The first edition of the Alaska Alumnus newsletter, in July 1956, featured a cartoon of a person in a graduation costume jumping from a very tall ladder into a very small pool. An accompanying paragraph offered this introduction: “The Alumni Association is taking its initial dive into the journalistic pool and our first thought is to yell for help in a loud voice!”
The newsletter was the work of Audrey Loftus, who had recently been appointed the association’s first director. Notwithstanding the yell for help, Loftus had compiled an impressive amount of news from far-flung graduates of the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, and its successor, the University of Alaska.
Loftus had an advantage. She had been one of the earlier students at the AACSM, having enrolled shortly after arriving in Fairbanks in 1925. She didn’t earn a degree quite then, though. Instead, she married Ted Loftus, a 1927 and 1928 graduate in mining engineering. He was one of the three brothers from Tomahawk, Wisconsin, who had built their own homestead cabin and enrolled in 1922, the AASCM’s first year of classes.
After graduation, Ted went to work on the Fairbanks Exploration Co. dredges in Chatanika. Audrey served as the U.S. commissioner there, then worked as a deputy court clerk in Fairbanks and got involved in numerous service organizations. She and Ted had two children, Nancy and Jule. Nancy, in 1954, became the university’s first second-generation graduate.
Eventually, Audrey Loftus returned to school and in 1949 earned a bachelor’s degree in business. She served as a university regent in 1953-1954 before being asked to lead the alumni association.
During the university’s rapid expansion of the late 1950s, the cornerstone that U.S. Territorial Delegate James Wickersham created in 1915 ended up in a field with other construction debris. Loftus led an effort to save it, allowing it to be rededicated by the alumni association in 1962. Another rededication in 2015, on the 100th anniversary of Wickersham’s original dedication ceremony, placed it in the corner formed by the Bunnell and new engineering buildings.
Audrey and Ted Loftus retired to Oregon. Ted died in 1995 and Audrey in 1998.
More online about Audrey Loftus:
- A copy of the first 1956 Alaska Alumnus newsletter she produced.
- A summary of her life and career on the UA Journeys website.