UAF engineering building to be named for Joe Usibelli

a man in a blue jacket and a red hard hat
Photo courtesy of Joe Usibelli and Peggy Shumaker
Joe Usibelli

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will name its engineering building for UAF alumnus, philanthropist and miner Joseph E. Usibelli.

UAF will host a naming ceremony Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at 4 p.m. in Cornerstone Plaza outside the building. At its June meeting, the UA Board of Regents approved naming the building for Usibelli, who died in mid-May after a long-term illness.

“My family has strong roots at UAF,” said Joe Usibelli, Jr., Usibelli Coal Mine president. Both he and his father graduated from the university, as did several other family members. The mine has employed many UAF alumni over the years. Joe Usibelli Jr. also served on the University of Alaska Board of Regents from 1999-2007.

“We know firsthand how beneficial the university is to the people, businesses and communities of Alaska,” he said.

Joe Usibelli graduated from the University of Alaska with an engineering degree in 1959. Five years later, at the age of 25, he became president of Usibelli Coal Mine when his father and mine founder Emil Usibelli died suddenly. Usibelli turned over the company presidency to his son in 1987 but remained board chairman until his death.

Usibelli’s personal commitment to philanthropy — which he shared with his wife, Peggy Shumaker — created the same culture within his company and family.

Over the years, that philosophy has led to the creation of the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Service Awards and four endowed scholarships that support 15 students each year. In addition, support from the Usibelli family and the Usibelli Coal Mine have helped UAF complete construction of the engineering building, finish expansion of the University of Alaska Museum of the North and launch a campaign to renovate the museum’s Gallery of Alaska.

A rounded-front building with a sunset in the background and trees in the foreground.
UAF photo by Todd Paris
The UAF engineering building will be named the Joseph E. Usibelli Engineering Learning and Innovation Building.

“Joe Usibelli's philanthropic impact on the University of Alaska Fairbanks spans the disciplines,” said UAF Chancellor Dan White. “In particular, the three hallmark faculty awards given each year are made possible by the Usibellis’ generosity and their desire for a rich educational environment and overall faculty excellence.”

During its centennial year in 2017, UAF honored the Usibelli family as one of three philanthropists of the century.

The Joseph E. Usibelli Engineering Learning and Innovation Building opened for classes in January of 2018. It added 130,000 square feet of new space, including a high-bay lab, nine teaching labs, nine research labs, two maker spaces, several new classrooms and offices for the Alaska Center for Energy and Power. The building was designed to the silver standard set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program and, since opening, has outperformed those measures, saving the university approximately 30% in energy costs, compared to other similar buildings. The building also contains sensors that allow real-time monitoring during high wind or seismic events, a first for a building in Interior Alaska and one of only a few such buildings in the state. 
Engineering building information
Usibelli Coal Mine history

ADDITIONAL CONTACT: Lisa Cassino-Herbert, Usibelli Coal Mine,, 907-452-2625.