Alumnus, mining CEO to speak at UAF commencement

Marmian Grimes
April 16, 2010

Tom Albanese
Photo courtesy of Tom Albanese
Tom Albanese is the keynote speaker for UAF's 88th commencement ceremony, where he will also be awarded an honorary doctor of science degree.

University of Alaska Fairbanks alumnus and Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese will give the keynote address at the University of Alaska Fairbanks commencement ceremony Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 1:30 p.m. at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

As CEO of London-based Rio Tinto, one of the largest mining companies in the world, Albanese is known for steering the company toward a philosophy of sustainability, from an environmental, social and economic standpoint. It’s a philosophy that has continued to grow throughout the mining industry.

Albanese holds a bachelor’s degree in mineral economics and a master’s degree in mining engineering, both from UAF.

Albanese began his career with Resource Associates of Alaska in 1981, a company that eventually became part of Rio Tinto. In 1993, Albanese was appointed as manager of Rio Tinto’s Greens Creek Mine in Southeast Alaska, which was shuttered due to poor economic performance. His work there led to the 1996 reopening of the mine, which today employs more than 300 people. He was named head of Rio Tinto’s global industrial minerals program in 2000 and CEO of Rio Tinto in 2007. He is the first American to hold the post.

UAF will award Albanese an honorary doctor of science degree during its 88th commencement ceremony. The university will also present honorary doctoral degrees to Yup’ik elder Kangrilnguq Paul John and arctic researcher Jerry Brown.

John, of Toksook Bay, has been active in cultural and political affairs for most of his life. He is one of the last living people to have received a traditional Yup’ik education, living as a boy and young man in a qasgiq, or communal men’s house. There he learned Yup’ik legends and oral history, knowledge he now shares with the generations that followed him. He and his wife, Martina, are credited with spearheading an effort to reintroduce Yup’ik dance in the 1960s, an effort that led to dance groups forming in communities throughout the region. He has been a member of the Toksook Bay Village Council since its founding in 1963. He has served as a member and leader of a host of government, tribal, nonprofit and community organizations. Throughout his life, he has worked to preserve and share Yup’ik language and culture, which has resulted in multiple partnerships with UAF and other educational institutions. John will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Jerry Brown
Photo courtesy of Jerry Brown
Jerry Brown will receive an honorary doctor of science degree at UAF's 88th commencement ceremony.

Brown is among the most known arctic scientists in the United States. In more than 30 nomination letters, colleagues from a variety of disciplines highlight his collaborative and innovative approach to studying the Arctic. A soil and permafrost scientist by training, Brown is lauded for his interdisciplinary approach to research, which has included incorporating social sciences and indigenous knowledge into studies of the arctic regions. Brown holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural research and a doctorate in arctic pedology and geology from Rutgers University. His career includes 24 years with the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and six years leading the arctic research and policy staff at the National Science Foundation. Since his retirement in 1991, he has been active in a variety of arctic science organizations, including the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium and the International Permafrost Association. He served as president of the latter for five years. Brown will receive an honorary doctor of science degree.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen for their lasting contributions to the state and nation and for significant achievements in their respective disciplines.