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Shirley Mae (Springer) Staten

Photo of Shirley Mae (Springer) Staten
Categories: 2016 Alumnae, Art, Civil Rights, Human Rights


Staten has given countless keynotes and impacted many lives, weaving stories and song to inspire women in prison, disadvantaged youth, young Native women, graduates at University of Alaska Anchorage, teachers with Anchorage School District and women across the world. She created and directed the Alaska Women’s Choir, which toured throughout Alaska and the International Women’s Conference in Nairobi. Children in the Home Base After-School Program that she directed from 2006-2011 published two books and produced a CD and two photo exhibits. With Staten’s guidance, the students planned, fundraised, negotiated, and travelled to Ghana to visit schools and perform there. Staten challenged the students to dream, and students learned to take charge of their own dreams. She brings diverse groups together in community dialogues locally through the Humanities Forum programs and through the Martin Luther King Citywide Celebration. Staten also inspired youth with her performances as part of the Alaska State Council of the Arts’ “Artist in Residence” Program.
Staten started school in the segregated, poor schools in the south, Georgia. Although she graduated from high school, she had difficulties with reading. She picked cotton and worked in tobacco as a child. Music was always a part of her life, whether it was singing in the fields with her grandmother, aunts Pearline and Annabelle and cousin Daisy, or listening to her mother humming a tune from the time she woke, after prayers. She left Georgia at age 17, and she moved to Anchorage in 1981 after working as an AmeriCorps VISTA in New Mexico and teaching assistant in Los Angeles, with three summers of work in Fairbanks that brought her to Alaska.
Education: 1987: Associates Degree in Human Services, Anchorage Community College; 1989: BA in Human Resource Development, Alaska Pacific University; 1996: MS in Spiritual Psychology, University of Santa Monica, California. Specialized training: 1993: Jack Canfield: Self-Esteem Facilitator’s Training; Mark Victor Hansen: Transformational Intensive; 1994: Deepak Chopra: Interpersonal Development Workshop; 2000: Re-evaluation Counseling Training, 2003: Training in the Power of Dialog; 2004: Dr. Barbara Love: Phenomenological Listening; 2005: Beverly Tatum: Understanding Racism
Professional/Work History/Community Involvement:  1985-1989: Coordinator, Anchorage Martin Luther King Citywide Celebration; 1985,1988, 2003, 2009: Developed programs and organized groups to travel to Africa and Cuba to share music, culture, and stories; 1989-1993: Community School Coordinator, Anchorage School District; 1995-1999: Project Coordinator, Anchorage School District Young Women’s and Multi-Cultural Conferences; 1996: Cultural Events Coordinator, United Nations /NGU Women’s Conference, New York/Beijing, China; 1996-1999: Alaska Humanities Forum, Coordinator, Speaker’s Bureau; 1999-2001: Exhibit Coordinator, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center: Looking Both Ways-Heritage and identity of the Alutiiq People”; 2000-2002: Project Coordinator, Community Dialog: Understanding neighbors; 2000, 2004, 2006: Coordinator of Youth Leadership Conference: Alaska Native Heritage Center; 2006-2011: Director, Home-Base After-School Program; 2002-Present: Educator, Coordinator: Cross-Cultural Immersion Program and Cultural Camp: Alaska Humanities Forum

O’Malley, J. (2011). In Fairview, Miss Shirley opens children’s eyes. Anchorage Daily News, May 5.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Ann Mary (Cherrington) Stevens

Photo of Ann Mary (Cherrington) Stevens
Categories: 2015 Alumnae, Community Activism, Role Model, Volunteering


Ann Stevens was born Sept. 20, 1929, in Denver, Colo. and was adopted by a distinguished Denver couple, Dr. Ben Cherrington and wife Edith. Dr. Cherrington was a college professor who served as chancellor of the University of Denver. He was invited to Washington, D.C., in 1938 by Secretary Cordell Hull to head the Division of Cultural Relations of the State Department; and in 1945 Dr. Cherrington was asked to be an advisor to the U.S. government in San Francisco when the United Nations was chartered. There, he authored the provision setting up the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO.

Stevens learned much from her father regarding the duties of public service and diplomacy, and during her youth spent some time living in Bethesda, Md., while Dr. Cherrington served in nearby Washington, D.C… She graduated from high school in 1946 at the age of 15, and, when it came time for her to choose a college, Stevens selected the progressive Reed College in Portland, Ore., where she majored in political science and international affairs.

After graduating from college, Stevens moved to Washington, D.C. to work for State Department’s United Nations Affairs Office in the Foreign Service Officer Division. It was during this time that Stevens met a young lawyer who worked at the Department of Interior named Ted Stevens. They were married in Denver on March 29, 1952, and then returned to Washington, D.C. The following year the couple moved to Alaska. Shortly after their arrival, Ted Stevens was asked to serve as U.S. Attorney for Fairbanks, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 30, 1954.

In Fairbanks Stevens began the full time job of raising children. Three children, Susan, Beth and Walter, were born. In a 1978 article written shortly after Stevens’ death, Fairbanks resident Mary Elizabeth Lomen remembered when the Stevens’ first arrived in Fairbanks. “We knew them when they first came here. She was lots of fun. She was always so natural. She was just Ann.

In 1956, after three years in Fairbanks, Ted Stevens was appointed to be legislative counsel and solicitor in the Department of Interior and the family returned to Washington, D.C. Once Alaska gained statehood the family, with two more children, Ted Jr. and Ben, returned north, this time settling in Anchorage in 1960.

Once settled and while her husband pursued his legal and political interests, Stevens pursued interests of her own. She served as a director for the American Red Cross from 1961 to 1963. When her children became active in Girl Scouts, Stevens also became involved as a troop leader and was active in scouting from 1962 to 1966. She became a participant in the Salvation Army as well, actively volunteering her services from 1963 to 1966. Stevens joined The League of Women Voters. As volunteers, Stevens and League members researched candidates’ backgrounds and provided an objective view of individuals running for office. In addition, campaign issues were researched with information provided to voters in voter information brochures and pamphlets prior to an election. Another project Stevens and League members worked on in the early days of Statehood was a study of how to implement local government after Alaska became a state.

When the Great Alaska Earthquake struck Southcentral Alaska in March 1964, Ted Stevens was named chairman of the Red Cross Disaster Committee. Ted once reflected that he “… may have been the chairman, but Ann was the volunteer,” who worked tirelessly along with many others to help those devastated by the earthquake. Stevens also participated in the Red Cross response to the 1967 Fairbanks flood, the worst disaster in the history of that city. According to Red Cross literature, Stevens “… worked in mass care, completely relocating a boy’s school from Fairbanks to Anchorage. Later in Washington, she was amazed to hear the National Director of Disaster Services say that mass care was normally a four-month course. Ann told him her training had taken about 30 minutes.” Stevens’ last job with the Southcentral chapter was as chairman of volunteers.

Stevens’ other interests at this time included the World Affairs Council, coordinating Rotary events with other wives of Rotarians, then called “Rotary Anns”, and serving as vice-chair on a committee that was supporting Anchorage Unification efforts in the mid-70s with neighbor Frank Reed.

In addition to raising her family and her active participation as a community volunteer; her return to Alaska also was the beginning of another career that Stevens shared with her husband – politics. It began in 1962 when her husband ran an unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate, and continued with a successful bid for a seat in the Alaska State House in 1964, a seat in which he served until 1968. During the legislative sessions, Stevens and the children would move to Juneau where she ran the household and organized the family. Stevens and other legislators’ wives managed families but also made time to sit in the gallery to keep abreast of important legislation during the first years of statehood.

Stevens developed a reputation as a tireless campaigner for her husband, becoming a favorite among Alaskans wherever she campaigned. During her husband’s 1968 campaign for statewide office, Stevens was given an honorary chauffeur’s license by Teamster head, Jesse L. Carr, when she decided to drive around the state campaigning for her husband in a motor home named “Stevens Steamer.” Stevens and the five children hauled campaign materials and traveled the state for months visiting every town on the road and marine highway systems that could manage the “Steamer.”

Although Ted lost the 1968 campaign, he was appointed to the seat vacated by the death of Senator E.L. “Bob” Bartlett; in January 1969 the Stevens family packed and headed back once again to Washington, D.C., where Ann Stevens assumed the role and duties of an active Senate wife. She soon joined the Red Cross Senate ladies in a program she called “bandage flapping.” Every Tuesday the senators’ wives met and prepared a special compress used in cancer operations. “I thought it would be World War I stuff,” Stevens said later, “but it’s one way I know to get acquainted.” And get acquainted she did. “She was well known by the wives, and she was very well liked,” reported the Anchorage Daily News Washington correspondent in 1978. Stevens formed close friendships with other Senate wives, regardless of their husbands’ political parties. Stevens, along with her close friend Rose Blakely, eventually formed two successful businesses in the Washington, D.C. area with other Washington wives. Elizabeth Dole, wife of former Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, and a former president of the American Red Cross, once remembered her friend Ann Stevens as “the epitome of today’s accomplished woman, full of life and full of joy.”

At their home Stevens was down to earth, and in welcoming everyone to their home, she could put everyone at ease. She was well known for her “hamburger noodle bake” and for cooking fresh salmon in her dishwasher. Her informal entertaining was a legend in the capital. If time was short, and number of guests large, she had been known to bring home buckets of fried chicken “and serve them with aplomb,” she once said. Besides hosting visitors to their home, Stevens would cook lunch for the senators’ Wednesday meetings with the Senate leadership, and oftentimes included Alaska salmon. A secretary to one of the other senators said her boss and others used to serve deli sandwiches, while Senator Stevens was spoiling them with Alaska salmon. Stevens welcomed Alaskans into their home, and always found extra room in her home to help a fellow Alaskan.

