Commencement 2002


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Honorary Degree Recipients

The honorary degree recipients were selected for significant achievements that have brought distinction to their academic or professional careers, and for their lasting contributions to the state and the nation.

Helen Atkinson Helen Atkinson, a long-time Fairbanksan, will be honored by UAF with a doctor of laws for her contributions to Fairbanks and the university. An Alaskan since 1928, Atkinson graduated from UAF in 1936 as the first woman to earn a degree in civil engineering. She worked as an engineer for a variety of organizations, including the city of Fairbanks, the Federal Aviation Administration, Golden Valley Electric Association, the state of Alaska and several different mining and engineering companies. Later, she applied her engineering background to journalism, writing hundreds of articles and features about Alaska's many opportunities and resources. A staunch supporter of the university, she pursued her beliefs in academic excellence as a regent from 1954-63, and is a current member of the University of Alaska Foundation, College of Fellows, Alumni Association, University Women's Association and Friends of the UA Museum of the North board. The UAF Alumni Association named her a Distinguished Alumna in 1987 in recognition of her achievements.


Ronald F. CosgraveRonald F. Cosgrave, like Atkinson, is an alumnus of the university, and will also receive a honorary doctor of laws. In 1958 he was the first graduate to earn a degree in chemical engineering. While still a student, Cosgrave was instrumental in the student-led Northern Alaska Development Corp., which sought to improve the infrastructure and value of the lands adjacent to the university. He followed that early initiative and applied his business acumen to his academic training to help develop College Utilities Inc., which was established in direct response to the water and disposal needs of UAF and the surrounding area. Cosgrave saw further opportunity to encourage the state's development by revitalizing Alaska Airlines as chairman and CEO from 1972-79. He remains active in the company as chairman emeritus and continues to serve on the board's executive committee. In 1978, the same year the Alumni Association awarded him as a Distinguished Alumnus, Cosgrave established a scholarship fund that is awarded to one engineering and one chemistry undergraduate each year. He also served on the board of the UA Foundation from 1976-82.


Johannes ErritzoeJohannes Erritzoe, an internationally respected and self-taught ornithologist will receive an honorary doctor of science degree. As a child growing up in Denmark, Erritzoe was fascinated by birds and their habits, but he was unable to pursue formal advanced training due to the limited number of professional positions available in Denmark at the time. He was nevertheless able to work with several leading scientists and researchers, increasing the scope of his studies to include a vast range of knowledge, including avian physiology and breeding biology, and the evolution, ecology, behavior and conservation of birds. His studies, articles and books are regularly referenced by some of the world's leading avian experts. Erritzoe makes his valuable private collection of thousands of specimens available for study, and his collaboration with other researchers and their students include some at the University of Alaska Museum, where he serves as a research associate and advisor.



Kenneth "Utuayuk" ToovakKenneth "Utuayuk" Toovak will be awarded an honorary doctorate in laws. An Inupiaq from Barrow, Alaska, Toovak has been instrumental in ensuring the success of countless scientific research projects and expeditions, including many sponsored by the university. He began his career as a field support technician on U.S. Navy petroleum exploration operations in the 1940s, honing his innate skills in mechanics and problem-solving to become manager of equipment operations at the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) for many Arctic Slope research programs. NARL was operated for the Office of Naval Research by UAF from 1947-1980. Toovak was well known for his ability to make a quick assessment of a problem and find a creative solution. On one occasion, for example, he engineered the retrieval of a large caterpillar tractor that had fallen through the ice into a lake; on another, he improvised the salvage of a DC-3 that was damaged on the sea ice. In addition to his position as operations manager, Toovak's extensive knowledge of the characteristics of the tundra, ocean and sea ice, and their potential impacts on projects–as well as on the lives of those conducting the projects–was used by research teams to make adjustments to protect the integrity of their experiments and the safety of their operations.


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