link to submarine video of Michelle’s solo submarine journey into Zhemchug Canyon –

Anchorage Daily News story about new species of beaked whale –

Journal Nature article on the discovery of Golden-V kelp at the Pribilof Islands –

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Martha M. Roderick

Photo of Martha M. Roderick
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Civic Involvement, Education


Martha Brady Martin was born in 1931 in Knoxville, Tenn. At age 16, she went to Radcliffe. In 1955 she came to Alaska “just for the summer” intending to return to Boston for a job with John Hancock Insurance Company. She did not go back. Her first job in Anchorage was to sell advertising for the program of a traveling circus. Giving her sales pitch at Cordova Airlines, she was asked her dress size, and when it was determined she would fit the stewardess uniform, was offered a job. She accepted, and traveled on a DC-3 around Alaska. She met an attractive truck driver (Jack Roderick) in Anchorage and married him. They raised two daughters.

Martha was interested in politics, and the year she arrived in Anchorage she was elected secretary of the local Democratic caucus. She joined the League of Women Voters and chaired a committee conducting a two-year study of Anchorage’s first general plan. She was a member of the speaker’s bureau promoting the formation of the Greater Anchorage Area Borough. After statehood, Gov. Egan appointed Martha Alaska’s representative to the Western States’ Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE).

The Roderick family went to New Delhi, India, in 1967, where Jack served a year as regional director for the Peace Corps. After their return, Martha pursued her particular interest in education. She served on Anchorage School District committees from 1969 to 1983, and was elected to the Anchorage School Board in 1984 and served on it for four years, her last year as president.

As a child, Martha had watched her grandfather pay his garden workers, mostly African-American citizens, to stay after their work day so he could teach them to read. Inspired by that, Martha regularly volunteered for more than 40 years, particularly at Fairview Elementary School, to help children succeed at reading. Her commitment to education was sincere. One year, Martha spent her Permanent Fund dividend on a “for-keeps” book for every student at Fairview School. Later, she taught as part of the Title One program at Fairview, and taught pre-GED students at the Adult Learning Center. She found success with her approach to determine what was of interest to the student. For boys who answered “heavy equipment”, Martha would have them use a heavy equipment manual as the textbook.

In 1980, Martha attended the Radcliffe Management Training Seminar and did an internship at Massachusetts Education Television. On her return to Anchorage in 1981, she became the first community access coordinator for Multivisions Cable Company. There, she set up what is now the Anchorage School District Channel 43. She met with local groups and worked to get them to produce and broadcast television shows about issues and events of interest to their constituencies.

Martha contributed her time, intelligence, skill, and energy to helping young people learn to read, and to working to help the Anchorage school system excel. She believed the ability to read could make a difference between a life of success and one of discouragement. The Martha Roderick Books for Kids Fund, established after her death in 2008, allows her family to continue her program of giving a “for keeps” book to every child at Fairview Elementary School.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Teri May (Laws) Rofkar

Photo of Teri May (Laws) Rofkar
Tlingit Name: Chaas’ Koowu Tia’a 19562016
Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Tlingit Culture, Traditional Weaving


Teri Rofkar, a Raven from the Snail House, was a renowned Tlingit artist, a weaver known nationally and internationally for her spruce tree root baskets and Ravenstail robes.

At an early age, she was introduced to traditional Tlingit weaving techniques by her maternal Tlingit grandmother, Eliza Monk, whom she visited in the summers in the village of Pelican in Southeast Alaska. Both her parents, Bud and Marie, were artists who experimented with multiple art forms. While Rofkar did not begin her professional thirty-year career as an artist until 1986, she credits her grandmother’s early teachings as inspiring her interest in the traditional gathering and weaving techniques.

From careful examination of traditional baskets, discussions with elders and experimentation with the Ravenstail techniques of twining, Rofkar was able to learn the 6,000 year-old traditional Tlingit methods of gathering and weaving natural materials. She created both waterproof baskets from spruce tree roots and dancing Ravenstail robes. Since both were created through the same twining technique Rofkar sometimes referred to her robes as “dancing baskets”.

