Usibelli Coal Mine

43 YEARS OF SUPPORT

By Katie Straub

Joe Usibelli Jr. joins the ribbon-cutting for the upgraded Nanooks weight-training room. UAF photo by JR Ancheta '15
Joe Usibelli Jr. joins the ribbon-cutting for the upgraded Nanooks weight-training room. UAF photo by JR Ancheta '15.

Usibelli Coal Mine has a long history of altruistic support in Interior Alaska, including 43 years of proudly celebrating and partnering with UAF.

Support for education has been a hallmark of the leadership of UCM President Joe Usibelli Jr. ’81. Over the years, Usibelli Coal Mine has donated more than $5.2 million to the university.

UCM giving is relevant and timely — in tune with the pulse of students and adjusting to the landscape of the need. The company has been a leader, as well as a pioneer, in its philanthropic efforts.

Most recently, UCM made significant contributions to the School of Management and Nanook Athletics during the first UA Giving Day, “49 Hours for the 49th State,” held Oct. 20-22.

Lisa Herbert, UCM vice president of public relations, has noted that student-athletes in particular are worthy of support because they "represent us so proudly on the ice, court or field, in the classroom and out in the world."

Nanook Athletics

UCM's $50,000 UA Giving Day challenge gift to the UAF Nanook Athletics scholarship endowment comes on the heels of another substantial donation to upgrade the Nanook Athletics weight room last year. The upgrades added branded, updated equipment and renovations that demonstrate Nanook pride and create a facility worthy of an NCAA Division I program.

Joe Usibelli Jr. and Provost Anupma Prakash meet at the Patty Center. UAF photo by JR Ancheta '15.
Joe Usibelli Jr. and Provost Anupma Prakash meet at the Patty Center. UAF photo by JR Ancheta '15.

“UCM’s contribution has had a tremendous impact on our hockey program and our entire department,” said Erik Largen ’10, UAF hockey’s head coach. “Their gift to help improve our weight room has allowed us to develop players quicker and attract elite student-athletes to become future Nanooks.”

Brian Scott, UAF volleyball’s head coach, said the generosity of UCM has been game changing for Nanook athletics.

“Thanks to UCM, our weight room has transformed from a household garage set of weights and benches to a true collegiate-caliber performance center,” Scott said. “Likewise, their investment into Nanook scholarships transforms our ability to recruit top-tier student-athletes. Without scholarship dollars, it is very hard to convince the best talent to move to Alaska and stay the entire duration. I am extremely grateful for the support of UCM.”

School of Management

UCM's Giving Day challenges to the School of Management, at $100,000 total, were split between the homeland security and emergency management program and the bachelor’s degree program in applied management. The UCM challenge gifts helped jumpstart UA Giving Day and closely followed similar gifts from UCM to support both School of Management programs. 

Tammy Tragis-McCook, Chelsea Roehl and Jillian Bjornstad take a selfie with School of Management students.
Tammy Tragis-McCook, Chelsea Roehl and Jillian Bjornstad take a selfie with School of Management students.

The homeland security and emergency management program, the only one of its kind in Alaska, prepares graduates to plan responses and manage first responders during man-made and natural emergencies. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the critical importance of training professionals in this field. The program has grown substantially over the last decade to more than 200 students. The online programs consistently receive top reviews in various college rankings.

“These top rankings are only possible due to our knowledgeable instructors, an exciting curriculum and collaboration across campus,” said Cam Carlson, the program director and a UAF alumnus. “With support from Usibelli Coal Mine, we are able to provide nationally recognized leadership training as well as the critical thinking and ethical decision-making skills needed for our graduates.”

The Bachelor in Applied Management offers students with technical hands-on degrees or certificates the opportunity to further their career growth and develop management skills within their current fields. The UCM endowment will set up the first scholarship for students enrolled in the program.

“Having leadership from Usibelli Coal Mine believe in these students — and not only their education, but their future careers — is vital,” said Amanda White, BAM program director. “It is a belief in the betterment of our leaders, our organizations and our communities that these students will impact.”

Because of their exceptional advocacy for UAF and their help in building a culture of giving, the Usibelli family was one of just three Philanthropists of the Century recognized by UAF in 2017. With such incredible generosity, one might wonder what inspires UCM to continue to give.

"Giving back to our community is part of our mission as a family,” Joe Usibelli Jr. said in a 2017 interview. He added that the university has touched every aspect of his life.

He encourages others to “give often and give significantly if you can. It makes us what we are.”

He echoes the sentiment of his father, Joe Usibelli Sr. ’59 and ’96H, who said in 2011, “You give back. You have to. Either that or you’re not doing it right.”