The number of University of Alaska Southeast degrees, certificates and licenses handed out during a ceremony on Sunday were among the most ever, according to the university.
UAS graduates received their diplomas during a commencement ceremony held Sunday at the Charles Camble Jr.-Donald Sperl Joint Use Facility. UAS awarded 755 associate, bachelor, and master’s degrees along with occupational endorsements, certificates, and professional licensures. Awards were granted to 670 graduates from the Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka campuses.
“We are enormously proud of the accomplishments of these UAS graduates,” said UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield in a statement. “Many are first-generation college students — the first in their family to achieve this level of education. Others are older, non-traditional students who are already employed and raising a family but are working hard to improve their education, their skills, and the well-being of their families. Each and every one of these students has persevered through major challenges to achieve their educational goals. Congratulations to them all!”
This year’s Juneau student commencement speaker was Jasper Nelson, who was born in Ketchikan and grew up in Craig on Prince of Wales Island. Nelson, of Tsimshian heritage, graduated with a master of arts in teaching and hopes to teach in his home community. To earn his masters Nelson tought chemistry and biology at Thunder Mountain High School.
Alaska Native educator Angie Lunda, who nominated Nelson for this recognition, said “through his deep knowledge of Southeast Alaska and his content area, his use of humor in his lessons, and his genuine caring for all students, Jasper and his mentor teacher have built an engaging and rigorous biology program for the students in their TMHS class of 2016.”
Honorary doctorate of laws degrees were given to Edward Thomas, who gave the commencement address, and Sandro Lane.
Thomas previously serves as the president of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska from 1984-2014. He also was an active leader in the Alaska Federation of Natives and secretary to the National Congress of American Indians. Among Thomas’ accomplishments noted was his role in establishing legally binding government-to-government compacts between Alaska Native tribes and the federal government. Lane is co-owner of Trident Seafoods Corporation, established in Juneau in 1984. Lane went from processing and selling cold-smoked salmon out of his garage to eventurally founding Taku Fisheries and Smokeries. Lane is credited as discovering a way to prevent fish carcass waste by inventing a process to extract fish oil and protein. His salmon oil nutritional supplements are sold worldwide.
“He represents the best of Alaska’s business leaders and entrepreneurs,” said UAS in a statement.
A University of Alaska Meritorious Service award was presented to Juneau community volunteer Peter Freer, who served on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and numerous local boards. Meritorious service awards are approved by the UA Board of Regents. Jeff Budd of Sitka and Larry Painter of Ketchikan also received the award.
UAS also honored students with the Outstanding Graduate Awards. University faculty nominated graduates for this award. Of the award-winners, three came from Juneau-Douglas High School in 2011: Alex Whitehead, Alex Faerstrom and Aandaxltín Stephanie Tripp.
Whitehead graduated with a bachelor’s in environmental science with a minor in mathematics.
“Alex actively engaged himself in the learning process; his academic performance consistently indicated a solid grasp of the material and a keen insight for application,” associate professor of chemistry Lisa Hoferkamp said of Whitehead.
Fagerstrom received a bachelor’s of science in biology.
“Eric has also been an active member of the UAS Pre-health Professionals Club and intends to pursue a career in dentistry,” assistant professor of marine biology Heidi Pearson said. “He is diligently studying for the Dental Admission Test and aims to attend dental school in the Pacific Northwest.”
Tripp graduated with a bachelor’s of liberal arts in Alaska Native studies and languages.
“Stephanie is strong in all aspects: academics, research (oratory, video and audio transcription), student leadership (Wooch.een), and community service (Flying University),” assistant professor of Spanish Andrea Dewees said. “She was also a key member of the protests that resulted in the passage of House Bill 216, which made Alaska Native Languages the co-official languages of the state.”