She served as a mentor and guide to the young Alaska staff members living in a big city far from home and had a special impact on many of the young Alaska women she met. One of former Governor Mike Stepovich’s daughters, Toni Gore, recalls Stevens had a caring, committed and outgoing nature along with a great sense of humor.

Stevens was a steadfast advocate for women’s involvement in public service and for opportunities and education for women. Stevens returned to Alaska from Washington, D.C. often, and she hosted large luncheons in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau exclusively for groups of Alaska’s women. At these gatherings, she would talk about life in Washington, D.C. and answer questions about national and state issues. These functions were well attended, and women young and old enjoyed hearing insider information about the goings-on in the Senate and in Washington, D.C.

Another example of Stevens’ interest was involving young women in important policy issues and helping mentor them, is one remembered by Gore of Stevens taking her and her sisters, Andrea and Melissa, to the U.S. Senate’s family gallery to witness the historic tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Spiro Agnew to approve the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1973. Stevens wanted to share this important moment with young Alaskans.

For almost 10 years, beginning in 1968, Stevens would travel extensively across the state. An article in the Anchorage Times put it this way: “Ann Stevens, petite, blond, unaffected and unpretentious, has traveled the state for weeks at a time, ever since her husband’s appointment to the U.S. Senate … In cities and villages from Petersburg to Barrow, she has slept on the floors of homes when beds weren’t available, taken potluck with whalers, held an infant while its mother sewed sealskins in a home lit by candles …. and crawled into sleeping bags in trappers’ cabins.” Her down-to-earth quality combined with a respect for every individual she met, endeared her to people from all walks of life across the Last Frontier. Not surprisingly, Stevens had the same effect on national and international dignitaries she met over the years. Archbishop Francis Hurley said of her, “She moved easily and graciously among national and international leaders but with equal ease and grace among those from whom she came…. “

Stevens also took great pride and pleasure at being invited by the Eskimo community in Barrow and Wainwright to join them on their yearly whale hunts. “I’d be devastated if they forgot to invite me,” Stevens said in 1977 after helping the villagers pull in a whale on the ice near Wainwright.

For much of the 1978 campaign season, Stevens was the primary campaigner for her husband’s re-election. Ted Stevens spent much of that year in Washington, D.C. leading the charge in the debate on the Alaska land’s bill, and much of the credit for his runaway victory was given to his wife’s vigorous campaigning on his behalf. Stevens spent election night in Anchorage, calling her husband throughout the night as election results came in. She left for Washington, D.C. a few days later, telling friends she’d be back in three weeks.

Three weeks later, Stevens perished when the Lear jet she was riding in crashed while landing at the Anchorage (now Ted Stevens) International Airport.

The tributes from friends and admirers were many. Among them, Joe Josephson, who wrote: “By all evidence…, Ann Stevens carved out a sensible and sensitive role. Probably no woman in Alaska history has met all of the challenges as the partner of a mate in public life with equal success, in each aspect of a well rounded life. She was wife, mother, friend, advisor, and businesswoman. She could organize her time, without losing spontaneity and spark, and without a trace of brusqueness. She was comfortable with the high and the mighty, and with ordinary folks.” He went on: “Although devoted to her husband’s Republican causes, she knew the limits for partisanship, and she understood that an incumbent serves all his constituents, regardless of party.”

Oliver Leavitt, a whaling captain from Barrow, eulogized Stevens with these stirring words: “Ann Stevens shared her life with us. She was a part of us, whether on a whale hunt or in the quiet of our homes. She understood the beauty and silence of the ice….. her eyes would sparkle with the capture of a whale as she joined in the work and enthusiasm of an entire community harvesting its subsistence. She reflected the spirit of our dance, of feasts and festivals. She also understood the dramatic change that we, as a people, are experiencing and was most helpful in translating that change to ourselves and to the world that she knew. The same person hosted us and helped us feel at home in the much different atmosphere and complexity of our nation’s capitol.”

This was Ann Stevens, a woman who possessed many personal qualities regarded as characteristically “Alaskan.” She was independent, versatile and intelligent. Stevens was comfortable in any setting, whether as a hostess in Washington, D.C. working long hours on a political campaign, or doing volunteer work to aid those in need. She was a caring mentor and positive role model for Alaska women of all ages. That special blend of Alaska independence, trust and genuine concern for Alaska and her people, endeared Stevens to the hearts of many on whom she has left a permanent impression.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


Anchorage Daily News and Anchorage Times, December 5–10, 1978

Fairbanks Daily News Miner, December 5-10, 1978

Rocky Mountain News, December 06, 1978

Dr. Ben M. Cherrington Obituary, Washington Post, May 05, 1980

Dr. Ben M. Cherrington Obituary, Denver Post, May 3-8, 1980

American Red Cross, South Central Alaska Chapter Materials, 1979 and 1998

Anchorage Daily News, April 04, 1998

Version of Ann Stevens Biography penned by Barbara Andrews, 2014

Arliss Sturgulewski

Photo of Arliss Sturgulewski
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Community Service, Politics, Public Policy


Arliss Sturgulewski arrived in Alaska in 1952. She has served on many municipal and state boards and commissions, the Anchorage Assembly, and in the Alaska State Senate. She was the first woman to head a major party ticket when she was the Republican candidate for governor in 1986; she ran again in 1990. She has also served in numerous organizations, especially those dealing with public policy and educational issues.

Clare Swan

Photo of Clare Swan
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Native Issues, Political Activism


Born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula, Clare Swan worked for decades to preserve and protect the subsistence fishing rights of the Kenaitze Indians following passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA) in 1971.  She had the foresight to realize the significant impact of ANCSA on future generations of Alaska Native people.  She spent two decades immersed in research and litigation, culminating in the Kenaitze Indian Tribe receiving State regulations and rights on the eve of open fishing in June 1989.  That decision has had long reaching legal ramifications, extending to Indian grazing rights in Southwest America.

In the late 1970s Clare worked to establish the Cook Inlet Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.  While serving as Chair of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe she helped establish the Dena’ina Health Clinic and youth and community agricultural programs.  She served on the Board of Directors for Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) 1998, the latter as Chair since 2000.  In her “spare time”, Clare has advocated for women and children through the Indian Child Welfare Act, worked and supported the Women’s Crisis Center in Kenai, and volunteered with the court system.

In 2009 Clare was honored with the Alaska Federation of Natives President’s Award for Elder of the Year. She is most thankful to her husband of 60 years “who has supported me as person.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Carol Swartz

Photo of Carol Swartz
Categories: 2017 Alumnae, Community Development, Higher Education


Carol Swartz, M.S.W., has served as the first Director of UAA’s Kachemak Bay Campus (KBC) in Homer. Since 1986, she has overseen this comprehensive campus of Kenai Peninsula College/UAA, offering successful academic, life-long learning and training programs. Today, the campus serves over 700 people each semester.

With her energetic, collaborative leadership style and with a dedicated staff, faculty and community board, Swartz established accessible and diverse cultural and educational opportunities. She recognizes that education is the key to making a transformative difference in our world.

Under her leadership, with the encouragement of many mentors, she has championed expanding adult and youth access to education and has promoted the role of the campus in Homer’s economic development. Her efforts have helped create a better local trained workforce, fostering cross-cultural community discussions and responding to the changing needs of the residents of Homer and the surrounding communities.

With clear vision and determination, Swartz has enthusiastically spearheaded the advocacy, planning, design and construction of its current facilities. She oversaw grant and budget development and management as well as student and support services.  She implemented establishment of programs including: nursing, liberal arts, education, welding, GED/ABE, maritime technology, and business development, which have enriching the economic and cultural life of the community.

Under her leadership, the Kachemak Bay Campus also organized statewide women’s conferences in the 1990’s, culminating with “Women 2000: Sailing into the New Millennium”.

Swartz is the founding director of the annual Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, a premier nationally recognized event sponsored by Kachemak Bay Campus. It features workshops, readings and panel presentations in creative fiction, poetry, nonfiction and the business of writing. Since 2002, the Writers’ Conference has hosted award-winning Alaskan and national novelists, essayists and poets who have inspired audiences. With its focus on community and craft, this conference strives to celebrate the connection between writers and readers.

Within two months of arriving in Alaska in 1980 Swartz helped organize South Peninsula Women’s Service (now Haven House). She was hired as the first clinical social worker of the Homer Community Mental Health Center, but quickly realized broader community needs. Until then, Homer had only an informal network of safe houses for women seeking safety from domestic violence and sexual assault, but had no formal safe home, counseling, or crisis-response system.

For a time, Swartz served both as the community mental health center clinician and as the executive director of the crisis center, but then committed herself to the latter full-time. She and others developed the core services that exist today, working with hospital, school, law enforcement, and the judiciary. She has been an effective advocate for state services and the shelter networks to address domestic violence and sexual assault.

In 1985 Swartz became the Kenai Peninsula’s first Guardian ad Litem through the Office of Public Advocacy, protecting the rights of children during court proceedings. For two years she also traveled across the state working with new rural shelter programs and developed child sexual assault intervention protocols.

Carol grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rhode Island. After graduation from college, her first job was with an adoption/foster care agency. After backpacking for a year around Europe, she packed her bags and drove across the country to Oregon, where she attended Portland State University, graduating in 1977 with a Master of Social Work degree. Swartz then briefly worked for the US Forest Service on a trail construction and fire suppression crew, followed by work as a residential treatment center clinician and elementary school counselor.

Carol has been inspired by much of her family’s history that instilled in her a sense of history, integrity, public service, and personal responsibility. They also modeled a strong work ethic and commitment to do the best one can — to be a “change agent.” She values education, art the environment and diverse cultures.