To use these traditional methods requires an artist to have an enormous capacity for work, a great deal of time, and a tenacious dedication. Rofkar estimated that each hour of digging spruce roots resulted in 8 to10 hours to prepare the roots for use. Weaving a small basket could take 40 to 210 hours, or 80 to 2300 hours for a large basket. To create a Ravenstail robe first required 6 months of spinning and then 800 to 1400 hours to twine the robe on a frame.

Once Rofkar learned and mastered the 6,000 year-old gathering and weaving techniques, she realized she needed to re-introduce this ancient knowledge to others. She did not considered herself a teacher, but believed that spreading her understanding of traditional Tlingit cultural practices was a necessary and obvious obligation. She acknowledged her role as a culture bearer by commenting: “I get to carry the culture for a little while, and then I’ll hand it off.”

While Rofkar did not have the same passion for teaching as she did for basketry, she taught the ancient gathering and weaving method widely and in a variety of ways. She led school children on field trips into the woods and taught them how spruce roots could be gathered from the same trees, year after year, without damage, so they would continue to be a renewable resource. For many years she conducted workshops for professional artists throughout the country, as well as leading spruce root harvesting classes in Cordova, Sitka and Yakutat.

Rofkar was recognized and honored by her peers by being chosen to deliver keynote addresses, lectures and master classes around the country from California to Minnesota to the East Coast. For a number of years she was an artist in residence at the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center in Sitka, the Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. She taught Ravenstail weaving classes at the University of Alaska Southeast and conducted apprenticeship programs. In addition to teaching the traditional cultural techniques to others, she worked with the National Museum of the American Indian to develop a protocol for the care and conservation of Tlingit baskets that was shared with other museums.

In 2013 she worked with an educational consultant to create an indigenous science curriculum based on the processes of gathering, planning a design and weaving a robe. For a number of years, Rofkar was an Affiliated Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology that houses the country’s largest collection of Northwest baskets. Her work involved examining and identifying which spruce root baskets had been made in the 6,000-year-old traditional Tlingit way and exploring the connection between science and art in the basketry. Rofkar documented this work in a book she wrote which, at the time of her death, was in the final stages of editing and review. She perhaps best summarized her roles as artist and teacher when she stated: “I’m hoping that the pieces that I create are the teachers. They’ll be looking at them, you know, 200 years from now. ‘Ah, this is what they were doing’ “.

As an artist, Rofkar was not afraid to experiment or incorporate contemporary design or new materials with traditional methods and techniques. She wove cedar bark and pine needles into her baskets, incorporated tiny maidenhair ferns for decoration, and experimented with adding copper, silk, and glass beads. She honored the utilitarian roots of her baskets by filling each one, at least once, with berries.

In order to weave an all-mountain goat wool Ravenstail robe, the first in 200 years, she had to learn from local “oldtimers” how, where and when mountain goat undercoat could be gathered. Then, after learning how to spin the hair into wool, she wove a robe utilizing the traditional Ravenstail twining method. In the side panels she incorporated the very modern design of the double helix of the Baranof Island mountain goat’s unique DNA.

In recent years, Rofkar was working on what she called her Superman series of regalia that included the mountain goat robe and two others. One proposal was to use Kevlar material for a bulletproof Ravenstail robe, but trying to procure such material proved difficult. Her third idea was to create a robe of illumination that could shine like the northern lights when triggered by audio signal by weaving luminescence and nanotechnology into the fabric. She did succeed in creating a prototype of this robe using fiber optic wire.

Rofkar’s seventeen Ravenstail robes and numerous spruce root baskets are exhibited at museums and other facilities throughout the country. These locations include: the Denver Art Museum, Chicago Field Museum, Natural History Museum in New Your City, Portland Art Museum, Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA, Alaska Native Heritage Center, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (depicts Good Friday Quake in Ravenstail robe design), University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, University of British Columbia Museum, Fairbanks Court House, UAF Museum of the North, Doyon Corporation, Visitors’ Center, US Forest Service in Ketchikan and Sitka, Alaska High School.

