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UAS Honors Community Members at 2020 Commencement Ceremony, May 2

This year UAS will honor Clark Gruening with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws. Sharon Gaiptman and William Todd Hunt will be recognized with Meritorious Service Awards.

Juneau, Alaska

Date of Press Release: April 24, 2020

Clark Gruening (provided by Rosemary Gruening)
Clark Gruening (provided by Rosemary Gruening)

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 Clark Gruening with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws. Sharon Gaiptman and William Todd Hunt will be recognized with Meritorious Service Awards.

Although traditional ceremonies are not taking place in person, each campus has created a “virtual commencement” in which students can be celebrated while still observing the limitations placed by the recent outbreak of COVID-19. All of the virtual commencements will be available at On May 1, the Sitka ceremony as well as the annual Native Graduation celebration will be available. May 2 is the date for Juneau and Ketchikan commencement. Gruening, Hunt, and Gaiptman will be honored at the Juneau event.

Clark Gruening is known throughout Alaska for his contributions to our state. Born in California, but raised in Juneau, Clark graduated from Juneau Douglas High School in 1961. University of Oregon granted him a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1965, and he earned his Juris Doctor with honors from George Washington University in 1969. Clark is the grandson of the well-known Ernest Gruening, who was the Alaska territorial governor from 1939 to 1953. Clark served two terms in the House of Representatives for the Alaska Legislature. During this time, he was key to the creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund. There is a long list of his contributions to our state’s philanthropic and public service sectors, including many years of work with the Juneau Community Foundation, the Foraker Group, Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) and Outdoor Recreation Community Access (ORCA), among many other organizations. Clark Gruening will be presented with an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Sharon Gaiptman has been an integral part of the Juneau community since she came to Alaska 40 years ago. Her involvement and contributions are not restricted to merely one area of focus but span and intertwine a broad spectrum in the Juneau community. A longtime host of the KINY radio show Capital Chat, Sharon has also served KTOO public radio, the Juneau Rotary Club, the Bartlett Hospital Foundation, the Alaska Travel Industry Association, the Student Youth Travel Association, the Juneau Convention & Visitors Bureau, and many other organizations. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech from the State University of New York at Brockport, and completed coursework towards a master's degreea in Broadcasting/Telecommunications from Kent State University in Ohio. Sharon will receive the 2020 Meritorious Service Award for her selfless and tireless commitment to community service and volunteerism, spanning and intertwining a broad spectrum in the community of Juneau.

William Todd Hunt has an impressive record of service as a musical conductor and instrumentalist. He has shared his musical talents as a conductor across the State of Alaska, nationally, and internationally. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Performance from the University of Louisville, Kentucky, and a Master of Music in Instrumental Conducting from Indiana University. He has received training from master conductors internationally. Invited in 1999 to conduct A Little Night Music for Juneau Lyric Opera, Todd fell in love with Juneau and has made this Southeast Alaska community his home since. Over the past five years alone, he has been the conductor or an instrumentalist in more than twenty musical productions in Juneau. Maestro Hunt is the Artistic Director of the Orpheus Project opera company, and is the founder and Music Director of the Amalga Chamber Orchestra. He has served as Conductor for Juneau Lyric Opera, Taku Winds ensemble of the Juneau Community Bands, and Perseverance Theatre, and has served as a rehearsal conductor and guest conductor for the Juneau Symphony. William Todd Hunt will receive the 2020 Meritorious Service Award for his devotion to the music and arts community, his impressive record of service as a musical conductor, and his cultivation of the talents of local musicians in the City and Borough of Juneau.

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield commented, “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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Press Release Contact

Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
(907) 796-6509