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Alaska constitutional delegate to speak at 2009 commencement

Submitted by Marmian Grimes
Phone: 907-474-7902


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UAF photo by Todd Paris
Annie Blue
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Photo courtesy of Vic Fischer
Vic Fischer
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Photo courtesy of Ted Stagg
Ted Stagg
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Photo courtesy of Stepovich family
Mike Stepovich
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Alaska state constitutional delegate Vic Fischer will give the keynote address at the University of Alaska Fairbanks commencement ceremony Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

Fischer has been involved in Alaska policy issues for nearly six decades. He was active in the statehood movement and was a delegate to Alaska's Constitutional Convention in 1955-56. He served as a member of the Alaska Territorial Legislature from 1957-58 and later as a state senator from 1981-86.

Fischer holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin, a master's degree in city and regional planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University.

In addition to his political posts, Fischer's career in Alaska has included a variety of jobs in state, local and federal government, as well as extensive academic work at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Fischer served as the director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at UAA from 1966-76 and is currently a professor of public affairs at the institute. He is a specialist in Russian affairs and from 1989 to 1994 was director of Russian affairs for the University of Alaska. Fischer later managed the Alaska-Russia programs at UAA and was co-director of the Joint International Scientific Center "Arktika" in Magadan, Russia. He spent part of his childhood in the Soviet Union and lived in Moscow for a year during the 1990s.

UAF will award three honorary degrees during its 87th commencement ceremony. This year's honorary degree recipients are oil-drilling engineer Ted Stagg, Yup'ik elder and storyteller Annie Cungauyar Blue and Mike Stepovich, Alaska's last territorial governor.

Stagg is a drilling and petroleum engineer who has been credited with helping develop technologies that make North Slope oil more accessible and its fields more productive. Stagg's career in Alaska's oil industry began in 1967. After a stint in Peru, Stagg returned to Alaska in 1974 to work first as a petroleum inspector for the state and then as an engineer for BP. On May 5, 1977 he and a colleague opened the first well valve in Prudhoe Bay to begin the flow of oil into the trans-Alaska pipeline. During his career, Stagg has helped develop horizontal, multilateral and coil-tubing drilling methods, as well as arctic-grade equipment and methods to inject drill cuttings back into wells. Stagg holds a bachelor's degree in engineering from Louisiana State University. He will receive an honorary doctor of science degree.

Blue is known throughout the state for her work to share and preserve Yup'ik stories and culture. She was born in a remote camp on the Togiak River in 1916. Though she has no formal Western education, Blue has spent her life learning the traditional ways and stories of her people and passing on that knowledge to future generations. Her academic work includes collaboration on "Math in a Cultural Context," a series of elementary school math modules developed at UAF that incorporate traditional Yup'ik knowledge. In addition, she worked closely with the Alaska Native Language Center to share her stories via the 2007 book and CD "Cungauyaraam Qulirai "Annie Blue's Stories'." In addition to her academic collaboration, Blue shares her knowledge informally with community, government and school groups throughout the state, nation and world. Blue will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Stepovich was Alaska's youngest and first Alaska-born territorial governor. He was born in Fairbanks in 1919 and grew up in the area, working summers at his father's Fairbanks Creek mine. After attending Gonzaga University and Notre Dame law school, Stepovich served in the U.S. Navy legal office. After his tour in the Navy, he returned to Alaska and became active in politics, serving three terms in the Territorial Legislature. President Eisenhower appointed him as territorial governor in 1957, a post he held until Alaska was admitted to the Union. During his tenure, he served as a strong advocate and leader in Alaska's efforts to achieve statehood. After statehood, Stepovich returned to Fairbanks to practice law. He remained active in state and local politics, as well as a variety of community organizations, including the Alaska Goldpanners and the Catholic Schools of Fairbanks. Stepovich will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen for their lasting contributions to the state and nation and for significant achievements in their respective disciplines.

CONTACT: Marmian Grimes, UAF public information officer, at 907-474-7902 or via e-mail at marmian.grimes@uaf.edu.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos of honorary degree recipients are available for download at www.uaf.edu/news.