February 13, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton has honored Alaskan Grace Berg Schaible with the President's Medal for Excellence.
The Medal for Excellence, established in 2000, periodically recognizes individuals who have exhibited unwavering dedication, far beyond the ordinary, to the University of Alaska.
"Grace has been a steadfast supporter of the University of Alaska and this entire state for so long that it's inconceivable for me to think how Alaska would be today, without her having touched it so tremendously," Hamilton said. "I'm honored to present this token of our appreciation and gratitude to Grace."
Schaible's contributions to public life in Alaska are many. She is the first, and so far only, woman to hold the office of Alaska Attorney General. Her University of Alaska service began in her freshman year of college, when she was named Outstanding Freshman Woman. She received a similar honor in her senior year. Later, she was appointed to the Board of Regents, and served many years on the University of Alaska Foundation's Board of Trustees.
In addition to her passion for the university, Schaible has maintained an active interest and involvement with a variety of non-profit programs throughout the state. She served on the boards of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. and Nature Conservancy in Alaska, and has served on a host of local and statewide public advisory committees. She continues to lend enthusiastic support to a variety of music and arts programs, including the Sitka Music Festival and the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Schaible consistently, generously and graciously lends both her financial support and her leadership for the benefit of countless organizations throughout the state.
The Alaska chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives named Schaible Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year in 1996. In 2000, the Alaska Journal of Commerce named her one of the top 25 "most powerful Alaskans." The Boy Scouts of America awarded her the Distinguished Service Award in 2008.
Schaible was characteristically modest about the Medal for Excellence.
"Alaska has been very good to me and to my family," she said. "I'm privileged to be in a position to give back to the state and to the University of Alaska that have given so much to me."
Schaible grew up in Juneau, and graduated from high school there in 1943. The university's founding president, Charles Bunnell, recruited her to attend school at College, Alaska, which she did. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science from the University of Alaska in 1949 and worked briefly as secretary for Bunnell. She earned a master's degree in history from George Washington University in 1955 and a law degree from Yale in 1959.
She then returned to Fairbanks and, in less than two years, became a full partner in the firm of McNealy and Merdes. In 1966, she became a partner in the firm of Merdes, Schaible, Staley and DeLisio, now Cook, Schuhmann and Groseclose. She was "of counsel" to the firm from 1994 until 2000, when she retired.
Schaible received an honorary doctor of laws degree from UAF in 1991 for her "distinguished and unselfish service on behalf of the state of Alaska and her thoughtful practice of law benefiting Alaska's people."
University gifts from Schaible include an endowment in the name of her late husband, medical doctor Arthur Schaible, which benefits UA students pursuing medical degrees. She donated her home in Juneau and a home and land in Fairbanks to the university, as well as gifts of fine art, ivory and paintings. Her contributions also have benefited nursing students, national merit scholars, music students and fine arts students.
University officials gathered to present the President's Medal for Excellence to Schaible during a reception held at the Museum of the North on the Fairbanks campus Feb. 5. Past medal recipients include Elmer Rasmuson, Leo Rhode, William Wood, Ann Tremarello, Darrellene Myers, Marshall Lind, Lee Gorsuch and Syun-Ichi Akasofu.
Many people at the reception, including Jeff Cook, director of external affairs for Flint Hills Resources Alaska; Sharon Gagnon, chair of the University of Alaska Foundation's Board of Trustees; Mike Burns, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.; and Abe Tsigonis, a Schaible scholarship recipient, described the high standard of public service set by Schaible. UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers closed his comments by noting Schaible's vast polar bear collection.
"Grace has many remarkable collections of Nanook art - sculptures, paintings, porcelain, fabric and more. But the most valuable collection of Nanooks is the thousands of students, faculty and alumni whose lives been influenced by this remarkable woman," Rogers said.