Her husband, Robert, has served as her primary cheerleader, encouraging her in all her endeavors and mutual adventures. Significant mentors include her parents and brother extraordinary friends, women, students, and writers; especially those who are true survivors of life’s uncertainties and challenges. Jane Goodall inspired her: “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”  She believes it is, likewise, her responsibility to serve as a mentor to many women and young people.

Swartz is the quintessential community collaborator. There is a quotation taped above her desk that reads, “To love what you do and feel that it matters — how could anything be more fun?” That sums her up. Where there is a need, Carol helps to fill it. She has facilitated the initiation of several local environmental, human service and cultural organizations.

Swartz serves and is a member of numerous non-profit organizations. She has served on several area and statewide boards of directors, including:  Bunnell Street Arts Center (founding), Pratt Museum, KBBI, Homer Council on the Arts, Girl Scout Susitna Council, and the former Alaska Women’s Network. She currently serves as a founding trustee of the philanthropic Homer Foundation and sits on the Bunnell St. Arts Center Advisory Council, Haven House (SPWS) Honorary Council, UAA, and Homer area committees.

She is a 31-year member of the Kachemak Bay Rotary Club and was active in its and Homer’s international service “friendship” trips to Thailand, Japan, and Russia. Her sense of adventure and love of dogs led her to serving as a volunteer with the Iditarod in McGrath and Nome in the mid ‘80’s. For over 15 years, she and her husband cared for their own “family” of sled dogs. Many of her other interests include traveling, beachcombing, reading, gardening, cooking, and advocating for human rights and social justice.

A colleague of hers stated, “The most evident and outstanding aspect of her leadership here is her connection to the community.” She is a leader, a mentor, and a friend. She is a model of the “servant leader” — leading from behind, gently pushing others to succeed.

Carol has been the recipient of several awards and recognitions honoring her contributions and public service, including the 2009 South Peninsula Haven House Woman of Distinction, 2009 Alaska Center for the Book Contributions to Literacy in Alaska Award, 2012 Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities, 2013 University of Alaska Anchorage Meritorious Service Award in recognition of her significant commitment and service to the University and Homer, 2013 Homer Council on the Arts Educator of the Year, and the 2015 Alaska Adult Education Association’s John L. Hulbert Award for outstanding long-term contribution to lifelong learning. She was recently inducted into 2016 Class of YWCA/BP Women of Achievement.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Dora Sweeney

Photo of Dora Sweeney
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Politics


Dora Sweeney served in the final two Legislatures of the Territory of Alaska and was one of six female members of the Alaska Constitutional Convention in 1955 and 1956. She signed the Alaska Constitution in 1956, and subsequently served three House terms in the Alaska Legislature. After retiring from the legislature, she was made the first woman sergeant-at-arms in the House of Representatives. She served as state president of both the Alaska Business and Professional Women and the Easter Seal Society of Alaska.

Nancy (Elliott) Sydnam M.D.

Photo of Nancy (Elliott) Sydnam M.D.
Categories: 2016 Alumnae, Dog Training, Flying, Medical Doctor, Music, Poetry, Woodworking


“Besides her work as a dedicated and resourceful medical practitioner, Nancy Elliott Sydnam, is a pilot and a poet, a hunter and gatherer, and an empathetic observer of human nature,” UAA news release, April 16, 2013, regarding Sydnam and her presentation of her book, Sideways Rain, 20 years of medicine, music, and good-luck landings in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands of Alaska.

Another called her, “. . . a true Renaissance woman, an outstanding medical doctor for over 50 years; private pilot; hunter, fisher, dog trainer; writer and poet; musician; and mentor to many, especially young women,” Gretchen T. Bersch, a former patient and long-time family friend.
Born January 20, 1929 and raised on a family farm in Lynden, Washington with an older and a younger sister, Sydnam married her high school sweetheart. Harold Sydnam called “Syd,” worked for Pacific Northern Airlines as a dispatcher and was transferred to Anchorage, Alaska. Unlike many women of her era she was not upset, she was thrilled, a dream come true. The two married between her junior and senior years at medical school at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She then went straight into her one year internship at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. Following her internship she moved permanently to Alaska in 1955 beginning her five and half decades of practicing family medicine in Alaska.
Growing up in Washington on a family farm there were few heroes for women. From a very early age, she wanted to be a pilot like Amelia Earhart and was heartbroken at eight when Earhart went missing. Sydnam confirmed her love of flying at 15 when she got a free flying lesson by buying a $75 war bond. Between pregnancies she eventually got her land and sea ratings. Merrill Field in Anchorage is where she received her private pilot’s license. She laughs when telling the stories of not being able to fly when she was pregnant with her third child, Bruce, because the stick kept hitting her big belly.

Her love affair with the Alaska Bush came in 1961 when she joined Dr. Milo Fritz and his wife who was an RN, in providing medical services, primarily tonsillectomies and adenoid surgery to the people in villages along the Yukon, Koyukuk and Innoko Rivers plus Venetie above the Arctic Circle on the Chandalar River. The American Cancer Society sponsored Sydnam to perform Pap smears and breast and pelvis exams to the women. This was the 60s and to look as professional as possible, both Betsy Fritz and Sydnam wore skirts and cotton stockings. Sydnam also wore her white doctor coat which she continued to do throughout her career.

Because the medical team believed the entire village population could learn from them they allowed everyone to watch the surgeries, selecting volunteers to be surgical assistants, scrub the instruments and sit with the patients afterwards. The team felt that the Native people always saw government agencies come into the villages and doing things “for” and “to” them and not “with” them. Most of the assistants were young women who did not have much formal education, probably not above the sixth grade, but they were eager to help and learn.

The Panhandle of Alaska was not left out of Sydnam’s medical practice career. She and three children joined Syd in 1967 in Juneau, after he had become an Alaska State Trooper and was transferred there. During the next five years, she slowed down and worked only part time, spending her off hours with her children fishing, hiking, mountain climbing and Dungeness crabbing. She would send the children to school and with the family’s black lab Max go duck hunting in the wetlands very close to her home.

They all moved back to Anchorage in 1972, now with four children. Sydnam soon divorced. She moved from her Sand Lake home to a quiet neighborhood downtown close to the two large hospitals where she worked. She opened her own private family medical practice by sharing office space with another doctor, Claire Renn, an obstetrician/gynecologist. She thrived, and soon the office expanded with two more family practitioners. But adventure called in 1979, she and her three boys (Claire was out of the house by then) went to Kenya, East Africa where Sydnam was a volunteer doctor for three months in a Quaker hospital in a small village near Kisumu.

Sydnam was enjoying her busy family practice providing cradle to grave care to as many three generations of families. “They came in for school exams, then college exams, when they married, and when their children needed care. It was very rewarding for me to provide continuity of care,” she said to Sandi Sumner who wrote Women Pilots of Alaska. But she was becoming very disenchanted with the increasing role of insurance companies in dictating medical conditions, what drugs would be covered, and how long a patient could stay in the hospital. The charm was being eroded.

Don Hudson, an emergency room doctor, was also in charge of coordinating the rotation of physicians to the Iliuliuk Clinic on Unalaska Island on the Aleutian Chain. He approached Sydnam about being a part of the rotation team. These doctors not only practiced medicine but supervised physician’s assistants. Sydnam had supervised PA’s in her practice as part of the WAMI program so that part did not faze her. Dr. Hudson promised that the practice would be varied and interesting and the travel and weather would be interesting, too. In her book Sideways Rain, she says, she “heard my paternal grandfather whisper from his wagon on the Mullen Trail . . . ‘You can do it. Just figure out how.’“

After working part-time in her own practice and flying out to the Aleutians for a year, Sydnam sold her practice to her two associates in 1989 and went to work solely for the clinic in Dutch Harbor.

For the next five years she spent her time at the Unalaska clinic serving the largest fishing port in the United States for a scheduled two weeks a month. The medical services she provided were indeed varied. Most of the patients were from the fishing industry, the canneries and the boats that would call in explaining the medical emergency and saying they were headed for shore and provided the weather would let them, they’d be there in a specific number of hours. The rest of the patients would, of course, come from the people of the community. Among the various medical services provided were vasectomies, the male birth control surgeries, which Sydnam said made some of the recipients very nervous.

In 1993, after her contract with Iliuliuk Clinic was completed she was contacted by the Aleutian/Pribilof Islands Association about being the itinerant doctor to the Pribilofs, St. Paul, St. George, plus Dutch Harbor, Atka, Adak, Umnak Islands, and Nicholski village. These villages ranged in population from 32 to several hundred people. From then until 2010, on Sydnam’s 81st birthday, she was the medical provider to these villages with the assistance of PA’s and nurse practitioners.

Prior to closing her Anchorage practice and in the process of raising her children, Sydnam’s niece Sarah had been playing the cello but wanted to sell it and suggested that her son Ben might be interested in it. He played for a couple of years but decided basketball was more interesting. Now in her 50’s, Sydnam decided to learn to play the cello. She became quite accomplished joining the Anchorage Civic Orchestra. Also her cello became her companion on many of her trips to Aleutians much to the delight of the children as well as adults living out there.

Tragedy struck when in 1999 her oldest child, her only daughter Claire, 42, died from complications of surgery in Washington state. She was also the mother of her first grandchild, Henry Storm, whom she delivered in Kotzebue in their worst storm in decades.

