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UAS Honors Community Members at 2019 Commencement Ceremonies

The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) uses the occasion of Student Commencement each year to recognize individuals in our community who’ve offered outstanding service to the university, the state of Alaska, or Southeast communities.

Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Alaska

Date of Press Release: April 24, 2019

Honorary Doctorate recipient Richard Carstensen
Honorary Doctorate recipient Richard Carstensen

The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) uses the occasion of Student Commencement each year to recognize individuals in our community who’ve offered outstanding service to the university, the state of Alaska, or Southeast communities. Honorees receive either an Honorary Doctorate, reflecting a significant and lasting contribution in a specific area, or a Meritorious Service Award for public and volunteer service to the university or a local community. In both cases, the UA Board of Regents approves candidates who are nominated by local campuses.

This year UAS will honor Richard Carstensen at the Juneau ceremony on May 5 with an Honorary Doctorate of Science. Four individuals will be recognized with Meritorious Service Awards. Dr. Burgess Bauder will be recognized at the Sitka Campus Commencement on May 3. Allison Browne, Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy, Cheryl Samuel, Sally Smith will be recognized at the Juneau Campus Commencement on Sunday, May 5.

Honorary Doctorate recipient Richard Carstensen is a Southeast Alaska naturalist who has made the region’s ecological and cultural systems and landscape evolution his primary field of research. He is the co-founder of and senior naturalist for Discovery Southeast, an organization that promotes environmental education, research, and awareness. He is a renowned cartographer, researcher, and innovator. Carstensen has had a career of over 40 years, working with numerous state and federal agencies, private companies, and educational institutions in sharing his knowledge and methods.

Carstensen’s educational focus includes study of biogeography, landforms, natural communities, forest, alpine and stream ecology, birding, mammals, wild edibles, tracking and sign interpretation, GIS mapping and air photo interpretation, journaling, and field sketching. His pioneering use of drone-assisted aerial photography was used to locate and catalog some of the Tongass National Forest’s oldest and tallest trees. In this effort he was updating previous work on the Landmark Tree Project, a decade-long, science-based effort to map the old-growth evergreens of Southeast Alaska.

In the cultural realm, Carstensen has produced Tlingit Clan territory and other cultural maps made from his own GIS interpretations of local landscapes, linking knowledge of pre-European contact to ancient Alaskan geographical forms. He accomplished this by linking data from early European explorer and USGS maps with contemporary digital images, including new USFS LIDAR imagery of the Juneau area. In doing so he has created a fascinating time series of change in the cultural landscape of Southeast Alaska.

UAS Faculty Emerita Dr. Cathy Connor says of Carstensen that “Richard’s most important legacy is generations of Alaska elementary students and teachers who have been awakened to the workings of our natural world by their time in the outdoors with him and the Discovery Southeast programs he pioneered. Through his hands-on learning style, geared toward helping people to absorb and relish their time in nature, he has made the Discovery Southeast nature and science education organization one of the jewels of Southeast Alaska.”

Meritorious Service Awards are bestowed upon people who have provided significant public, academic, volunteer, philanthropic, cultural or artistic service to UAS or to an Alaska community.

On May 3, Dr. Burgess Bauder will deliver the UAS Sitka Commencement address and be presented with the Meritorious Service Award. Bauder is a well respected Doctor of Veterinary Medicine who has served Sitka and its outlying communities for more than 35 years. In addition to compassionate treatment of domestic animals, he assists at the raptor center with surgeries and offers his services for the bruins at Fortress of the Bear, a volunteer safe haven for bears in Sitka. In 2013 he was chosen for the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce Cossack Cap Award, which honors members of the community who distinguish themselves in extraordinary and unselfish public service. On the uniqueness of his practice, Sitka reporter Diana Saverin wrote, “Burgess doesn’t charge, per se. He doesn’t have any employees, he doesn’t have any fancy equipment, he just looks at the animals, and owners pay for the drugs Burgess thinks their pets need. Everything else he does–commercial fishing, property rentals—supports his pro bono practice. To most professionals, ‘pro bono’ means occasionally doing free work for a good cause. For Burgess, pro bono is central to his vision. Taking money for this work goes against his nature.”

On May 5, Juneau will honor Meritorious Service Award recipients Alison Browne, Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy, Cheryl Samuel, and Sally Smith.

Alison Browne is a lifelong, third-generation Alaskan. She earned a B.A. degree from the University of Washington, spent an academic year of independent study at L’Institut de Touraine in France, and has taken courses of interest at UAS. Following nine years as a legislative fiscal analyst for the Alaska Senate and House Finance Committees, she worked at the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation for 15 years in administrative and management positions.

