Naturally Inspiring


Celebration honors those that contribute to UAF

Celebration of Giving and Emil Usibelli Awards program

Dear Friends,

Each of us, every day, has an opportunity to teach someone, learn from someone and help someone. Tonight, we honor the dedicated individuals that are doing just that — UAF’s steadfast philanthropic supporters and our recipients of the Emil Usibelli Awards for Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Services.

UAF is a richly diverse place. We are fortunate to have such a variety of classes, lectures, concerts, theater, athletics and so much more. This evening we celebrate you — the individuals, corporations and foundations who are vital to the success of UAF — as well as our dedicated faculty who mentor and encourage students, our most valuable resource.

This university has come far in the last 100 years. In 2017, UAF will celebrate its 100th anniversary. As part of this milestone, we will continue to focus on enhancing the institution and ensuring it is equipped to provide students with a world-class education during the coming century. It is the generosity and commitment of people like you that help make this happen.

You are dedicated friends of the University of Alaska Fairbanks; your continued support of our mission and investment in our students is greatly appreciated. Thank you for joining us this evening.


Mike Powers
Interim Chancellor

Alyeska Pipeline Service Company

2015 Corporate Honoree

Alyeska Pipeline Service Company supports the communities where its employees live and work, through philanthropic donations and by encouraging volunteerism by its employees. For nearly 45 years, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company has been a significant supporter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. APSC frequently hires UAF alumni, putting them to work across the state, Alyeska’s leaders are actively involved on university advisory boards and in multiple working partnership activities with the University.

Alyeska contributes to Alaska-based nonprofits and to Alaska-based arms of national nonprofits that are aligned with the company’s values and philosophy — education, the environment and workforce development. In addition to their support of the Troth Yeddha’ Legacy Initiative, Alyeska contributes generously to Alaska Native students pursuing a master’s degree at the UAF School of Management, the UAF Rural Alaska Honors Institute which helps rural Alaskan students transition from high school to college, the UA Museum of the North, the UAF Geophysical Institute, the UAF Community and Technical College and KUAC.

Alyeska helps create a culture of giving by matching qualified employee donations or giving funds when employees contribute a certain number of volunteer hours. Alyeska always strives to lead by example.

Bill Stroecker Foundation

2015 Foundation Honoree

William “Bill” G. Stroecker was born in Fairbanks in 1920. He was a prominent community and business leader for decades. Most knew Bill for his amazing musical talent and civic leadership throughout the Golden Heart Community. Bill Stroecker was a close friend to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and his support continues to enhance our mission. From community outreach programs to student scholarships, Bill’s philanthropic spirit continues to make a tremendous impact at UAF. His passion for the University extended beyond charitable giving as Bill spent countless hours on volunteer boards and dedicated time in Juneau lobbying. His pioneer spirit and passion for preserving Alaska’s history continues to leave a lasting footprint on our campus.

Bill’s broad and extensive passion for Fairbanks was evident as he dedicated countless hours to several civic and non-profit groups. Bill took particular interest in The Salvation Army and the Alaska Goldpanners baseball team. The list of civic organizations he was a part of include the University of Alaska Fairbanks; the Greater Fairbanks Hospitals Foundation; Friends of the University Museum; Fairbanks Rotary Club; State of Alaska Guide Board; Alaska Banker’s Association; Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce; Fairbanks Urban Beautification Commission and numerous other advisory posts.

Thanks for Bill’s forethought and commitments to Fairbanks, the Stroecker Foundation was created and is now the third largest foundation in the state. The Stroecker Foundation along with Marion Weeks Foundation established the Marion Weeks and Bill Stroecker Scholarship which benefits students at the UAF School of Management and, in total, has given $126,150 to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. We are thankful for the work of the Stroecker Foundation and for the generous legacy that Bill created to impact the community that he loved.