Dogs were a part of Sydnam’s life from the time she married. Her mother, Winnie Barclay Elliott, had taught her to shoot birds but not with hunting dogs. Max was her husband’s dog and a great duck dog. He was followed by others. Tigger was the first real field trial dog she had and together they won two Master National plates. Vita followed and was the pick of the litter. She turned into the perfect dog in many ways, hunting ducks, very friendly with people and a great dog to fly with as she was not large. She, too, won national awards. Vita traveled to the Islands with Sydnam many times, was a great companion, as well as keeping the island rats at bay.

In her later years Sydnam took up woodworking, creating many high quality pieces of furniture and winning a few prizes along the way. She won first place in a 1993 Fur Rendezvous contest for her shoji screen. She also made a captain’s desk for son, Bruce and a cradle for first grandchild, Allison, along with many boxes made from exotic woods for friends.

But her creativity doesn’t stop there. She is also a poet having a number of her poems published not only in her book but also in a number of literary journals. The first poem Sydnam remembers writing was in the third grade:
An Easter Bunny promised me a lot
All he gave me was a pot
And it was hot

Sydnam raised four children, Claire (1957-1999), Elliott (1959–), Robert Bruce (1953–), and Benjamin 1968 –). She also has four grandsons: Henry Storm, Cornelius Benjamin, Jackson and one granddaughter, Allison.

At the time of this writing, Sydnam lives alone with her black Labrador named Vita, so named after the English poet Vita Sackville-West, because she was poetry in motion. A longtime parishioner at St Mary’s Episcopal Church, she is thinking about moving into the Thomas Center which is a new nonprofit senior resident home which she is most impressed with. She said when interviewed by the Alaska Dispatch in an article of November 22, 2015, “It’s nice to be with people you know . . . and (they’ve) made it so you’re not isolated.” “You’re not shut in a room.”

Reflecting on her career, Sydnam states, “Life is what you make it . . . . Be a participant, not an observer!”

Professional/Work History/Community Involvement:
Licensed Medical Doctor, general family practice: 1955-2010

Itinerant Doctor: Aleutian/Pribilof Islands Association: 1995 -2010  Dutch Harbor, St Paul, St. George, Atka, Adak, and Umnak Island, Nicholski village

Part-Time Doctor: 1988-1995 Iliuliuk Clinic, Unalaska

Private Medical Practice: 1962-1967, 1972-1989 Anchorage, headed her own corporation with two associates plus six employees

Amdocs:  1979, Volunteer doctor in Kenya, East Africa, three months in a Quaker hospital in small village near Kisumu

Family Practice Clinic:  1967-1972, With Drs. Riederer and Ray, Juneau AK

Itinerant Doctor: 1961 provided medical services primarily in villages along the Yukon River with Dr. Milo Fritz preforming tonsillectomies and adenoid surgery and other medical assistance

Family Practice Doctor: 1955-1962 Anchorage Medical & Surgical Clinic, held positions of Vice President, Secretary

Community Involvement:
Alaska State Medical Society, American Academy of Family Practice, American Medical Association, American Medical Women’s Association, Anchorage Medical Society; Anchorage Heart Association and Anchorage Board of Health, Boards of Directors

Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assoc. Recertified 1982, Board Certified 1976.

Winnie Barclay Elliott Foundation, Inc.:  Founder of a non-profit organization honoring excellence in education, given annually to outstanding educators

Other Information and Experience:
Associate Faculty, Perinatal Symposium:  Dr. Nancy Sydnam, Chairperson of Continuing Medical Education, American Academy of Family Physicians (Reported in Providence News Cache, 7(1), Spring 1978).  From: Providence Archives Seattle,
American Academy of Family Practice: Representative for Family Practice Residency, 1975-1980

Creative Institute:  1974-1975, Board member

Center for Children and Parents: 1973-1976, Board member

Catholic Social Services:  1972-1980, Consultant

Samaritan Counseling Center of Alaska: 1982, Founding Committee, President of the Board, steered the center from one half-time counselor in 1983 to an organization with six full-time and six part-time counselors, with satellite clinics providing over nine thousand patient hours and a certified teaching clinic for a theological seminary

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church: Vestry, 1974-1977, as well as other years & in other positions

St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Mendenhall Valley, Juneau, 1967-1972, founding member

Trinity Episcopal Church, Juneau: Vestry

Cellist:  Began in her 50’s to learn the cello.  Played in the Anchorage Civic Orchestra and performed various other times, including taking her cello to the Aleutians with her and performing there

Sitka Summer Music Festival, Inc., Board member multiple years of involvement and support.  Hosted national and internationally noted musicians for many years

Outdoor/Skill Related:
Pilot:  1958, Private pilot’s license, Merrill Field, Anchorage.  1965, Float Plane Rating, Owned and flew her plane for decades

Scuba Diving, 1960 certified

Woodworker creations: Shoji Screen, captain’s desk for son, Bruce, a cradle for first grandchildren, Allison, and many boxes made from exotic woods for friends

Anchorage Professional Women’s Club, 1961, Woman of the Year
Awards with her Labrador hunting dogs:
H.E. Vita Sackville-West: AFC (Amateur Field Championship) MH (Master Hunter)
Hunting dog Tigger, MH (Master Hunter)
Woodworking awards, 1993 Anchorage Fur Rendezvous: First Prize for shoji screen and captain’s desk
Chilliwack Ploughing (horse drawn) Contest, twenty-seventh annual, 1949 First prize: (Horatio Webb Trophy)

Writings by Nancy Elliott Sydnam:
Book: Sideways Rain 20 years of medicine, music, and good-luck landings in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands of Alaska, 2012, Hardscratch Press, Walnut Creek, CA
~Borrowed Shelter, Cirque: A Literary Journal for the Northern Pacific Rim. 2014, 5(2), 56
~Anticipation, ICE FLOE, International Poetry of the North, 2006, 7(1), 69
~Gift, Explorations, Tidal Echoes, Literary Magazine of UAS, 2002, p. 58
~Washington’s Birthday, ICE FLOE, International Poetry of the North, 2001, 2(1), 74
~Morning in the Aleutians, ICE FLOE, International Poetry of the North, 2000, 1(2), 52
~In a jam, Inklings, UAA Undergraduate Literary Magazine, 1999, p. 16

Articles/Books by Others Plus Presentations by Nancy Sydnam:
Alaska Dispatch News, November 22, 2015, Housing Facility Opens
Bristol Bay Times, July 4, 2014, by Jim Paulin, Sideways Rain about the Aleutians in the Aleutians. (Details about the presentation by Nancy Sydnam, assisted by Diddy Hitchins, Given in Unalaska, Alaska)
Presentation: April 25, 2014, OLE (Opportunities for Lifelong Education) college course, Sideways Rain, the Aleutians and the Pribilofs, Secondhand Sightseeing
Interview, KDLL and KBBI Public Radio, The Coffee Table, Shaylon Cochran, April 23, 2014, Long Time Bush Doctor Shares Aleutian Tales
University of Alaska Anchorage, October 28, 2013 Memoir: Sideways Rain with Dr. Nancy Sydnam, (audio podcast).  From:
Homer News, May 29, 2013, Jackinsky, McKibben, Sideways Rain adds ring of familiarity to Alaska’s remote regions, about Nancy Sydnam and her book
Presentation: May 4, 2013, Nancy Sydnam, On Sideways Rain.  Gulliver’s Books, Fairbanks, Alaska
Presentation:  April 16, 2013,  Sideways Rain in the University of Alaska Anchorage Campus Bookstore
Presentation of Sideways Rain at the Anchorage Museum of History and Fine Arts, February 2013
Women Pilots of Alaska, Sumner, Sandi, 2005, Flying Doctor: Dr. Nancy Sydnam, p 62-66, Thirty-seven interviews and profiles.  Jefferson, NC:  McFarland & Company
Medical & aviation consultant, 1996-1997 to Sue Henry on Henry’s book, Sleeping Lady: An Alaska Mystery

Fellowship: 1969/1970, Six months, Perinatology University of Washington, Seattle

Internship:  1954-1955, Virginia Mason Hospital, Seattle Washington, one of the first two women to be allowed to intern there, paving the way for others

Medical degree:  1954, Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
Medical Doctor, Family Physician

Undergraduate degree:  1950, University of Washington, Bachelor of Science, Sociology

High School:  Lynden High School, Lynden, Washington

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Francine Conat Lastufka Taylor

Photo of Francine Conat Lastufka Taylor
Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Advocacy, Art, Culture, History


Born in California in 1937 to a French Canadian father, Francis Conat, and a French and Spanish Mexican mother, Maria Magdalena Bustos, Francine Lastufka Taylor moved to Alaska with Chuck Lastufka, her new husband in 1961. Although her mother was a traditional over-protective Hispanic parent, her father and her husband were adventurous master hunters and fishermen. Francine learned outdoor survival skills and independence from them. When left alone much of the time by a husband who traveled frequently with his job, she sought ways to meet people and share her talents with her new state. In 1961 she volunteered at the Alaska Crippled Children’s Association before the Anchorage School District mainstreamed disabled children into schools throughout the district. Aside from its medical and physical therapy services, it ran its own elementary school. From this experience she learned a great deal about disabilities that later helped her when two of her own children and two of her grandchildren were discovered to have dyslexia.

As a musician she recognized the Association needed a music program for the children and the hard-working staff. Every Friday at the end of a physically and emotionally exhausting week, she did a musical activity and sing-along program. This program was such a hit that the Anchorage School District — with no money for art resource teachers — asked her and other local artists to volunteer their artistic talents to elementary schools throughout the Anchorage district. Taylor said she believes people need to be “lifted up and that is what music does”. An accomplished pianist and singer, Taylor immersed herself in the Anchorage arts scene joining the Anchorage Opera, the Anchorage Community Chorus, Anchorage Chamber Singers, and the Alaska Festival of Music along with other musical groups.

