Emily Ticasuk Ivanoff Brown


Emily Ticasuk Ivanoff Brown

Emily Ivanoff Brown started her classes at the University of Alaska when she was 50 years old, but her late start didn't stop her from earning three degrees during her lifetime and a doctorate posthumously.

Brown had lived a remarkable life already before she started classes in 1954. She was raised in Shaktoolik on the Norton Sound coast. In her mid-teens, she left for a Bureau of Indian Affairs school in Oregon and didn't return for nine years. By then she had earned a teaching certificate.

She began teaching in Kotzebue but decided to switch to nursing, so she returned to the Pacific Northwest for the training. There she met Robert Brown, and they married and moved back to Alaska. They raised three children.

When Robert died, Emily still needed to earn a living and support the family, so she returned to teaching. She taught during the academic year then took summer courses at the university. After a decade of study, she obtained her first bachelor's degree in 1964.

After retiring from a 30-year teaching career, she continued to study at the university. She earned a master's in 1974 and a second bachelor's, in the Inupiaq language, in 1980. During this time, she wrote several books, including her autobiography "Roots of Ticasuk" and the posthumously published "Tales of Ticasuk: Eskimo Legends and Stories."

Brown died in spring 1982, just a few weeks before the commencement ceremony at which UAF recognized her contributions with an honorary doctorate in the humanities.

Brown helped establish the naniq flame monument next to the Lola Tilly Commons building to honor the heritage of Alaska Native peoples. The flame is lit at the beginning and end of each academic year.

More online about Emily Ivanoff Brown:

  • A 2014 article written by her granddaughter, Elaine Chukan Brown, about the dedication of a new student center at UAF's Northwest Campus in Nome
  • A profile on the UA Journey website
  • A video introduction to the naniq memorial established on the Fairbanks campus by Brown and the Alaska Heritage Writers Association to honor the heritage of Alaska Native peoples