Jeff and Sue Cook

2015 Longevity Honorees

For more than 40 years, Jeff and Sue Cook have been dedicated advocates and supporters of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Together, Jeff and Sue have contributed nearly $48,000 in total to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Jeff and Sue have also leveraged an additional $55,000 matching gift and discretionary grants through the Rasmuson Foundation and the Williams Foundation. They have touched many programs across campus including the UAF School of Management, the UAF Annual Fund, the UA Museum of the North, the Georgeson Botanical Garden, KUAC and scholarship support.

Jeff was born and raised in Fairbanks and is a graduate of Lathrop High School. He retired in July as Regional Director of External Affairs for Koch Industries. He and Sue have been married for 49 years, have four grown children and five grandchildren, Their daughter and son-in-law, Melissa and Wayne Sawchuck, are UAF alumni and one granddaughter is currently attending UAF.

Jeff and Sue have been committed partners of the University and not only give philanthropically, but also with their time and service. Jeff is currently a member of the UAF Chancellor’s Board of Advisors and has served on the UA Board of Regents and the UA Foundation Board of Trustees. Sue is a volunteer at the Georgeson Botanical Garden. In addition to their UAF dedication, Jeff and Sue are active members of the community, dedicating many hours of service to local organizations. Sue volunteers time at many Fairbanks organizations, including the Fairbanks Community Food Bank. Jeff is currently president of the Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation board, and serves on the Rasmuson Foundation Board. He served as chairman of the corporate giving committee for the Denali Center extended care facility and the Harry and Sally Porter Heart Center on the hospital campus. He serves on community boards for Alaska Airlines and Wells Fargo Bank.

Joe Usibelli and Peggy Shumaker

2015 Individual Honorees

For more than 40 years, the Usibelli family has given generously to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and to the Fairbanks community, as well as supporting initiatives and programs across the state. They have invested in every aspect of our university — from student scholarships, to faculty support and capital projects. Most notably, Joe Usibelli served as co-chair of the fundraising campaign for the UA Museum of the North expansion. The Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery is named in honor of the Usibelli matriarch, Joe’s mother, and is part of the new wing, which opened in 2006.

In addition to the support of capital and student initiatives at UAF, the Usibelli Coal Mine established the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Service Awards to honor faculty members who demonstrate exemplary contributions in each of these three categories. Peggy Shumaker, a UAF professor of English at the time, was honored with an Usibelli Award for Teaching the same year that Joe Usibelli was awarded an honorary doctorate by UAF. Together they continue to support programs and areas in which they are passionate.

Joe is a 1959 engineering alumnus. Peggy, former Alaska Writer Laureate and current Professor Emeritus, has helped to build support for Alaska writers and authors. Peggy was awarded the prestigious Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist Award in 2014.

Last year, Joe and Peggy renewed their support of the museum with a significant commitment of 1 million dollars to support the UA Museum of the North renovation of the Gallery of Alaska — the gallery is now officially named the Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli Gallery of Alaska. Though modest about their longstanding history of giving and investment across the state, Joe and Peggy continue to provide a powerful example that inspires a greater philanthropic culture among our communities. 

Hajo Eicken, Professor of Geophysics

2015 Emil Usibelli Award Recipient, Distinguished Research

Eicken arrived at UAF in 1998, after 10 years as a student and researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. His recent work focuses on Arctic sea ice in the context of a changing Arctic and global climate. The research addresses both scientific questions and the needs of diverse groups of people and industries in the Arctic. Eicken serves as interim director of UAF’s International Arctic Research Center.

Eicken was awarded the 2010 Louis Agassiz Medal by the European Geophysical Union for his outstanding contributions to the study of the physical and biological properties of sea ice, through a combination of novel experimental techniques and theory. For example, he used fluorescent tracers in boreholes to monitor water transport through Arctic summer sea ice, thus enhancing the understanding of the summer melt and the development of melt-ponds. He also developed methods to measure brine volume in first-year sea ice, important to understanding how ice properties change over time.