In the late 1960s Mike Gravel threw his hat into the race as a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Alaska. Taylor joined his campaign team as a volunteer and traveled to remote villages across the state, seeing first-hand the Alaska Native cultures and learning that many village economies depended, to some extent, on income from crafts. “I saw that often the only cash going into a small village came from the sale of baskets, carvings and skin sewing,” she said. A campaign film about Gravel was created during his campaign, and Taylor became intrigued by the power of compelling sound and moving images, seeing how — in the hands of talented, astute political consultants and film makers — they could significantly influence voters. She believed that if this medium could teach and influence voters, it could also be a compelling, powerful instructional tool for educators. This medium, film, was to become one of the great loves of her life.

As a result, Francine enrolled in the University of Alaska Anchorage as a journalism student, at a time in which there was no journalism degree offered. She cobbled together an inter-disciplinary program and eventually became the first Communications graduate of the school. Her studies at the university led to an invitation by the legendary Kay Fanning of the Anchorage Daily News to write a television column for the paper, which she did, joining three other columnists – Steve Cowper, a future Alaska governor at that time, Satch Carlson, and Mr. Whitekeys. Taylor also took advantage of a visitor to Alaska, the highly respected Margaret Mehring, author and director of Filmic writing at the University of Southern California, School of Education. She talked Mehring into designing an instructional design, screen-writing, and production program for her and staff at UAA TV production services where she was working. Mehring compressed an eight-hour-a-day program on the production of features and documentaries. Some years later in Ohio where her second husband, Richard Taylor, was working on his doctorate, she took graduate courses on instructional design and evaluation systems at the University of Toledo (Ohio).

A close friend over the years and another early television personality in Alaska, Beverly Michaels Dubie, said Taylor has great foresight and, once she has set her sights on a goal, pursues that goal with great personal investment. “When she approaches her projects, it’s in a very human way,” Dubie said. “It’s easier to gather the information and put it out, but Fran really probes to find the human story behind any topic. That makes the difference between a piece that is technically good and one that moves you.”

Taylor’s love of video and other media led her to the realization in the late 1980s that Alaska’s historic moving images and audio recordings would soon be irretrievably lost to future generations unless someone stepped up to help preserve them. Bringing what Dubie calls “her infectious enthusiasm and optimism” to that leadership role, Taylor created the Alaska Moving Image Preservation Association in 1991. “AMIPA was very forward-thinking, even on a national level,” AMIPA’s archivist Kevin Tripp said. “And Francine was pivotal in the organization’s formation. She is a real presence, a force of nature. She has convinced me things could be done that I’d thought were impossible.”

Through Taylor’s connections and energy, funding for AMIPA grew until the organization became a reality. Today, AMIPA has gone from an all volunteer staff to one with paid curatorial, technical and administrative staff. In September 2004, AMIPA entered into a preservation partnership with the UAA/APU Consortium Library and during the spring of 2005 installed its then 17,000-item collection, dating from the 1920s, into modern film and magnetic media vaults adjacent to the office space. The vaults have temperature and humidity-control, air filtration, and a high level of security. Today, important events in Alaska’s history, such as statehood, the 1964 earthquake, pipeline construction, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and a wide range of others are preserved and available to the public.

With all she’s done in the realm of film over the years, Taylor also found time to help preserve and elevate the visibility and importance of Alaska’s Native arts and crafts. Taylor was the first director of the Alaska Native Arts Festival which ran as part of the Festival of Music for six years. Taylor said she had no knowledge of the destructive programs of the federal government and missionaries in taking away Alaska Native cultural practices. “For the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and government,” she said, “it was to make them better American citizens. For the religious, it was about converting them to Christianity.”

When the Alaska Festival of Music began, Taylor challenged festival staff about the exclusion of Alaska’s indigenous peoples with their rich cultural traditions of song, dance, storytelling, arts and crafts. The staff turned the challenge back to Francine asking her to bring in the Native culture she championed. “I had a difficult time finding artists, dancers and storytellers because we were down to our last Attu basket maker, Anfesia Shepsinikov, and had only a couple of baleen basket makers in Barrow,” Taylor said. Fortunately, however, a group of King Island dancers had settled in Anchorage and they became the central performers for their culture at the festival.

Taylor said the King Islanders were lucky that the Jesuit priests, particularly Father Hubbard, the “Glacier Priest”, celebrated the Native culture and collected much of the art work that was being produced. Preserving this collection, along with a collection of work at UAA became Taylor’s first task in establishing AMIPA.

When Taylor’s second husband was production manager at UAA’s production facility, one of his goals, and Taylor’s as well, became preserving what had been the dying culture of Alaska’s Native people on sound and moving images. They produced the first statewide broadcasts of the Alaska Federation of Natives, the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, the Alaska Native Arts Festival and individual storytellers, artists, historical and cultural traditions and subsistence lifestyles of Alaska Natives. “It was the first time Alaska’s Native people saw themselves on statewide television broadcasts,” Taylor added.

In 1972 and working with Visual Arts Center Founder George Federoff, she became one of the founding directors of the Visual Arts Center, serving for 15 years of its 20 years of existence. “Francine helped provide a means for Alaska Native artists and craftspeople to showcase and sell their work,” Irene Rowan, a former president of Klukwan, Inc. and now a director of Northrim Bank, said. As well as working to promote these arts and crafts, Taylor also came to understand the value of cinematography in cultural preservation. “It was this realization that steeled her determination to help make sure that Alaska’s history and our culture would live forever on film,” Rowan added.

For all that Taylor has contributed to Alaska, she has been recognized as a finalist for the National Federation of Press Women, Communicator of Achievement Award in 1998. She won the Alaska Press Women’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 and was a finalist for the YWCA/BP Women of Achievement Award in 1996. Today, Taylor owns Taylor Productions and produces documentaries for and about Alaska. She also provides voice for television and radio advertising.

She is mother to her natural daughter Marta Lastufka Bucy, and mother-in-law to Michael Bucy, adopted son Carlos Lastufka, stepmother to Anna and Andrew Taylor, and grandmother to Anna’s children Corvin Zaochney and David Drost.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Mary Taylor “Tay” Pryor Thomas

Photo of Mary Taylor “Tay” Pryor Thomas
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Journalism


Telling the story of life in Alaska, Tay Thomas is the author of eight books, including Free from Fear and An Angel on His Wing, and of many articles appearing in such magazines as National Geographic. In addition, she is a founder of F.I.S.H. (Fellowship in Serving Humanity), a food distribution agency.

A community and church activist, Tay is also a philanthropist, contributing monetarily and through personal service to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Anchorage Museum  at Rasmuson Center, YWCA Anchorage, Alaska Conservation Society, and Alaska Pacific University.  A role model for women and girls, she is known for her generosity of spirit and willingness to help others, as well as her dedication and loyalty to the people in her life and to enterprises that appeal to her values.  Tay’s calmness, perhaps shaped by events of the 1964 earthquake that she wrote about in Free from Fear and her ability to mediate differences within contentious situations, make her a rock in whatever situation confronts her.

Tay married Lowell Thomas, Jr. in 1950 and they and their two children moved to Alaska in 1960. She served two terms on the Anchorage School Board from 1968 to 1974.  Her husband became Lt. Governor of Alaska in 1975 serving one four-year term.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Peg Tileston

Photo of Peg Tileston
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Conservation


Peg was raised in Indiana, received her college education at Earlham College and has participated in Continuing Education in Political Science and History at UAA.

Peg arrived in Alaska in 1972 with husband Jules and three daughters.  Ever since, she has engaged in a variety of important Alaskan and community issues in meaningful and substantial ways. Peg helped establish a number of organizations, and then continued her  involvement by serving as a volunteer, director, chair or advisor. She co-founded, and helped govern, such organizations as: Alaska Common  Ground; Trustees for Alaska; Alaska Center for the Environment; Alaska Women’s Environmental Network (1994), and the Alaska Conservation Foundation. Additionally, she has served as a director and/or officer of a number of community organizations including: Chugach Electric association; Anchorage Parks and Recreation Council; Alaska Conservation Alliance; Alaska Conservation Voters; Commonwealth North Fund Permanent Committee, Alaskans for Better Media and the Anchorage Recycling Task Force. Peg has served in an advisory capacity to the governor through appointments to the Alaska Highway Natural Gas Policy Council and Alaska Water Resources Board.  In 1980-83, she served on the National Board of Directors of the Sierra Club.

The University of Alaska Anchorage, in granting Peg an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, May, 2009, accurately summarized the multiple  contributions this community activist has made in shaping Alaska, by awarding the degree “…in recognition of her dedication to conserving the beauty and resources of this Great Land, as well as encouraging all Alaskans to engage in respectful dialogue on issues of importance to them”.   Peg currently manages the “What’s Up” environmental list serve which provides a weekly summary of pending environmental actions and  meetings throughout the state in which the public can participate. She is the President of Tileston & Associates.

In recognition of her activism on behalf of environmental and community issues, Peg has received a variety of honors such as: the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation (2004); the YWCA Woman of Achievement Award (1998); Alaska Public Interest Research Group Award; inclusion in Who’s Who of American Women and the Feinstone Environmental Award (1995). In an unusual twist, Peg and husband Jules have been honored, for their individual contributions, by the Alaska Conservation Alliance and the Resource Development Cuncil through the creation of the “Tileston Award”, given jointly by these two organizations to honor an individual, organization or business “that create solutions advancing both environmental and development goals”.

In addition to the lasting contribution Peg has made through her leadership roles in a variety of community organizations, perhaps her greatest and most enduring influence will prove to be her role as mentor to young women leaders. One such young woman summarized her experience by stating that Peg was able to “identify young women leaders and then mentor them into professional paths.  She has kept a watch on these young leaders and then maintained relationships with them as a colleague, something that is difficult for many people of  her experience and involvement”.

