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UAF announces new Susan Butcher Institute

Submitted by Kate Ripley
Phone: 907-450-8102


Photo caption below.
Photo Β© 1986 Judy Dater
Susan Butcher
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Photo caption below.
UAF photo by Lisa Scerbak
David Monson
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The University of Alaska Fairbanks today announced the creation of the Susan Butcher Institute, dedicated to cultivating public service and leadership skills for Alaska's residents.

The institute will provide Alaskans with opportunities to learn and grow, both personally and professionally, through a wide variety of workshops and seminars. Butcher's husband, David Monson, will serve as the institute's first executive director. Monson will develop a range of programs intended to inspire people, especially youths and emerging leaders, to improve their own communities through public service, volunteerism and taking on new challenges. The institute expects to offer the programs on a regular basis starting in fall 2010.

Butcher was a longtime Alaskan and accomplished outdoorswoman who once summited Mount McKinley by dog team with Iditarod co-founder Joe Redington Sr. She died of acute myelogenous leukemia in 2006.

"This institute will, first and foremost, honor where we live. It is such a gift to live in this beautiful state," Monson said. "It is our hope that the institute will instill a desire to give back to our communities and help Alaskans thrive for generations. That sense of public service transcends Alaska--it's applicable everywhere. I hope people from all walks of life and from all over the world will attend and be enriched by this institute."

UA System President Mark Hamilton said it's fitting for the university to have an institute named after Butcher.

"She is a symbol of inspiration for many of us, especially those struggling toward a goal, whether it be athletic, personal, professional or spiritual," said Hamilton. "She truly loved Alaska, the wilderness here, her family and her dogs. She once said she didn't know the meaning of the word "˜quit.' In a very real way, this institute means she hasn't, despite her passing."

Creating the institute is one of the last official acts of UAF Chancellor Steve Jones, who is leaving to serve as president at Urbana University in Ohio.

"I couldn't be more pleased that David Monson agreed to be the institute's founding director," Jones said. "This institute will serve as a legacy for much of what Susan believed in, for many years to come."

Born and raised in South Dakota, Monson came to Alaska in 1977 and met Butcher shortly after that. They married in 1985 and together competed successfully in nearly every major sled dog race in the world. Monson is a former champion of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Canada.

Monson and his two daughters, Tekla and Chisana, operate Trail Breaker Kennel in Fairbanks, where they share their Alaska lifestyle with visitors from around the world.

CONTACT: Kate Ripley, director of statewide public affairs, 907-450-8102, or via e-mail at kate.ripley@alaska.edu.

Video: Monson describes the institute

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