On the occasion of being awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Alaska Southeast in 2015, Rofkar worked with the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka to bring her robes back to Sitka from collections around the country. She commented at the time that: “This will be the first occasion in historic time that this many of this type of robe will be dancing”. At the May 1, 2015 ceremony, dancers wore her robes and danced during the commencement celebration. The University’s invitation to the ceremony included the following:”Teri’s robes are a repository of her research, math, and science not separate from, but including, spiritual, functional, and historic ancient culture. These artifacts and Teri’s continued work are a porthole into indigenous methodology that keeps all of these disciplines living and dancing into the future. Please join us as witness to this once in a lifetime gathering of traditions…”

Throughout Rofkar’s thirty-year career as a professional artist she received a number of significant awards and honors, including the following:

2001-2010: Artist in Residence, Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, Sitka;

2002: Commissioned to weave a basket for “2002 Governor’s Art Awards”;

2003: Native Arts “Smithsonian Visiting Scholar” at the National Museum of the

American Indian;

2003: Artist in Residence, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA;

2004: Governor’s Award for Native Arts in Alaska;

2004: Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership (Ecotrust);

2005: First place, Twined Miniatures, TOCA National Basketweaver’s Conference;

2005: Solo Exhibit, Anchorage Museum of Art and History;

2005: Alaska Native Art Festival, National Museum of the American Indian and

Natural History Museum,Washington, D.C.

2006: United States Artists Fellowship (inaugural class);

2006: Selected to demonstrate traditional art of Tlingit basket weaving,

Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, 6/30/06-7/4/2006;

2008: National Native Master Artist Initiative grant;

2009: NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award (the nation’s highest award for

traditional folk arts and crafts; awardees known as “Living Cultural Treasures”);

2009: Artist Fellowship Awards, Rasmuson Foundation;

2012-2014: Received support from Creative Capital for her Superman series;

2013: Distinguished Artist Award, Rasmuson Foundation, “recognized as an artist with stature and a history of creative excellence”;

2013: Artist Fellowship for Traditional Arts, Native Arts & Cultures Foundation award;

2013: Selected to deliver keynote address, Art Alliance Communities Conference,

San Jose, CA.;

2014: All mountain-goat wool Ravenstail robe awarded first place, Sealaska

Heritage Institute Juried Art Show;

2015: Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus;

2015-2020: Rofkar’s work included in ”Native America Voices: The People-Here

and Now” exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology

and Anthropology. She also served as a content advisor for the exhibit.

According to her sister, Rofkar was always a planner, thinking ahead to the next steps to take. She was a meticulous note taker, resulting in precise journals recording her research. She was practical and pragmatic and knew when it was time to create items for commercial gain and when she could create art. When she realized that operating the gallery in which she had partial ownership took too much time from her work as an artist, she sold her share. She was not afraid to try and fail; simply noting that something had not worked out. An “aha” moment, which changed her life, came about in 1996 when she stepped on a fragment of a spruce root basket that had been buried in the mud and preserved. The fragment was subsequently dated as being about 5,000 years old. Rofkar realized that the fragment was woven in exactly the way her grandmother had taught her when she was ten years old.

Her sister has made the point that Rofkar was more than just her art. Diane Kaplan, President and CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation, which gave a number of awards to Rofkar, stated: “Not only is she an artist of amazing talent and stature, she is also the most delightful, generous and patient person you probably will every meet.” She cared deeply about how best to live and create art, responsibly, in the environment, from eating locally to gathering spruce roots in the same manner and from the same trees as her ancestors had. The more Rofkar worked as an artist utilizing these traditional gathering and weaving techniques, the more she gained insight into ancient Tlingit culture. She explored her culture at great length and the more she learned, the deeper her appreciation.

Rofkar’s artist statement summarizes the connections she made between the present and her cultural past; contemporary and ancient culture, nature and art, and her role as a culture-bearer. “I am following the steps of my Ancestors, striving to recapture the woven arts of an indigenous people. The ancient ways of gathering spruce root, with respect for the trees’ life and spirit, are a rich lesson in today’s world. Traditional methods of gathering and weaving natural materials help me to link past, present, and future. Decades of weaving have opened my eyes to the pure science that is embedded in Tlingit Art. The arts and our oral history together bring knowledge of ten thousand years of research to life. My goal is to continue the research, broadening awareness for the generations to come.”