Elizabeth Ann “Betsy” Tower, M.D.

Photo of Elizabeth Ann “Betsy” Tower, M.D.
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Health Care


Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Tower graduated from medical school in 1951 and moved to Anchorage in 1954. She worked for 25 years for the Alaska Division of Public Health. As a public health physician, Dr. Tower directed a major program to combat hepatitis. During her early years in Anchorage she set up an office in her home to attend to the medical needs of prostitutes.

After retiring in 1986, she began researching and writing about prominent people in Alaska’s history including biographies of Sheldon Jackson, Austin E. “Cap” Lathrop and William Egan. Her work has provided other authors, such as Edna Ferber and Rex Beach, with back stories and inspiration for some of the colorful, real-life personalities appearing in their fiction. She has also written a guide to skiing in Alaska, several prize-winning magazine articles, a book, Icebound Empire, a history of the Kennecott Copper Company that earned her the award Historian of the Year from the Alaska Historical Society in 1996. While raising three children who have all settled in Alaska she led an active professional career and traveled widely in the Bush. She is past president of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage and an active member of the Cook Inlet Historical Society. She holds a pilot’s license and is a talented artist.

Fran Ulmer

Photo of Fran Ulmer
Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Education, Politics


Raised and educated in Wisconsin, where she earned her law degree, Fran Ulmer came to Alaska in 1973. She started her 35-year career in public service working for the Alaska Legislature and then for Governor Jay Hammond for 6 years. She served in elected office for 18 years, as the Mayor of Juneau and in the Alaska House of Representatives, and then eight years as the Lieutenant Governor. She was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2002. In 2003, she shifted her focus to higher education as a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University and then served as the Director of the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research. She was appointed Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2007.

Fran has mentored and inspired generations of young women to a life of public service, and with her husband, Bill Council, has raised two successful children to be life-long learners.

Pauline Utter

Photo of Pauline Utter
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Advocacy, Political Activism, Women's Rights


Best known for her work in support of women’s rights, Pauline Utter volunteered countless hours as an advocate and political activist in support of a woman’s  right to safe, legal abortion. She mobilized opposition in campaigns and in the  Legislature when efforts were made to limit this right. This led to her developing a statewide database which identified the strength of an individual’s support or opposition to contraception and abortion and the list made it possible to successfully educate voters during political campaigns. Utter was strategic in her efforts and used her knowledge and experience in research, data collection and organizing to upgrade the quality of campaigns in numerous electoral races. She was ahead of her time in educating voters in Alaska on important issues affecting women’s rights.  Also in support of women’s rights, Utter served on the boards of Planned Parenthood and the Alaska Pro-Choice Alliance and founded the Abortion Rights Project in Alaska. These efforts were acknowledged in 2011 when was named an ACLU Hero of Liberty. Previously, she had been honored by her peers working in support of  women’s rights by naming the Pauline’s Abortion Loan Fund in her honor.   Professionally, Utter was co-owner of InformAlaska, Inc., working in the  editing and publishing business. She was a chairperson for Alaskans for Better Media, where her leadership resulted in greatly improved news coverage by statewide television stations and reduced discrimination of women and minorities in media. Her work also led to requiring all major Alaska broadcasters to revise their discriminatory employment practices and comply with their public notice requirements under FCC law.

Utter is a role model for all women in Alaska and she led by example. She championed important principles and values; she practiced them herself as well as speaking with and organizing others to do the same. She was a true advocate of families.  She befriended women, supporting them in their personal trials and then helping them to achieve their own goals. Although known for her public activities, her private assistance to untold numbers struggling with family problems, economic problems and emotional problems is not a matter of public record. It sounds  old-fashioned, but she was straightforward and direct with her opinion which meant that those who needed help had no doubt about her understanding of their situation, her own related experiences and her recommendations. She gave advice, but she also hung in there with you, and she did not give up on you.  She was a person who told the truth and told it quickly – a rare quality, especially among those who are dedicated to politics in the modern era, and one which inspires emulation.

Utter was born in 1942 and passed away in 2005. She left a legacy of fighting for justice and encouraging others to do so. She had a fearless passion for doing the right thing and a history of never giving up. Often described as “a force to be reckoned with,” Utter allowed no one to intimidate her from speaking what she believed while demonstrating that strong positions should be and can be freely debated.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Elvera Voth

Photo of Elvera Voth
Categories: 2015 Alumnae, Activist, Music


Voth was a female pioneer in musical artistry in Alaska. Throughout her 33 years in the young state, she founded new musical organizations and strengthened existing ones, teaching and inspiring singers and the orchestra to meet her high standards of musicianship.

In 1960 Voth received a contract to teach at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The university received another application from a male and hired him instead. They said, “I’m sure you will understand.” Being a woman in a male-dominated profession was an obstacle. Voth persevered and her determination paid off when, in 1961, she was hired to conduct the Anchorage Community Chorus as well as to rehearse and prepare the Alaska Festival of Music Chorus for its conductor Robert Shaw. During the 1960s and 1970s the Anchorage Community Chorus concerts and the Alaska Festival of Music became two of the most important cultural events in the city. Her leadership during this time and the great success of these organizations cemented Voth in history as a driving force in expanding musical artistry in Alaska.

Voth’s talents were taken to Washington, D.C. in 1976 when states were invited to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration and Voth was chosen to lead Alaska’s presentation. Her success in Alaska made her an excellent pick for this prestigious honor. She chose 22 Anchorage singers, the Kodiak Russian Dancers and Point Hope Eskimo dancers and singers to represent Alaska. In our nation’s capital she conducted the Alaska ensemble of singers and orchestra in the premier of a new contemporary musical composition “Susitna” by Gary Smart based on the bitter-sweet legend of “The Sleeping Lady” and her Indian sweetheart. Magnificent photographs of the seasons of Alaska by Steve McCutcheon were projected onto a large screen behind the singers. For many in the Washington, D.C., audience it was a dramatic introduction to Alaska’s contemporary and traditional arts along with Alaska’s majestic landscapes.

Later she was the conductor for a 1992 cultural exchange to Magadan, Russia for a week of performances and workshops culminating in a joint gala concert of singers and musicians from Alaska and Magadan. Her leadership was met with some resistance by her Russian counterparts who were not used to having a woman conductor in charge. Her experiences in Alaska as a pioneer prepared her well for the leadership necessary to successfully conduct the orchestra. She would need to demonstrate strength if they were to take her seriously. At the first rehearsal of Russian and Alaska musicians for the main concert at the end of the week, Evgeny, the conductor of the Magadan orchestra, assumed he would be the conductor and tried to take over. Voth informed him she was the conductor. Outraged, he and his male musicians sitting in the first chairs in front of the orchestra walked out of the rehearsal. Without losing a beat, Voth beckoned to all the female Russian musicians, who had been put in the back of the orchestra sitting in the third chairs, to move up to the front where the men had sat. Stunned by Voth’s brash response, they had to be encouraged to accept their promotions. Voth quickly began the rehearsal. Within minutes Evgeny and the men, hearing the music, sheepishly returned. The women had to move back so the men could regain their first chairs in front. Evgeny tried to make amends with Voth. She graciously allowed him to conduct a couple of the Russian pieces in the concert.

The night of the concert, the Russian audience heard Voth lead the Anchorage Chamber Singers and orchestra through a history of American music, ending with the combined voices of Russian and Americans in Schubertʼs Mass in G Major. At the conclusion the audience exploded into applause. The results far exceeded her expectations. She later commented “I just wasn’t prepared for those opening chords from the combined forces of the Magadan chorus and orchestra and the Alaska Chamber Singers. That wave of musical intensity hit me like a wall of water. She remembers her thought at the time was to “just get out of the way and let it happen.”

In 1995 Voth, now in her 70s, retired and moved back to her home state of Kansas. She volunteered to start a prison chorus at Lansing Correctional Facility called “The East Hill Singers.” She later founded the Arts in Prisons, Inc. offering arts programs to correctional facilities across Kansas. They benefited from Voth’s vast experience of working with singers in Alaska. Recognizing she and the prisoners needed the camaraderie of experienced male singers, she brought singers from the Kansas City Opera chorus and the Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City to join the prison chorus. The East Hill Singers were allowed to perform outside the prison and quickly became hugely popular and respected performers.

In 1997 after learning about her programs, her former colleague and Kennedy Center honoree Robert Shaw, now in his 80s, called and asked how he could help support her work. She told him about the potential for using arts experiences to help rehabilitate inmates. She wanted to start a new organization that would help prisoners but she needed money to do it. She suggested that Shaw conduct a benefit sing-along program to raise the money. The benefit sing-along with Robert Shaw raised funds to start a fund for Voth’s dream of a new organization called Arts in Prisons, Inc. that would offer arts programs to other correctional facilities across Kansas. This program expanded to include Missouri and has inspired other states and organizations to start similar programs in their prisons. The mission of Arts in Prisons, Inc. reads:

“Arts in Prison provides life changing programs, using art as a medium, in prisons and detention centers in Kansas and Missouri so that our participants are better equipped to be successful when they re-enter our communities.”

The joy of singing and the applause and acceptance from the audiences also helped many of the inmates change their lives. Voth learned to recognize the power of the arts to rehabilitate prisoners. Again, Voth is in the spotlight for being a leader and trailblazer; this time creating opportunity for those incarcerated to learn about art and music and again using music to work towards social justice.

Her academic background shows an impressive foundation. She began her career by receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bethel College in 1946 and a Masterʼs degree in Music Education from Northwestern University in 1948.