Browne has served on the University of Alaska Foundation Board of Trustees, the UAS College of Fellows, and the UAS Development Council. She was instrumental in organizing the UAS master piano class taught by Dr. Alexander Tutunov. She has served on the boards of the Bartlett Regional Hospital Foundation, the Juneau Symphony, Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, Juneau Lyric Opera, and the Salvation Army Advisory Board. She is a member of the philanthropic education organization P.E.O. International and is a past fellowship honoree of the American Association of University Women.

Browne’s magnanimous commitment to the Juneau community and the arts was expressed in the many letters of support collected for her nomination. Juneau Community Foundation Executive Director Amy Skilbred noted that over her lifetime as a Juneau resident and nonprofit board member of several organization, Browne has provided “that under-recognized, behind-the-scenes support that makes great things happen.” Chancellor Emeritus John Pugh lauded her as “one of the strongest supporters of the public university system in Alaska.”

Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy has been a prominent attorney in Juneau for over 40 years, and a lifelong supporter of for the university who has demonstrated a deep commitment to supporting arts and theater in the community. She has served as a volunteer and leader on many boards including the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, Juneau Symphony, Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, and UAS Friends of the Egan Library. She is the cofounder of Juneau Jazz and Classics. Ruddy also has strong connections to the Alaska Native Community. Together with Peter Metcalfe, she is co-author of the book A Dangerous Idea: The Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Struggle for Indigenous Rights. She was cofounder of the Southeast Native Radio at KTOO.

Lynn Wallen wrote in her support letter “Kathy Ruddy has served the community of Juneau both in her professional capacity as an attorney and public servant, and in her volunteer roles. It is her unpaid volunteer work that I believe distinguishes her. I am not alone in being astonished at the many projects Kathy has spearheaded or participated in as a volunteer. I can think of no other member of the Juneau community more deserving of this award.”

Cheryl Samuel is a scholar, acclaimed artist, respected writer, and generous teacher with a passion for Chilkat and Raven’s Tail weaving. Her academic service in support of Alaska Native Elders involved with weaving contributed to resurgence of these traditional Northwest Coast art forms. An early instructor in Northwest Coast Arts at UAS, she also represented the University of Alaska by travelling to remote Alaska villages to teach and conduct workshops. Her work has been featured in many venues. Dance blankets and aprons have been part of the regalia at Celebration in Juneau and shown at the Weaver’s Fest in Haida Gwaii. Her work was has been featured at the Singapore Art Museum, Chicago’s Field Museum, Seattle’s Burke Museum, the University of Victoria, the UAS Egan Library, and the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.

In 1991 Cheryl was adopted into the Strong family of Klukwan, the Mother Village of the Chilkat Tlingit. She is a member of the Kaagwaantaan Clan, Eagle/Wolf, and was given the name of a weaver from the mid-1800’s: Saantaas, or “Ancient Threads.”

In expressing support for university recognition, esteemed Tlingit weaver Dr. Delores Churchill wrote that “Cheryl was instrumental in bringing back the Raven’s Tail weaving technique. When she wrote her book on Raven’s Tail (in 1984 – published in 1987), there were only 11 robes. Some were fragments that she studied in museums; most of the robes were in European museums. Cheryl’s first book was on Chilkat Weaving, published in 1982. Every Chilkat weaver uses her book.” Lani Strong Hotch from the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center in Klukwan states: “Had it not been for Cheryl’s passion, her body of work, and her willingness to share her knowledge the art of Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving would not be experiencing the revitalization that we see happening today.”

Sally Smith is a former Juneau mayor and a Fairbanks legislator, who also worked for five governors, directed two state agencies and served as Field Representative for U.S. Senator Mark Begich. With a B.S. in Music Education from the University of Illinois, she champions the arts and education and has created and taught courses for UAS, UAF, and the Southeast Regional Resource Center.

Sally’s interest in music has included direction for Juneau-Douglas Little Theater, Perseverance Theatre, the Juneau Symphony, and Juneau Lyric Opera where she developed Holiday Pops, an annual community concert for all ages. Service on boards has included, in part, the Alaska Municipal League, the BLM Advisory Board, Friends of the Alaska State Museum, KTOO, Juneau Rotary (president), and 13 years on the UAS Campus Council.

Former Juneau mayor Ken Koelsch noted, “Sally’s approach was to focus on finding solutions rather than trying to fix blame for the problem; take a positive approach and don’t waste time on the negative. Sally Smith is an integral part of the Juneau community.” Former Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer expressed appreciation of Smith’s volunteerism, lending both time and skills to community organizations, “demonstrating the kind of civic engagement that should serve as a model for all Alaskans.”

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield commented on these awardees: “It is a privilege for the University of Alaska to recognize these outstanding leaders in our communities, and especially to do so at Commencement where we celebrate student achievement. In recognizing these exceptional individuals, we hold up their example of lifetime service as a model to our graduates--encouraging them to embrace a life of service to their own community.”

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Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
(907) 796-6509
klcampbell4@alaska.edu