Teri Rofkar was a Tlingit, daughter of Raven from the Snail House (T’akdeintaan), a clan originating in Lituya Bay. She was a member of the Sitka Tribes of Alaska and a shareholder in the Sealaska Native Corporation. Born in California, she lived in Anchorage, Alaska, throughout her school years, graduating from Dimond High School in 1974 and was married in October 1974. She credited her grandmother, the encouragement and help from various elders, and college courses in her art form for her further education. She and her husband Dennis settled in Sitka in 1976 and raised three children.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Conversations with Dennis Rofkar and Shelly Laws (Teri Rofkar’s husband and sister, respectively) and Diane Kaplan, President and CEO, Rasmuson Foundation

Teri Rofkar’s website

Anchorage Dispatch News, Dec. 5, 2016, Article by Michelle Theriault Boots

Anchorage Dispatch News, Dec. 24, 2016, Article by Mike Dunham quoting from 2009 interview with Teri Rofkar

Diane Kaplan quotation from article in “First Alaskans Magazine”, Aug./Sept. 2013, p.58

Anchorage Museum Artist File



Frances Helaine Rose

Photo of Frances Helaine Rose
Categories: 2020 Alumnae, Education, Entrepreneurship


A half-century resident of Alaska, Bronx born alum, Frances (Dushman) Rose never envisioned living a life quite so far North from where she was born and attended college. Rose has taught GED classes to adults, GIs, and prison inmates as well as consulted on adult education teacher training for Native villages in Alaska.

Reflecting on her various new experiences in Alaska, Rose shared watching moose munching as its antlers clonked on her mailbox at her downtown Anchorage home as her favorite.

Rose grew accustomed to spectacular wildlife even when it wandered downtown. Her historic home in Anchorage once housed mink pelt storage.

Rose and her late husband, David Rose, were pillars of the community even before the 1980s North Slope oil development brought boom times to the railroad hub and major port of Anchorage, Alaska.

Rose’s 5 decades in Alaska reflected a “can do” spirit in every enterprise she undertook; especially in vocational education and civic causes.

When their two sons were infants, to cope with the “outrageous” cost of living, Rose did clerical work on military bases.

Rose served ten years on the State Advisory Council for vocational and career education, of which 2 years were as Chair. During this period, she served on the task force to develop the first 5 year statewide plan for vocational education. Starting in 1968, she worked as an instructor at the Adult Basic Education Program (ABE) at the Anchorage Community College and became the director of the program in 1977-79. One of her earliest assignments for ABE was teaching in an Anchorage correctional facility in 1968-69. Although it was outside her comfort zone, she developed a rapport with the inmates as she assisted them in obtaining their General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

After Rose’s 10 years with ABE she consulted for Tanana Chiefs Land Claims College in Fairbanks. Rose developed a training program for teachers from Athabaskan Villages. She also consulted with the Alaska Department of Education to conduct staff development workshops in Nome, Bethel and Kotzebue.

Prior to moving to Juneau with her husband in 1982, Rose was a co – City Administrator for the city of Akutan with Nancy Gross.

While in Juneau, from 1983-89, Rose was a special assistant to the Commissioner of Administration mini cabinet on women’s issues as part of the job.

Rose purchased and owned a women’s apparel shop named Victoria’s from 1985 to 1989.

Rose was Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development assisting in various economic development projects for small businesses from 1990-91.

For many years the Roses were business partners with Susan and Tony Knowles (he became mayor of Anchorage and later Governor of Alaska), in Anchorage’s popular New York style Downtown Deli, a New York style deli restaurant bringing authentic lox, bagels and the Sunday New York Times. On any given day movers and shakers; business, government and Native affairs men and women would hold court at the Deli as they charted Alaska’s future.

Rose’s most significant role in business was Senior Vice President of Administration for Alaska Permanent Capital Management Co. (APCM), a financial investment corporation which she formed with her husband David Rose. APCM grew to over $2 billion in assets under their management. Individual clients are accessing the same technology and expertise that is applied to management of funds for State and local governments, Alaska Native Corporations, financial institutions, health care organizations and The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.  APCM has hired a diverse group of financial experts from all over Alaska. A significant portion of the staff is women. Rose retired from the firm in 2017, completely turning over the reins to her son Evan Rose.

