The University of Alaska Fairbanks will present three honorary doctoral degrees and two Meritorious Service Awards on May 8, 2016, at its 94th commencement ceremony.
Inupiaq educator Elizabeth Fleagle, polar researcher Jacqueline Richter-Menge and Athabascan leader Trimble Gilbert will receive honorary doctorates. Longtime UAF supporter Carolyne Wallace and Fairbanks businessman Gary Wilken each will receive a Meritorious Service Award.
Honorary degree recipients are chosen for their lasting contributions to the state and nation, and for significant achievements in their respective disciplines.
Fleagle will receive an honorary Doctor of Education degree.
Fleagle, who was born in 1935 near the village of Alatna, has worked as a mentor and teacher to help connect Western and traditional cultures. She left home at age 16 to attend Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka and train as a licensed nurse practitioner, later working in hospitals in Anchorage and Fairbanks to treat tuberculosis. After leaving nursing, raising a family, and working with the UAF janitorial staff, she has spent her retirement years sharing her wealth of traditional skills with students. Her role as an elder in residence at UAF has helped connect young Alaska Natives with their cultures, providing a bridge between both indigenous knowledge and today’s rapidly changing world. She has shared her optimism and enthusiasm at social service conferences throughout the country, helping to mentor others in traditional lifestyles. She was married to Richard Louis Fleagle and has five children.
Gilbert will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Gilbert, who was born in 1935, is the traditional chief of the Neets’aii Gwich’in people in his birthplace of Arctic Village, and second traditional chief in the Tanana Chiefs Conference. He and his wife, Mary, raised their three sons with a traditional subsistence lifestyle. He has been an Episcopal priest since 1975 and has worked to pass on spiritual, cultural and intellectual knowledge to all Alaskans. He has also been a strong advocate for both indigenous and Western forms of education, teaching skills that include the use of traditional tools, boat-building and playing the fiddle. A knowledgeable and respected elder in the Athabascan community, he is frequently an honored guest at meetings such as the Alaska Federation of Natives convention and Tanana Chiefs Conference annual meeting.
Richter-Menge will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.
Richter-Menge is a leader in polar climate physics, focusing on research of Arctic sea ice cover from Alaska to Greenland. A civil engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in New Hampshire, her work has helped document the rapid changes occurring among Arctic glaciers, permafrost, snow covers and sea ice. She has led or participated in more than 20 Arctic field programs, many in collaboration with UAF researchers, and has produced more than 80 publications in scholarly journals. Her efforts have helped better understand the behavior of sea ice cover, contributing to the safety and efficiency of energy exploration, shipping and other activities.
Wallace and Wilken each will receive a Meritorious Service Award, which recognizes service to the local community or state.
Wallace has a long history of service at UAF. For 30 years she was the assistant to the dean for the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, and she has been president of the UAF College of Fellows, chairwoman for the William R. Wood Scholarship Fund and a member of the UAF Chancellor’s Board of Advisors. She was a University of Alaska Foundation board member from 2003 to 2014.
Carolyne and her husband, Chick, are also strong supporters of the military and Fairbanks communities. The United Way of the Tanana Valley recognized the Wallaces in 2000 with the first Golden Heart Couple Award, and they were honored in 2003 by the Midnight Sun Council of the Boy Scouts of America as Distinguished Citizens of the Year.
Wilken grew up in Fairbanks, graduating from Lathrop High School in 1964 and earning a basketball scholarship to Oregon State University. After receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees, he returned to Fairbanks and became a successful small business owner. A strong supporter of UAF and the military, he was honored with the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Community Service Award, University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Management Business Leader of the Year and Rotarian of the Year awards. He served in the Alaska State Senate from 1997 to 2008, and continues to influence public policy as a board member on the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. He and his wife, Sue, raised their four children in Fairbanks.