UAF Geophysical Institute to mark 75 years with public celebration

Rod Boyce
August 11, 2021

People in front of Chapman Building
Photo courtesy of the Geophysical Institute
Geophysical Institute employees gather in 1958 in front of the Chapman Building, which originally housed the institute. The then-director, C.T. Elvey, is third from the right.

Come help the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute celebrate its 75th anniversary. Visit with scientists and enjoy interactive activities to learn about earthquakes, volcanoes, rocket launches, satellites, snow, ice, permafrost and more from 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, in front of the Elvey Building on the West Ridge at UAF.

It’s a family-friendly, outdoor event with guided tours, prizes and giveaways, a trivia contest, and plenty for children to see and do. Talk to Alaska science pioneers about the early days of the growing institute and their innovative research.

The Geophysical Institute considers July 31 as its anniversary because that’s the date in 1946 on which President Harry S. Truman signed legislation establishing a geophysical institute at the University of Alaska.

The act authorized the expenditure of up to $975,000, which is $13.3 million in 2021 dollars. Congress allocated the money two years later, in 1948, and construction of the three-story home for the new Geophysical Institute finished in 1950. The building was later named after Sydney Chapman, a Geophysical Institute professor from 1951 to 1970.

The Geophysical Institute eventually outgrew the Chapman Building and moved into a new home, the C.T. Elvey Building, in 1970. The building remains the institute’s central home, though it has personnel in several other locations.

The act approved by Congress in 1946 and signed by Truman states in part that “there is a necessity for indefinite continuation of geophysical research in the Arctic in the postwar period;…”

Seventy-five years later, the Geophysical Institute is going strong and continuing to pursue science for the benefit not only of Alaskans but also of the planet.

Elvey Building construction
Photo courtesy of the Geophysical Institute
Work proceeds on the C.T. Elvey Building, which was completed in 1970. The building, home to the UAF Geophysical Institute, is named for Christian T. Elvey, the institute’s managing director from 1952-1963.

Anniversary event activities on Aug. 21 will include demonstrations by staff from the Alaska Earthquake Center; Alaska Volcano Observatory; Alaska Satellite Facility; Poker Flat Research Range; Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration; and Snow, Ice and Permafrost group. All of these entities are part of the Geophysical Institute.

Brief remarks will be made by University of Alaska President Pat Pitney; UAF Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Nettie La Belle-Hamer; Geophysical Institute Director Robert McCoy; state Sen. Scott Kawasaki, whose father, Koji, was a research assistant and postdoctoral fellow at the institute; and Steve Masterman, director of the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.

Anniversary cake will be served. Geophysical Institute merchandise, such as T-shirts, hoodies and pint glasses, will be available for purchase.

Come help us celebrate our 75th on Saturday, Aug. 21.

Attendees are encouraged to wear a mask and to practice good social distancing during the event, in accordance with UAF policy. Masks and hand sanitizer will be available.