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Writer and radio host Richard Nelson to speak at commencement

Submitted by Carla Browning
Phone: (907)474-7778


Cultural anthropologist, author and radio host Richard Nelson has been selected to give the keynote address at the University of Alaska Fairbanks 83rd commencement ceremony to take place Sunday, May 15, 2005.

Richard Nelson Nelson is the executive producer for Encounters, a weekly half-hour radio series broadcast on public radio stations throughout the state. The program explores the natural world and human relationships to the environment of Alaska.

Nelson wrote The Island Within, Heart and Blood: Living with deer in America, Hunters of the Northern Ice, Hunters of the Northern Forest, Shadow of the Hunter and The Athabaskans. His book Make Prayers to the Raven, was adapted into an award-winning public television series about Koyukon Indian life. Nelson served as the Alaska State Writer in 1999-2001 and has received the John Burroughs and Sigurd Olson award, both for nature writing. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award for creative nonfiction. He has taught classes at UAF, the University of California, the University of Hawaii and Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.

Jake Lestenkof Honorary degree recipients for the commencement have also been named. Retired Maj. Gen. Jake Lestenkof will receive an honorary doctor of laws from UAF. An Aleut from St. George Island, Lestenkof was just a boy when he was evacuated to a camp at Funter Bay on Admiralty Island as part of the government's World War II Aleut relocation program. After graduating from Mt. Edgecumbe High School in 1951, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. for service during the Korean War. He accumulated over four decades of military service, both active and reserve, 25 years of which were spent in the Alaska National Guard. He was appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles to the position of Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard and Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs where he served from 1994 until his retirement in 1999. Lestenkof has served in a number of leadership positions including the executive vice president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, the executive director for the Cook Inlet Native Association, the Alaska regional director for the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs as a member of the Federal Senior Executive Service and he was the first administrator of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Restitution Trust.

George Sundborg Alaska Constitutional Convention delegate and newspaperman George Sundborg will also receive an honorary doctor of laws from UAF. He began his career in journalism in 1934 as the city editor for the Grays Harbor Washingtonian in Hoquiam, Wash. While living in Alaska, he was a reporter and editorial writer for the Daily Alaskan Empire and editor of both the Juneau Independent and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Sundborg was instrumental in helping to convince territorial Alaskans that the timing was right for statehood. His study, Statehood for Alaska - The Issues Involved and the Facts About the Issues, was distributed to newspapers across Alaska in 1946. As one of 55 delegates elected to help draft the state's constitution on the Fairbanks campus in 1955-56, Sundborg is truly one of the creators of Alaska. His background in journalism may have landed him the job of chairman for the convention's Committee on Style and Drafting for what would later be called a model constitution. He also served as a key aide over the years to territorial Gov. and U.S. Sen. Ernest Gruening. He currently serves on the advisory board for the Creating Alaska Project celebrating the 50th anniversary of Alaska's Constitution (2005-2006) and statehood (2009). He is the author of Opportunity in Alaska and Hail Columbia: The Thirty-year Struggle for the Grand Coulee Dam. He received the U.S. Department of the Interior Meritorious Citation in 1973.

Jim Reardon Fisheries and wildlife biologist Jim Rearden will receive an honorary doctor of science. He has lived in Alaska for 55 years where, among other things, he was a railroad section hand, college professor and free-lance writer. He served on a destroyer escort in the Central Pacific in World War II. After the war Rearden pursued his education in fish and game management and received his master's degree in wildlife conservation at the University of Maine, Orono in 1950. He then established UAF's wildlife biology program where was department head for four years. In 1962, as the biologist charged with the management of commercial fisheries in Cook Inlet for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, he drew on his experience as a sonar operator in the navy and suggested an innovative way to count salmon in Alaska's silt-filled waters. Sonar is still used today as an important tool in management of Alaska's salmon runs.

Rearden began his writing career in the 1950s, and in 1970 became the outdoors editor and writer for Alaska Magazine,and later, was simultaneously a field editor for Outdoor Life. Rearden has since written 21 books, five of which chronicle the stories of long-time Alaskans. He was named Historian of the Year 1999 by the Alaska Historical Society for his book Alaska's Wolf Man. Rearden served on the Alaska Board of Fish and Game, and the Board of Game, from 1970-82, where he worked on state regulatory changes needed resulting from the passage of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. ANILCA set aside more than 100 million acres of land in Alaska as conservation areas. Rearden's experience with state and federal policies would serve him well, when, in 1976, as he was later appointed by President Gerald Ford to the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere.

Stanton Patty Longtime Alaska journalist and author Stanton H. Patty will receive an honorary doctor of laws. The son of Ernest Patty, dean of the mining school and third president of the University of Alaska, Stanton Patty was born in Fairbanks in 1926. He got his start in the news business as a paper delivery boy for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. After graduating from a Seattle high school in 1944, he joined the U.S. Army and served with the Third Armored Division where he played the trumpet in the Army band.

He earned his bachelor's degree in journalism and master's degree in communications from the University of Washington and honed his skills as a reporter and assistant city editor at the Longview Daily News in Washington state. Today, Patty's successful literary career spans more than five decades, bringing the stories of Alaska to the world as he has covered the fight for statehood, construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, Alaska Native land claims, the Good Friday earthquake and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He has earned respect of the travel industry as reporter and assistant travel editor for the Seattle Times and is the recipient of the Society of American Travel Writers Lowell Thomas Grand Award. His book Fearless Men and Fabulous Women: A Reporter's Memoir from Alaska and the Yukon, was published in 2004.

Honorary degree recipients are selected for significant achievements that have brought distinction to their academic or professional careers and for their lasting contributions to the state and the nation.

Note to editors: Downloadable photos are available online at http://www.uaf.edu/files/news/download/releasephotos/05/hdr05/.

CONTACT: Carla Browning, public information officer, at (907) 474-7778 or carla.browning@uaf.edu for more information.