Rose and her husband created The Frances and David Rose Foundation in 1997. As a community and civic organizer over the past 40 years, Rose was a founding member of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and served on the Alaska Tourism and Marketing Council, the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, and the State Advisory Counsil for vocational and career education. Rose has been a generous contributor to many aspects of what makes Alaska and Anchorage a great place to live.

Rose was a charter member and founder of the Alaska Jewish Museum, which highlights the contributions of Jewish history in Alaska.

In 1959 Rose earned a bachelor degree in history from Queens College in New York and continued her education in 1975 where she earned a Master in Education (adult education) from the University of Alaska.

Fran’s family emigrated from Austria to America in the late 1800s and eventually lived in a multi-family tenement house in the Bronx. While growing up, Fran spent many hours with her grandmother who had lost her sight at age 55. During “Fran” time with her grandmother, she learned Yiddish. Because Fran’s grandmother did not know how to read or write, Fran developed a penchant for education. Fran is a voracious reader of history; the last book she enjoyed reading was “Catherine the Great”.

Rose is the mother of two sons, Evan and Mitch Rose, daughter-in-laws Barbara Saenz-Rose and Dale Rose. Rose has five grandchildren, Thomas and Joshua Saenz, and Ben, Shelby and Haley Rose.

Irene Sparks Rowan

Photo of Irene Sparks Rowan
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Activist, Leadership, Native Issues


Irene Sparks Rowan, a Tlingit Indian from Klukwan, became a national figure during the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) struggle,  then returned to Alaska to form and lead her village corporation, Klukwan, Inc. In 1976, Rowan helped lead a world-wide campaign to encourage Alaska Natives to enroll under ANCSA, then returned to Washington, D.C., to work as a special assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Rowan’s mission began as a teenager when she taught a troop of Haines Boy Scouts how to Indian dance. The dancers, accompanied by a drum and bugle corps (Irene dancing and playing the bugle), became the well known Chilkat Dancers. Rowan credits this experience, at a time and in a place where Native values and traditional practices were not popular, as key to shaping her life: making her proud to be an Alaska Native and sharing those traditional values with non-Natives. Her early ability to innovate and lead shines through when the dancers, at the fiercely competitive international intertribal Indian Dance Ceremonial festival in New Mexico, were unexpectedly limited in their music. They then danced to the same chant, three times, but at different tempos, without the audience noticing. The Chilkat Dancers received the grand prize for their performance!

Rowan learned to walk in both worlds at an early age from her mother, Mildred Sparks, a Tlingit Indian from Klukwan. Sparks not only was a lifelong advocate for the Alaska Native people but was an English-speaker and acted as a bridge between cultures. As a teacher in Bethel in the 1960s, Rowan helped to elect the first Alaska Native to serve on the city council. She soon expanded her political interests to the national scene, helping to elect Mike Gravel to the Senate in 1968 and moving to Washington, D.C. Rowan then joined in the fight for the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971, one of the very few women so involved.

Upon returning to Alaska, Rowan was elected the president of Klukwan, Inc. in 1975 and immediately led a successful lobbying effort to amend  ANSCA twice: to recognize Klukwan, Inc. as a village corporation eligible for ANCSA benefits; and to allow selection of lands outside their original withdrawal area. As president and chief executive officer, it was then her task to lead the complicated and difficult efforts to establish the corporate structure and the process for land selection. In 1976 she joined forces with Susan Ruddy in a public information company which secured a contract to carry out a world-wide campaign to encourage Alaska Natives to enroll under ANCSA. In the late 1970s Rowan returned to Washington and worked as a special assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior to help sort out and resolve the myriad of questions and issues arising from implementation of ANSCA. Returning to Alaska, she continued her implementation work, this time with the Alaska Federation of Natives. She continued to serve many years on the Klukwan, Inc. board. Rowan maintains that her experience being the “face” of Klukwan, Inc. during its formative years has led her to prefer to operate “behind-the-scenes”. However, it is clear from her activities since that time that when needs are identified, Rowan steps forward to lead and initiate action.

