Mary Mikami Rouse

Mikami Rouse

Mary Mikami Rouse graduated at the top of the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines' Class of 1934 and then had a long academic career at Yale University. Many decades later, her name reappeared in the news when her son landed a prominent job: chief of staff to the president of the United States.

Rouse's parents, George and Mine Mikami, immigrated from Japan. In 1918, when their first daughter was about 6, they ended up in Anchorage. It was barely more than a construction camp for the Alaska Railroad. The Mikamis started a tailor shop and had three more children.

The children all attended AACSM and the University of Alaska. Rouse helped edit the Farthest North Collegian, joined the tumbling team and traveled to St. Lawrence Island with Otto Geist's archaeological expedition the summer after graduating.

Encouraged by anthropology Professor Froelich Rainey, Rouse enrolled at Yale. It was a brave move, Alaska's U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski said in a tribute placed in the Congressional Record after her death in 1999. "She was a combination of Samurai pride, Alaskan fortitude and New England grit," he said.

At Yale, she earned a doctorate, married fellow graduate student Irving Rouse and went on to enjoy a career in the field of anthropology at Yale. By chance in the late 1970s, her son Pete met Alaska Lt. Gov. Terry Miller and came north to serve as his chief of staff. Pete Rouse then did the same for Sen. Tom Daschle and Barack Obama, both during Obama's Senate term and for several months in late 2010 during his first term as president.

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