In addition to his excellence as a researcher, Eicken’s colleagues, in their letters of support, noted his skill at working across disciplines to advance both the public’s and the scientific community’s understanding of the Arctic. He places a high priority on educating students and the public, and has been an advocate for incorporating the knowledge of indigenous people into the scientific process.

“He has been a great ambassador for our university and for science,” said Larry Hinzman, interim vice chancellor for research at UAF. “He is an inspiration to all who meet him and he has absolutely made the world a better place through his dedicated efforts to foster interdisciplinary collaborations.”

Eicken has a degree in minerology from the Technical University of Clausthal in Germany and a doctorate in natural sciences from the University of Bremen in Germany.

Pat Holloway, Professor of Horticulture Emeritus

2015 Emil Usibelli Award Recipient, Distinguished Public Service

Holloway first came to UAF in 1975 as a research aid at what was then the Agricultural Experiment Station. After a three-year stint at the University of Minnesota, she returned to UAF in 1982 as a lecturer and instructor.

She is best known for two projects that have made their mark on the community and the state: The Georgeson Botanical Garden and Alaska’s peony industry.

When Holloway first inherited what would eventually become the Georgeson Botanical Garden, it was an unlabeled and unnamed research program within the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. It was not well connected to the public, she recalls, except for a one-day open house every year.

Over the years, Holloway and a plethora of volunteers and colleagues developed the research plots into one of Fairbanks’ most-visited attractions and a center for numerous public outreach and education experiences.

“(The garden) is certainly a valuable asset, not only for UAF, but also for the entire Fairbanks community,” said Steve Sparrow, recently retired interim dean of the School of Natural Resources and Extension. “None of this would have happened without Dr. Holloway’s dedication, determination and hard work.”

Holloway approached her peony work with the same initiative. Holloway learned that peonies, a popular wedding flower, were in bloom in Alaska during July, which was “out of season” everywhere else in the world. Her foresight paid off. Today, Alaska is home to more than 100 peony growers. In 2013, more than 32,000 peonies were exported from Alaska, and the industry is expected to continue its rapid growth.

“While all over the country, family farms are struggling, Alaskan farmers now have a niche crop that can compete economically with crops from the Lower 48,” said Emily Reiter, one of the people who nominated Holloway. “Pat is such a shining example of a learned professor who can share research concepts with farmers, gardeners and the general public.”

Holloway has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Millersville University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in horticulture from Washington State University and a doctorate in horticulture from the University of Minnesota.

David Newman, Professor of Physics

2015 Emil Usibelli Award Recipient, Distinguished Teaching

Newman joined the UAF faculty in 1998 after working for five years as a Wigner Fellow and then research scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He teaches courses across the physics curriculum, from introductory courses for non-majors to specialized graduate-level courses and seminars, consistently earning high marks in student evaluations, even in introductory courses. He serves as an advisor and mentor to undergraduate and graduate students.

“It is noteworthy that (his) nomination is from a student, and she clearly articulates what I have observed with Dr. Newman’s teaching,” said College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean Paul Layer in his letter of support. “He is an engaging lecturer. He can command the attention of students in large lecture environments. He can make the most difficult topics in physics accessible and fun, and he really cares about student learning.”

The student who nominated Newman, Joyce Dustin Demientieff, is a national board-certified teacher who returned to UAF to study engineering after teaching for 25 years.

“David Newman is a much better teacher than I was,” she said in her nomination letter. “He inspires and encourages real curiosity. He has the chutzpah and knowledge to open every class fielding random physics questions. I am impressed that he has never floundered with the barrage and always has a cogent answer.”

In addition to encouraging questions and interaction, even in large classes, Newman is an advocate for using technology to enhance students’ access to education. He records his lectures, homework and review sessions and makes them available to students to write blogs and to record their work, which teaches them to explain their science clearly to non-scientists.

Newman has a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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