Rowan started the Southcentral Native Educators Association while serving as an adjunct instructor of Alaska Studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage. In 2001 she organized a diverse group of volunteers and organizations into the Alaska Native Heritage Month Committee to create ways to commemorate Native cultures during Alaska Native Heritage Month in November. When it appeared the 40th anniversary of ANCSA in 2011 would pass unnoticed, Rowan initiated, organized and chaired the “ANCSA@40” committee.  This group created a year-long program of drums and lectures, including collecting documents and photographs, to celebrate and honor the efforts of those who fought for ANCSA and to educate those unfamiliar with the struggle. She then arranged for the video tapes and still photos from these events to be archived for the use of future generations.

Outside of her role in Alaska Native affairs, Rowan has broad interests in the larger community. As a businesswoman, Rowan has served on the board of Northrim BanCorp (formerly Northrim Bank) since 1991. As a member of Sisters in Crime, the mystery writer organization, she helped organize an “Authors in the Schools” program and a GCI video conferencing program of Alaska Native authors to encourage young rural students to record their stories. She currently serves on the board of Alaska Moving Images Preservation Association. Rowan cites her selection in 1991 by Freedom House to be an election observer in El Salvador as one of her most valuable experiences.  She traveled for a week in that war-torn ountry with a delegation of individuals from throughout the world known as Freedom Fighters. Rowan said her most enjoyable achievement in life has been to raise two daughters.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Lisa Howell Starr Rudd

Photo of Lisa Howell Starr Rudd
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Advocacy, Civil Rights, Equal Rights


In 1988 the original Alaska Commission on the Status of Women celebrated a decade of advocacy and education on behalf of women. Lisa Rudd, as a legislator in the Alaska State House, sponsored the legislation that created it. Throughout her personal, professional and political life Rudd dedicated her efforts to improve laws, conditions and opportunities for Alaska women, children and people of all races. She was the prime force behind the state’s mini-cabinet on women’s issues, and elevated to priority status the issues of daycare, child support enforcement and the employment of Alaska Native women in state government. At this celebration the first Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame was dedicated to Rudd and her legacy of accomplishments providing a visible role model for tomorrow’s leaders.

“It is not a cosmic coincidence that the Author’s Room at the Z.J. Loussac Library will be dedicated to the memory of Lisa Rudd the same weekend as the Alaska Women’s Run, but it is a nice grace note.

“Thousands of women laughing, sharing, striving, competing with the best while supporting each other – the run is the perfect metaphor for Lisa Rudd’s life,” said Susan Nightingale in her June 10, 1988, Anchorage Daily News article.

Other major legislation Rudd sponsored included the creation of a State of Alaska infant learning program, which provided early intervention for infants and toddlers with special needs, ensuring their healthy development. She also sponsored legislation requiring Alaska mariners, familiar with Alaska waters, to pilot oil tankers in and out of Valdez and a separate bill making organ donor registration available on drivers’ licenses. She was active in the women’s-rights movement, and helped to get women’s shelters established in a number ofAlaska communities, incuding Anchorage.

It is a testament to her character, integrity and abilities that three Alaska governors of both parties, Egan, Hammond and Sheffield, appointed her to state posts during their administration.  From 1983 to 1985, Rudd served as commissioner of Administration. In January 1976, Rudd was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the death of Alaska State House Representative Willard Bowman.  She was then elected to that seat where she chaired the Community and Regional Affairs Committee. In 1980 she ran unsuccessfully for State Senate. Rudd served on the Anchorage Charter Commission, the State Commission for Human Rights, and was a member of the Governor’s Equal Employment Committee (1974-1975).  In 1974 she was coordinator of education programs for the Alaska Native Foundation.  She was director of Equal Employment Opportunity for the Anchorage School District (1972-1973).

Rudd also served on a number of community boards of directors including the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, Alaska Children’s Services, the Anchorage Employee Relations Board and the Alaska Zoo.  She was a founding member of the Women Executives in State Government.

