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Mary K. Hughes

Photo of Mary K. Hughes

Of Alaska’s Emerald Isle……

Born on Kodiak Island in 1949, Mary Katherine Hughes, knew at an early age, she was to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an Alaskan lawyer. The first born of three girls, her youth was an Alaskan extravaganza.  Her family moved to Anchorage, lived on the Park Strip (where they celebrated the Territory’s admission to the Union at the 50-ton Statehood Bonfire) and enjoyed the remoteness of a log cabin built on a five-acre tract by her parents in the early 1950’s.  She loved the wilderness and all its bounty.  Berry picking with her sisters, helping her father stack cords of chopped wood (to be taken to “town”) and experiencing the idiosyncrasies of assisting her mother bake bread and pies in a Navy ship’s surplused wood stove oven are memories cherished. 

Love, faith, knowledge (particularly of the humanities) and music were the cornerstones of her childhood.  All three Hughes girls began piano lessons at six years of age. Additionally, they learned to play wind instruments to participate in school bands and orchestras.  She also accompanied her sister Patricia (who had a beautiful soprano voice) when she was asked to perform publicly.  The Alaska’s Flag Song was most often requested, and The Elks Club was a frequent venue.  The family’s civic and social life always included giving…particularly of time and effort. 

Ms. Hughes attended public school in Anchorage and was graduated from West Anchorage High School (her late father, John C., a member of the Anchorage School Board, was a stage presenter when she received her diploma).  She attended University of Alaska at College, Alaska. She was extremely active on campus and received the Marion Frances Boswell Memorial Award (honoring the outstanding graduating woman).

Prior to attending Willamette University College of Law in the fall of 1971, Ms. Hughes traveled to Scotland for postgraduate studies in Labor Economics.  The experience instilled in her the appreciation for the accessibility of higher education to all in the United States. Her legal education, a precursor to a life as an Alaskan lawyer, truly established her commitment to others through Willamette University’s motto of “Non nobis solum nati sumus — Not unto ourselves alone are we born”.

Anchorage Economic Development Corporation

Board of Directors, 1989-2017

Chair, 1994 

Ex Officio, 1995-2017

Investors Council 2017-present

Vision Anchorage Steering Committee

Member, 2001-2003

Alaska Repertory Theatre

Board of Directors, 1986-1988

Secretary, 1986-1987

President, 1987-1988

Soroptimist International of Cook Inlet

Charter Member, 1980-present

Vice President, 1981-1983

Corresponding Secretary, 1984-1985

President-elect, 1985-1986

President, 1986-1987

Covenant House Alaska

Legal Counsel 1988-1994 

Providence Alaska Medical Center

Anchorage Advisory Council, 1993-1998

Providence Alaska Foundation

Board of Directors, 1998-2005

Vice Chair, 2000-2002

Chair, 2002-2004

Alaska Native Medical Center

Native Craft Shop Volunteer 2000-2003

Alaska Humanities Forum

Board of Directors, 2006-2012

Vice Chair, 2006-2008

Chair, 2008-2010

Leadership Anchorage Mentor 2010-2011

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Community Advisory Council, 2007-present

Alaska Business Hall of Fame Committee

                   Member 2009-present 

Export Council of Alaska (appointee of the US Secretary of Commerce)

Member 2008-2018

Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE)

Alaska Community Advisory Board, 2010-2015

Success Inside & Out (an inmate program for women to reduce recidivism)

Founding Member of Steering Committee, 2006-2016

Defense Orientation Conference Association

Member, 2016-present

Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson Honorary Commander, 2016-present

University of Washington Medicine

Medical Outreach and Advocacy Committee Member 2018-present

The legal profession for Ms. Hughes was energizing, productive and intellectually stimulating.  Her practice included a wide variety of commercial transactional and litigation matters.  She had strengths in administrative law, public utility law (telecommunications), eminent domain and employment law.  After twenty years in private practice, she was appointed Anchorage Municipal Attorney by former Mayor Rick Mystrom.  During her years of practice, she strived to assist her profession.

Alaska Bar Association (Member, 1975-present)

Administrative Law Committee

Chair, 1979-1981

Administrative Law Section

Executive Committee, 1984-1987   

Board of Governors, 1981-1984

Treasurer, 1981-1982

President-elect, 1982-1983

President, 1983-1984

Alaska Bar Rule 7 Hearing Master for Alaska Bar admission cases 1985 and 2008 

Alaska Bar Foundation

Trustee and President, 1984-1998

Trustee, 2001- 2007

The Fellows of The American Bar Foundation, 1990-present

Alaska Code Revision Commission

Commissioner, 1987-1994

Anchorage Association of Women Lawyers

Founding Member, 1975-present

President, 1976-1977

Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference

District of Alaska Lawyer Representative, 1995-2000

District of Alaska Court Fund Committee, 2001- 2002

International Municipal Lawyers Association

State Chair, 1995-1997

Regional Vice President, 1997-2000

Conference Speaker, 1997, 1999, 2002

Conference Moderator, 1998

Strategic Planning Committee, 1999-2000

Additionally, Ms. Hughes was chosen to join the University of Alaska Foundation’s College of Fellows and its Board. In 2002, former Governor Tony Knowles appointed Ms. Hughes to the first of three terms that she would serve on the University of Alaska Board of Regents.

University of Alaska

Board of Regents, 2002-present

Vice Chair, 2004-2005

Chair, 2005-2008    

University of Alaska Foundation

College of Fellows, 1986-1990

Board of Directors, 1990-present

After years of service on the College of Law Board of Visitors, she was also invited to join the Willamette University Board of Trustees.

Willamette University

Board of Trustees, 1997-present

Vice Chair, College of Law Committee, 2004-2008

Chair, College of Law Committee, 2008-2011

                    Life Trustee Emeritus, 2015-present

Willamette University College of Law

Board of Visitors, 1978-2001

Her University board service was supplemented by election to the Association of Governing Boards for Universities and Colleges founded in 1921 (she was the first Alaskan to serve on the prestigious governing board).


Association of American Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges

Member, 2002-present

Board of Directors, 2013-present

Chair, Resources Committee, 2015-16

Vice Chair, Strategies and Priorities Committee, 2016-2017

Chair, Strategies and Priorities Committee, 2017-present 

Director, AGB Search LLC, 2016-present

In 2003, U. S. Senator Lisa Murkowski invited Ms. Hughes to join her re-election campaign as Chief Administrative Officer.  She served in that capacity for nine years, culminating in 2012, during which she was Alaska State Co-Chair of the Senator’s historic 2010 write-in campaign. She also served on the Senator’s official staff as Alaska State Director.  During the same decade, she hosted a weekly radio show, PROFILE ALASKA on AM 700 KBYR, for seven years. 

After years of civic and public service, Ms. Hughes’ life was further enhanced in 2007 when her father created a family foundation, whose mission is investment in 501(c)(3) organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for Alaskans, for which she was selected the chief executive officer.  Alaska and Alaskans benefited from her parents’ generosity during their lives and the Foundation extends their charity to endless future generations. 



“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

                                                  —-attributed to Sir Winston Churchill




Juris Doctor, Willamette University College of Law, 1974

Member, Moot Court Board

Dean’s List

Postgraduate Studies, Labor Economics,

Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1971

B.B.A., Management, University of Alaska, 1971

Cum laude

Harvard Kennedy School of Government

 Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage”, 2007


Alaska Bar Association Service and Leadership Recognition 1984

Alaska Repertory Theatre Service and Leadership Recognition 1989 

Covenant House Outstanding Commitment to Youth Award 1995

YWCA Woman of Distinction 1997

Alaska Bar Foundation Service and Leadership Recognition 1998

Providence Alaska Medical Center Service and Leadership Award 1998

Anchorage Police Department Recognition for Protecting and Serving the

     Anchorage Community 2000

Anchorage Municipal Assembly Recognition for Municipal Attorney Service


University of Alaska Fairbanks Alumni Achievement Award for Professional 

Excellence 2001

Willamette University College of Law Service and Leadership Recognition 2001

Athena Society Member, 2003-present 

Providence Alaska Foundation Service and Leadership Award 2005

Willamette University Distinguished Service Award 2011

University of Alaska Board of Regents Resolution of Appreciation 2009, 2016

Induction ceremony acceptance speech



Hughes is an active member of the Alaskan community.  She has served as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska since 2002 and as a Director of the University of Alaska Foundation since 1990.   She is also the chief executive officer of her family’s foundation, The John C. Hughes Foundation, whose mission is investment in 501(c)(3) organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for Alaskans. 

 She was the Municipal Attorney for the Municipality of Anchorage from 1995 to 2000 and Alaska State Director for the Office of U. S. Senator Lisa Murkowski from 2005 to 2008.  For nine years, culminating in 2012, she also served as Chief Administrative Officer of Lisa Murkowski for U. S. Senate.  She was Alaska State Co-Chair of the Senator’s historic 2010 write-in campaign.  Prior to her appointments, Hughes was a partner in the Alaskan firm of Hughes, Thorsness, Gantz, Powell & Brundin.  She joined the firm in 1974. Her practice included a wide variety of commercial transactional and litigation matters. Additionally, she hosted a weekly radio show, PROFILE ALASKA on AM 700 KBYR, for seven years. 

 She is presently a Life Trustee Emeritus of Willamette University. And, in 2013, she was elected to the Board of Directors of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and serves as Chair of its Strategy & Priorities Committee. In 2018, she was appointed to the University of Washington Medicine’s Outreach & Advocacy Committee. She is also a member of the Community Advisory Board of Alaska Airlines.

 Hughes was born on Kodiak Island, Alaska and grew up in Anchorage, where she resides with her spouse, Andrew Eker.  They have three children and eight grandchildren. 

Induction ceremony acceptance speech