In addition to her other work, Voth has held numerous positions throughout her long and distinguished career including founder and director of the Anchorage Boys Choir, founder and director of the University of Alaska Singers, conductor of the Alaska Methodist University AMU Chorale (APU, Mid 1960s), director of Anchorage Lyric Opera (1972 – 1975), director of Sunday Afternoon Concert Series at the Anchorage Historical and Fine Arts Museum (1961 – 1973).

Her decades of accomplishments have earned her many awards including, Newton’s Woman of the Year (1956), Artist of the Year by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce (1979), Governorʼs Award for Artist of the Year (1983); an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Alaska (1987). In the late 1990s and early 2000s Voth received honors and awards from the governor of Kansas and the Kansas Music Educators Assn. To commemorate a lifetime of achievements, the Elvera Voth Rehearsal Hall in the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage was dedicated in 2003.

Voth ignored the gender barriers of her generation and so overcame them. She was a mentor, role model and inspiration for musicians to reach for roles in major choral, opera companies, orchestras, and ultimately, the highest position, conductors. She mentored, nurtured and developed young singers, discovering talents and abilities in them they didn’t know they had. She actively recruited young men from the army and air force bases in Anchorage at a time when Anchorage was a location that was defined as hardship tour of duty. Men and women sang in her chorus and often discovered a love of and sometimes a future profession in music. She gave them confidence and support to reach way beyond what they thought they were capable of. Many went into professional choral groups and opera companies, became music teachers, found other music-related jobs in the business and administration of the music industry, or just kept singing for as long as they could. Choral music and all its forms in the various musical organizations Voth founded built community.

Her pioneering efforts are mentioned in the International Journal of Research in Choral Singing and underscore her influence in the use of the sing-along format and highlight the important work she and Robert Shaw accomplished together. The article describes a particularly successful event. In 1968 during the 13th annual Alaska Festival of Music, Voth persuaded an unwilling Robert Shaw to lead a sing-along at the Fort Richardson Army Base chapel near Anchorage. Shaw assumed no one would attend and remarked, “I hope you will be pleased to see me fall on my face.”

When they arrived at the hall an over-capacity crowd rose with a roar and the event was a huge success. The article goes on to say “ this initial sing-along format in Alaska was the humble precursor of what thirty (sic) years hence would stand as perhaps Shaw’s greatest public testimony to his passionate beliefs about choral music and social justice: …The 1998 Benefit Sing-Along (Arts in Prison Inc.) raised both money and awareness for a prison-based choir begun by Voth. It also created opportunities for other art experiences for incarcerated human beings.” 

Voth was a brilliant, inspiring teacher, conductor-musician; innovative and creative in her concerts and performances; a witty and engaging speaker for music the arts and women. She believed and proved that choral singing could be an instrument of social justice, healing and empowering the disenfranchised.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech


“International Journal of Research in Choral Singing”

Helen Stoddard Whaley, M.D.

Photo of Helen Stoddard Whaley, M.D.
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Medicine


The first woman pediatrician in Alaska (1954), Dr. Helen Whaley was a pioneer in championing medical and educational resources for all Alaska children, especially those with physical and developmental disabilities. Known as a brilliant clinician, she was tireless in the treatment and support of “her kids”. Dr. Whaley co-founded the Anchorage Pediatric Group (1956); founded the Alaska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (1965); and founded the Child Study Center in Anchorage, which provided diagnostic services for brain injured and handicapped children. The Whaley Center in Anchorage, a special education center for children with significant disabilities, is named in her honor.

Dr. Helen Whaley, who is described as “brilliant”, “formidable”, “deeply caring” and whose vision and energy added a new dimension to pediatric care in Alaska, was raised in a background of wealth, death and poverty – all before she was 12. Those who loved her believe these experiences made her the brilliant clinician she was. “She didn’t listen to what patients literally said,” her husband, Dr. Robert Whaley, comments, ”she listened for what they meant. She had learned early there was a significant difference.”

Her mother Helen, a “beautiful country girl” from the Midwest, was swept off her feet by the “dashing” Jack Stoddard, oil rich, destined to be mayor of Denver, Colo. Helen and her four younger brothers were raised with governesses – until she was 9 years old, and her father shot himself. He was broke. Her mother had no skills, The children were parceled off to relatives. Two year later, when Helen was 11, her mother died of breast cancer.

In l944, when Bob Whaley (also a pioneer physician in Alaska) met the 20 year-old Helen Stoddard in medical school, she was working her way through by “cleaning out tank cars, doing very rough work”. “We visited her uncle who had helped raised the children (two of her brothers had died tragically by then). He took me aside and asked, ‘She’s a girl; do you think she can really be a doctor?’ I told him no one could stop her.”

Robert and Helen married in l946, while both were in medical school.

Helen received her M.D. in 1950 from the University of California Berkeley and San Francisco. After a medical internship, she served her residency in pediatrics at UC San Francisco. She was chief pediatric resident at the University of Colorado, at Colorado General Hospital in Denver. Helen later studied neurology at Boston’s Children’s Hospital (l956) and pediatric neurology at Stanford University in l966. Dr. Helen Whaley earned her way to the top of her field during her years of practice in Alaska.

“You have no idea how hard she worked,” says Dr. Bob Whaley. “On top of the other hardships of her life, she had a learning disability. She was always just tremendously determined and she was completely dedicated to her kids.”

The Whaleys came to Alaska in the early l950s when Bob was drafted; Bob arrived in l953 and Helen in l954. The year she arrived, Helen volunteered as a pediatric consultant for the Alaska Native Hospital in Anchorage. She and Dr. John Tower, later joined by Dr. Harvey Zartman, continued a regular consultation service to the (then) Indian Health Service, providing pediatric expertise for the Native population of the entire state as well as to the children of Anchorage. Dr. Whaley and Dr. Tower co-founded the Anchorage Pediatric Group in l956.

The next 15 years were filled with immense energy and joy and lasting contributions. Helen Whaley became one of the pioneers in providing quality, state-of-the-art pediatric care to Alaska’s children. She served on the American Academy of Pediatrics Indian Health Committee. Her efforts in founding and directing the Child Study Center for brain injured and handicapped children led to in-state multidisciplinary diagnostic services. She directed the Alaska Crippled Children’s Treatment Center, which served all of Alaska.

Dr. Whaley is described over and over again as setting a very high standard of medical care for all of Alaska’s children. “For those of us who followed, her high standards of care set an example”, writes Dr. Elizabeth Hatton.

Then tragedy struck again. Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer. “She faced her final months with stoicism, and worked from home until a week before her death,” wrote Chris Tower Zafren.

Dr. Helen Whaley died in l971 at age 47. In 1973, the Helen S. Whaley School was constructed as a Special Education Center for Learner Assistance for students with significant physical and developmental disabilities.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Ada Wien

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Categories: 2009 Alumnae, Government


Ada B. Wien was elected to be a delegate from Fairbanks to the Constitutional Convention. She was one of six women to serve as delegates. She was appointed to three Convention committees: Preamble and Bill of Rights, serving as Vice Chair, Resources, and the Advisory Committee on Committees. On Day 40 of the Constitutional Convention, she responded to a (male) delegates objection that she was being prompted on how to vote, by stating: “I would just like to go on record as saying I do my own thinking…”

A housewife, secretary and businesswoman, she is remembered every year when the University of Alaska Fairbanks awards a student the Noel & Ada Wien Memorial Scholarship.

Caroline Wohlforth

Photo of Caroline Wohlforth
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Community Service, Education


Raised by an Episcopal clergyman and educated at a Quaker School, Caroline Wohlforth developed a deep understanding that “each person has some of God in them.” Caroline knew she was being educated for a reason and was expected to contribute to the betterment of the world. Later experiences in education, both her own and those of her children, led her to the realization that not all education is created equal. As a result, Caroline began her work to try to ensure the children of the Anchorage School District could enjoy the quality of education she experienced as a child.

As a parent to two children in the 1970s, Caroline volunteered in the Open Classroom in Juneau where her younger son, Charles, went to school. It was there she witnessed and supported the work of Shirley Campbell, who she describes as the “most brilliant teacher I have ever known.” Upon their return to Anchorage and with no similar options available, Caroline joined Wendy Baring-Gould and Una Tuck in an effort to create Chugach Optional School. As soon as the plans for Chugach Optional were in place, Caroline led a new group called the Committee for Alternate Secondary Education (CASE) to ensure that these children would have an equally innovative secondary school waiting for them upon completion of elementary school; the result was Steller Secondary. U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a “proud” Steller graduate, states: “I am certain that education made a decisive difference in my life, allowing me to develop the entrepreneurial skills that led to my success in business and politics. Caroline Wohlforth certainly deserves some of the credit for my career as a mayor and now as a U.S. senator.” Caroline calls her role in the creation of Chugach Optional Elementary and Steller Secondary her “proudest achievement,” and added that she hopes (and believes) that the school district can now provide a broader variety of learning experiences to fit the needs of students than it would have without the examples of Chugach and Steller. Her service to Anchorage and Alaska, however, is not limited to public education.

To ensure that these schools would remain strong and to give something back to the Anchorage School District, she joined the ASD Board, first as an appointee and later as an elected member. She served as the president for two terms. Gov. Tony Knowles, then the mayor of Anchorage, noted: “As board president, she calmed the waters in conflict between the district and municipality, and brought about a new period of cooperation when these institutions were able to work together productively, pursuing a common goal of education of young Alaskans rather than a conflict of bureaucracies.”