Many awards, honors and recognitions were given to Rudd throughout her career, among them: the Soroptimist Club of Anchorage’s first annual “Women Helping Women Award”, Community Service Award from the Imperial Court of Alaska (Alaska’s oldest gay community organization) and the Alaska Women’s Commission’s first Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame was dedicated to her.

Rudd received her B.A. in American History and Government from Bennington College and her M.A. in Pubic Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

In addition to her public life, Rudd and her husband, Joseph, raised two daughters, Alison and Sandra. To quote them, “She passed on  to us her love of choral singing, berry picking, sailing, playing tennis, fishing and exploring Alaska.  Our mom was an excellent cook and loved to entertain guests for dinner. She enjoyed time at our family cabin and traveling the world.  Prior to mom’s death, she was able to know and love her granddaughter Erin.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Susan L. Ruddy

Photo of Susan L. Ruddy
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Community Organizing, Conservation


Motivated by her father’s love of Jack London stories of the north and by observing her mother as a leader working across party lines in the Rhode Island state Legislature, Susan Ruddy chose to come to Alaska in 1964. With her, she brought the belief that a person can build compassionate communities and embrace and protect magnificent natural environments. Ruddy has devoted the past four decades to conserving Alaska’s unique ecosystems and crafting community infrastructure across the state.

Ruddy founded the Alaska Chapter of the Nature Conservancy in the 1980s to bring science to bear in the identification and protection of biologically unique areas. She also recognized the need to raise funds to accomplish goals, such as community development, so she went on to manage institutions to expand healthcare and education. Ruddy directed the Providence Alaska Foundation, where she championed the establishment of the Providence Cancer Center. The cancer center provides care to families, regardless of income, including the services of a “navigator” who assists them with the range of decisions about cancer treatments. Before Providence, Ruddy served as vice chancellor for University Advancement at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where she led a team in acquiring philanthropic gifts to expand science, engineering, and fine arts programs at UAA.

Ruddy has moved seamlessly among the private, public, and non-profit sectors of the state to bring Alaskans together to work out differences and to expand our understanding of one another. On behalf of the Mediation Institute, Ruddy facilitated resolution of land disputes between Alaska Native corporations, public owners, and environmental organizations. In the field of communications, she owned and operated a business that in 1979 produced the first footage of the Iditarod Sled dog race ever available for national television audiences.   

Ruddy raised two curious and kind children, both professionals, who continue to give back to their communities. Sean Ruddy lives in Anchorage with his wife, Pauline, and Lydia Ruddy resides in Indonesia. Susan Ruddy’s personal devotion to the out-of-doors is reflected in her  development of an oyster farm near Halibut Cove with her son his wife. Ruddy kayaks, hikes, and is an avid bird watcher.

Ruddy has volunteered her time as a board member of numerous organizations, including two terms on the National Board of the Smithsonian Institution, several terms on the Commonwealth North Board and on the Providence Region Board. Today she continues to serve on the Board of the Nature Conservancy. As a cancer survivor, she is a strong supporter of the Alaska Women’s Run.

Throughout her career, Ruddy has nurtured the skills of and expanded the knowledge of the next generation of Alaska’s managers, thinkers, and policy makers. She has inspired and mentored many young leaders who are caring for the state’s institutions and communities today. She regards their successes as her lasting contribution to Alaska.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Irene Ryan

Photo of Irene Ryan
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Aviation, Politics, Science


Irene Ryan was a woman of many firsts. She was a pilot, geological engineer, and politician. In June 1932, at age 22, Irene became the first woman to solo an airplane in the Territory of Alaska. She was the first woman geologist to graduate from New Mexico School of Mines. She put that degree to good use when she designed and constructed airfields during WWII, and then after the war, she helped design the Anchorage International Airport.

Irene served in the Alaska Territorial House of Representatives and, after statehood in 1959, in the State Senate. Her expertise in oil and mining was seen as very beneficial by the male-dominated legislature. Former attorney general John Havelock said, “It was really extraordinary that a woman could make her way in a man’s world, in a mans topic.” Irene explained, “I have found that the best way to be accepted on equal ground is just to go ahead and quietly do the job at hand.”