Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka will give the keynote address at the University of Alaska Fairbanks commencement ceremony Sunday, May 11, 2014, at 1:30 p.m. at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.
For the past 23 years, Kitka has served as AFN president, representing Alaska Native people, drawing attention to long-standing socioeconomic problems facing Alaska and creating new opportunities. Kitka works at the direction of a 37-member board of directors and resolutions crafted by the delegates to the annual AFN Convention. Her job is to unify and inspire action on that direction. Over the years, Kitka has worked closely with Alaska’s congressional delegation and other members of Congress to advance Alaska interests in health care, education, key sectors of Alaska’s economy and legal rights of Alaska Natives. Her work has also helped secure hunting and fishing rights and ensure those rights are defended in the courts.
Kitka’s family hails from Cordova and Sitka. Her father, a Chugach Eskimo was born and raised in Cordova and was a commercial fisherman for many years. Her mother came to Alaska after World War II as a nurse. They met and wed in Cordova. The family moved outside Alaska when Kitka was a child, however she returned as a young woman and, in 1981, she earned a business degree from Alaska Pacific University. She went to work for AFN as a bookkeeper. Within a decade, she was the organization’s president. Kitka is the second of five siblings and lives in Anchorage. She has one grown daughter.
Kitka will also receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. UAF will also award two additional honorary doctoral degrees and two Meritorious Service Awards at its 92nd commencement ceremony.
Alaska Native leader Robert Nick will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.
Nick has an extensive record of service in rural education, public housing, small business, health research, Alaska Native political organization and legislation, and economic development. Nick was born in Bethel and grew up in the village of Nunapitchuk and throughout Akulmiut, the tundra basin encompassing the drainage of Anarciq, or the Johnson River. With his family, he participated in the annual round of subsistence hunting, fishing, gathering and trapping activities. His decades of service began with his election to the Nunapitchuk City Council in 1963. Many regional and statewide organizations and concerns bear his mark, as he was a board member and cofounder of entities that have become fixtures of Alaska’s business and political life, including the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp., the Calista Corp. and the Alaska Federation of Natives. Today, he uses his deep knowledge of Yup’ik culture in his columns in the Delta Discovery newspaper. His writing is known for its ability to both reinforce traditional values in a variety of contemporary contexts, and reveal, discuss and share vital aspects of Yup’ik culture.
Wildlife biologist Rodney Boertje will receive an honorary doctor of science degree.
During more than 30 years with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Boertje’s research laid a foundation for the understanding of wildlife ecology in Interior Alaska. Boertje was born in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and earned degrees in Minnesota and Louisiana before moving to Alaska to attend UAF, which awarded him a master’s degree in wildlife management in 1981. He immediately began work for the State of Alaska as a technician, pilot and biologist. During his tenure with the state, he published an average of one scientific paper per year, making him one of the most prolific biologists ever employed by the department. His research about how moose and caribou affect and interact with their natural habitats led to scientifically based hunting rules. Boertje and his colleagues also offered key insights into the relationships between Interior Alaska’s large predators — wolves and bears — and their prey — moose and caribou. His studies offered a factual foundation to debates about control and management of these wildlife species.
Former legislator and community volunteer Glenn Hackney will receive a Meritorious Service Award.
Hackney’s dedication and service is well known throughout the Fairbanks community. He served as a legislator for eight years and has volunteered countless hours over the decades. He is a tireless crusader against litter and has been a common sight along Fairbanks’ roadsides. Hackney has been a founding member of community organizations and served on numerous boards. On behalf of the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Hackney has carried more than one million pounds of food to the hungry.
Professor Emeritus William Mendenhall Jr., will also receive a Meritorious Service Award.
As an educator and engineer, Mendenhall is known for his commitment to classroom teaching, to professional and public service, and to engineering excellence. He has been part of the Fairbanks community for more than 60 years, Mendenhall has volunteered for a wide variety of civic and government organizations and helped establish the Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation, on whose board he still sits. As a professional engineer, he was instrumental in developing more-accurate mapping procedures for high latitudes. During his tenure as a professor, he cajoled, counseled and, ultimately, inspired his students to complete their studies.
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.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos of honorary degree recipients and meritorious service award winners are available at //news.uaf.edu/hdr2014