Wohlforth went on to co-found KSKA public radio and KAKM public television, and was appointed to the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission in 1980 by Governor Jay Hammond. She served on the boards of Planned Parenthood and Childcare Connection, now known as Thread, which supports quality child care. For more than 30 years, Caroline has volunteered for and led Fellowship in Service to Humanity (FISH), which provides food to those in need. She also volunteers for the Educational Center, a non-profit organization which produces experiential Christian education materials. The center was founded on the teachings of her father, Rev. Charles Penniman.

Her grace and wisdom are an example to many, including Father Chuck Eddy who wrote “If I were to pick a role model for the coming generation, I would pick Caroline Wohlforth.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Patricia B. Wolf

Photo of Patricia B. Wolf
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Education, Museum Direction


Fewer than 10 years after statehood, the Air Force brought the Wolf family to Anchorage’s Elmendorf Air Force Base. Patricia Ann Brauman Wolf was raised in New York with the many cultural amenities it has to offer, and earned a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of this frontier town. Pat was not an outdoors person, let alone a hunter or fisher, but she and her husband, Dr. Aaron Wolf, nonetheless decided to make it their home.

Pat’s first job was with Army Kirshbaum, a local artist and gallery owner. She became interested in learning more about Alaska, and pursued studies at Alaska Methodist University for more education in Alaska Native Art, Native studies and anthropology. Pat studied under Saradel Ard, who became her long-time friend and mentor. Shortly after the Anchorage Museum opened, Pat began volunteering there as a docent.

In 1973 Pat received a Rockefeller Fellowship in Museum Education and Programs at the DeYoung Museum Art School in San Francisco, Calif., and interned at the Oakland Museum. In 1974 the position of curator of education came open at the museum in Anchorage. Pat applied and her life-long career with the museum began. In 1987 she became the director and chief executive officer of this institution which she, helped with her able staff, grew to become one of Alaska’s top 10 tourist attractions.

During her tenure there, Pat participated in three expansions of the museum’s physical facilities. She played a lead role in expanding the museum’s educational programming, quadrupled the collections, and organized numerous exhibitions highlighting Native art and Alaska artists. She encouraged the creation of many outstanding temporary exhibitions of Alaska materials and brought world class exhibits such as A T-rex Named Sue, which attracted more than 135,000 visitors to the museum in just three months.

Through her formidable fund-raising skills and broad smile, Pat helped to raise nearly $150 million in private and public funds for the museum while she served as CEO. She also facilitated the founding of the Anchorage Museum Foundation which generated an endowment fund that now contributes substantially to the museum’s bottom line every year.

Pat Wolf forged a relationship with the Smithsonian resulting in the first regional office of that institution’s National Museum of Natural History Arctic Studies Center which is housed at the newly expanded Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. As stated by Aaron Crowell, the Arctic Studies Center’s Alaska director, “The partnership . . . is unprecedented in terms of the significance of the collection, the duration of the loan, and the collaboration with Alaska Native advisors who selected and interpreted the objects.” In 2007, the Smithson awarded her their highest recognition, the Smithson Medal, in recognition of her long-standing efforts to create a venue for the Smithsonian in Alaska.

Through the years Pat sought to make the museum not only an outstanding institution for Alaska art, history and, most recently, science but on a local level, she promoted accessibility of the museum’s facilities as the “community’s living room.” It is used by groups, individuals and businesses, is a gathering place for local cultural and artistic endeavors, and is where high school proms, weddings and art classes for children take place.

Because of Pat Wolf, the Anchorage Museum became, “a home for dozens of multi-cultural activities where people of all ages can explore their own traditions and share their customs with the community,” said Susan Churchill, executive director of the Anchorage Bridge Builders program.

At the announcement of her retirement, Anchorage Museum Association board chair Joe Griffith said: “With her dedication to the museum, Pat has led our community to an awareness and appreciation of art and culture rarely seen in other communities the size of Anchorage. The legacy from her truly exceptional career is an institution uniquely positioned to serve the people of Anchorage for decades ahead.”

“Anchorage is a better, richer community because of Pat Wolf’s more than three decades of public service,” said Mayor Mark Begich. “Her inspired leadership and ability to dream big helped build a museum of wonder that would be the envy of any city.”

A woman of The Feminine Mystique era, Pat was able to structure her life in such a way as to successfully pursue her profession, and, with the support of her husband Aaron, raise a family of three children: Jonathan Paul, Lisa Ellen and Alaska-born Laurie Beth. She also was a role model for many in her community. In 2003 the YWCA recognized her as a Woman of Achievement.

Retired from the Anchorage Museum in 2007, Pat continues her involvement as proprietor for a consulting firm, Museumomentum, writing grants and developing plans for local museums and libraries.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Gertrude M. Wolfe

Photo of Gertrude M. Wolfe
Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Education, Health Care


A life-long Alaskan, Gertrude Wolfe worked tirelessly for the betterment of the people of Hoonah and for all Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. She was a certified village health aide, member of the Hoonah School Board, active with her local chapter and the statewide Alaska Native Sisterhood, and a member of the boards of local and regional Native health corporations. With each activity, Wolfe held top leadership positions. With the Alaska Native Sisterhood, she served as grand president. Wolfe was instrumental in starting the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in 1975, a vital, nonprofit tribal health organization of 18 communities serving Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. The organization promotes healthy lifestyles, has a traditional foods program, and provides health services today.

Hoonah, 40 air miles west of Juneau, is only accessible by boat or plane. Most of the 750 residents engage in commercial fishing and some logging, but must rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing for their livelihoods. More than half of the community’s population is Tlingit. The “village by the cliff” was founded in 1880. The first cannery opened in the town in 1912. In 1944 a fire destroyed much of the town. Wolfe came to the rebuilt community with her husband Wilfred “Bill” Wolfe Sr.  She started working as a health aide in 1954, before there was an organized program, and when a program was initiated Wolfe was one of the first in the state certified. Wolfe was a leader as Federal Indian policies changed and the Southeast Native people fought for their land, improved education and medical care.

Wolfe was born in Sitka and was a member of the Coho Clan. When she retired after 34 years as a Certified Health Aide Provider in Hoonah in 1988, a wing of the Hoonah medical center was dedicated as the Trudy Wolfe Clinic. After her formal retirement Wolfe continued her many civic activities in Hoonah, Sitka and Juneau. The Alaska Legislature passed a proclamation honoring her in 2007 and that same year she was inducted into the Sheldon Jackson Hall of Fame. A wife, mother of six of her own children and foster mother to a number of others through the years, health care provider, midwife and community activist, Wolfe is a role model for many women. Marlene Johnson, colleague and long-time friend, describes Wolfe as a hardworking, common-sense person, concluding: “Trudy had a commitment to young people, education and health. I don’t know how you can get much better than that.” Johnson noted that on more than one occasion when there was a community potluck Wolfe would bring eight dishes — hers, her husband’s and one for each of her six children.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech

Virginia “Ginny” Hill Wood

Photo of Virginia “Ginny” Hill Wood
Categories: 2010 Alumnae, Conservation


Ginny landed, literally, in Alaska on a very cold New Year’s Day 1947. She had learned to fly through the Civil Pilot Training Program in college, and was ferrying a war-surplus plane to Fairbanks. During World War II, she enrolled in the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) and ferried all types of military planes throughout the lower 48 states. Soon after her arrival in Alaska, she started to fly tourists from Fairbanks to Kotzebue.

In 1952, she co-founded Camp Denali, which initiated eco-tourism in Alaska, with husband Morton Wood and friend, Celia Hunter. Ginny and Celia operated Camp Denali until 1975. In 1960, she helped organized the Alaska Conservation Foundation in Fairbanks to present an authentic Alaska voice on conservation issues. Ginny’s written and spoken testimony on the local, state and national levels contributed to the successful effort to establish the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (initially Range) and the continuing efforts to preserve it as wilderness. She was deeply involved in the d-2 land selections and in campaigns to stop Project Chariot, the Rampart Dam and other projects which would destroy Alaska’s wild places. She was a founding member of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center and a longtime columnist for its newsletter.

Ginny received many honors, among them the Sierra Club’s highest award, the John Muir Award in 1991 and the Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. On the occasion of the latter award, former Gov. Jay Hammond called her and Celia “the grand dames of the environmental movement.” In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded its Service Citizen’s Award to Ginny. In making the award, the acting director of the Fish and Wildlife Service cited her “remarkable foresight”, which led to “Alaska’s most treasured places (remaining) untrammeled.” In 2009, Congress awarded its Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to the 300 or so surviving WASPs, the first time their wartime service had been recognized and honored on a national level. In 2002, she had received the Alaska-Siberia Lend-Lease Award for her flying efforts during World War II.

Ginny was a committed, persistent, eloquent voice for conservation values and environmental issues in Alaska. She was not afraid to speak for those values in the face of hostile opposition. She did her homework. She was an eloquent writer. Her independent lifestyle, from building cabins, flying in the bush, guiding in the Brooks Range and ANWR, combined with her advocacy for wilderness values, has inspired and served as a role model for legions of women.

Perhaps this statement from her congressional committee testimony in support of creating the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960 best summarizes Ginny’s values and foresight: “The wilderness that we have conquered and squandered in our conquest of new lands has produced the traditions of the pioneer that we want to think still prevail: freedom, opportunity, adventure, and resourceful, rugged individuals. These qualities can still be nurtured in generations of the future if we are farsighted and wise enough to set aside this wild country immediately, and spare it from the exploitations of a few for the lasting benefit of the many.”

Additional Resources:
Kaye, Roger. Last Great Wilderness: The Campaign to Establish the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2006.
Miller, Debbie S. Midnight Wilderness. Portland, Oregon: Alaska Northwest Books, 2000.
Ross, Ken. Environmental Conflict in Alaska. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2000.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech