2012 Distinguished Alumnus award winner
Claus-M. Naske, ’61
Claus-M. Naske was born in Stettin, Pomerania in 1935. During World War II, his family attempted to flee their province in advance of Russian troops; unfortunately they were unsuccessful. Eventually the German population was evicted from the province in July 1945. He and his family walked across Germany and reached Goslar in the Harz Mountains in October where they reunited with his father.
Claus attended school in Goslar, but left in the ninth grade to start an agricultural management apprenticeship that allowed him to emigrate to Palmer, Alaska, in 1954. After only 28 days in Palmer, Naske broke his leg and decided to attend high school. Naske graduated in a year and then went to work for the Alaska Road Commission. In January 1957, he moved to Fairbanks to attend the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. He married Dinah in May 1960 and graduated with two Bachelor of Arts degrees, in political science and history, in 1961. Naske received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Michigan in 1964 and his doctorate from Washington State University in 1970. He became a faculty member at UA in 1969. While maintaining his full load as a professor of history, in 1988, Naske also became director of the University of Alaska Press overseeing the production of scholarly work on the North. He encouraged the research and writing of many authors. Claus retired as an emeritus professor in 2001, but continued at the UA Press until 2004.
Naske has garnered a reputation as one of the state’s most prominent historians. He captured respect and attention on local, state, federal and international levels with his expertise on numerous topics within the realm of Alaska’s history, from its position as a Russian outpost to a U.S. territory and ultimately statehood. He has authored and co-authored numerous books, including Bob Bartlett of Alaska: A Life in Politics, 1979; A History of Alaska Statehood, 1985; and Ernest Gruening: Alaska’s Greatest Governor, 2004. Naske’s book Alaska: A History, is widely considered the gold standard work on this state. In numerous articles, he has recounted the economic and political development of Alaska and the relationship between Alaska and the rest of the U.S. Through his extensive research and published works documenting Alaska’s history and politics Naske has provided a foundation for classroom instruction on Alaska’s history, both within the state and beyond its borders. His latest book Alaska: A History, third edition 2011, provides a full chronological survey of the region’s and state’s history, including the precedent-setting Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1970, which compensated Native Americans for their losses; the effect of the oil industry and the trans-Alaska pipeline on the economy; the Exxon Valdez oil spill; and Alaska politics through the early 2000s.
Naske is married to Dinah and has two children – Natalia-Michelle Nan-geak and Nathaniel-Michael Noah. It is with great pleasure the UAF Alumni Association presents the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award to Claus-M. Naske.