University of Alaska Fairbanks alumnus and Olympic medalist Matt Emmons will give the keynote address at the University of Alaska Fairbanks commencement ceremony Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.
Emmons, who graduated from UAF in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, is among the most successful athletes in Alaska Nanooks history. He helped lead the UAF rifle team to four consecutive national championships and earned four NCAA individual titles in the process. He was was the first and only shooter in NCAA history to claim three career NCAA smallbore championships. Emmons continued his rifle career after graduation. In international competition, he is consistently ranked among the top 10 rifle shooters in the world. He has won three medals in the last three Olympic Games: gold in 2004, silver in 2008 and bronze in 2012. He also holds a master’s degree from the University of Colorado.
UAF will also award two honorary doctoral degrees and one Meritorious Service Award at its 91st commencement ceremony.
Former state senator John Sackett will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.
Sackett was born in 1944 at Old Woman’s Slough, a spring camp located along the Huslia River in west-central Alaska. He attended Sheldon Jackson High School, where he graduated as class valedictorian. He spent his first year of college at Ohio University and then returned to the University of Alaska. In Fairbanks, Sackett became involved with Alaska Native land claim issues. At age 21, he became president of the recently formed Tanana Chiefs Conference and, at 22, he was elected to the state House of Representatives. After two terms, he took a break from elective office to complete his college degree and then successfully ran for a seat in the Alaska Senate, where he served for 14 years. Sackett also served as the founding chairman and president of Doyon, Limited. Today, Sackett is active in several UAF programs, sharing his experience and knowledge with students via class presentations and seminars, and serving as a mentor to Alaska Native faculty members.
Archaeologist and UAF alumnus George Smith will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree.
Smith’s career has spanned more than 30 years and has earned him national and international recognition for his holistic approach to the field. Smith received his master’s degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1978. After eight years at the University of Alaska Museum, Smith went on to work as a supervisory archaeologist with the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. From there, he accepted a position at the National Park Service Southeast Archaeological Center as division head for the investigation and evaluation division, later becoming associate director and then acting director before his retirement in 2009. Smith helped establish the first Society for American Archaeology Public Education Task Force and was key in making public education one of the critical elements of the SAA agenda. He received an honorary doctoral degree from the University of South Florida in 2000 and, in 2007, the Society for American Archaeology Excellence in Cultural Resource Management Award. He is currently an adjunct faculty member at Florida State University.
John Zarling, an engineering professor emeritus, will receive a Meritorious Service Award.
Zarling has served as an engineering educator and researcher for nearly a half-century, the better part of that at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He formally retired in 1997, but has remained active as an important contributor to UAF, to industry in the state, and to arctic and cold-climate research. He is active as a mentor to UAF’s students, faculty and staff and is known for his staunch support of UAF athletics programs and of student-athletes. He is widely considered to be among Alaska’s top arctic engineering experts and is cited as a strong influence in the careers of engineers throughout the state. Zarling has received multiple awards for his excellence as an educator, including the 1993 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching Award, one of the university’s most prestigious awards.
Honorary degree recipients are chosen for their lasting contributions to the state and nation and for significant achievements in their respective disciplines. Meritorious Service Awards recognize outstanding service to the local community or state.