UA Journey

First Registration at College

The first six registered students for the Alaska Agricultural College and School fo Mines. Photo: UA Archives

This story appeared in the 1959 Alaska Alumnus.

"With the atmosphere so clear that the tops of the mountains, snow covered and beautiful, from the distance were able to lend their August presence to the opening of the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. At 9 o'clock this morning the Farthest-North College opened," stated the The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on September 18, 1922. "Their names will live in College history of the Northland when they are gone, and their number will be augmented from day to day until that College will have more students than the population of Fairbanks amounts to in the aggregate today."

President Bunnell and the Board of Trustees had prepared 2,000 copies of Bulletin No. 1 for the edification of enrollees at a cost of $325. It contained the usual list of courses, faculty, and description of the campus as well as a list of textbooks to be used and the statement that "No tuition" for outsiders or Alaskans would be charged.

The "Old Main" constructed in 1918 equipped and ready for occupancy on September 18, 1922.

Six students enrolled opening day. Listed in order of matriculation number, they were:
1. RODEN STEWART DAVIS
2. EARL HAGIN FOSTER
3. DONALD ALLEN MORGAN
4. ETHEL BAILEY (MEMURRAY)
5. ARTHUR WILLIAM LOFTUS
6. DOROTHY ROTH (LOFTUS)

During the first few days of school there were seven professors and six students. The faculty included:
1. EARL PILGRIM - mining engineering and metallurgy
2. ERNEST PATTY - geology and minerology
3. CLINTON MORGAN - agriculture and instructor in military science
4. ELIZABETH KIRKPATRICK - home economics and English
5. HERBERT BRUCE - chemistry and physics
6. ARCHIE TRUESDELL - mathematics and civil engineering
7. CHARLES BUNNELL -

Additional registrations were made between September 26 and October 10 until the registration for the first semester numbered an even dozen. Late registrants were:
7. JACK McDONALD HOSLER
8. JULE BERT LOFTUS
9. THEODORE ALBERT LOFTUS
10. JOHN GEORGE McCOMBE
11. ROBERT JAMES McCOMBE
12. JOHN SEXTON SHANLY

Since there was no housing at College, students and faculty lived in Fairbanks and either walked the railroad tracks to school, caught an automobile ride with one of the very sparse motorists, or rode the Alaska Railroad's "Brill" car, similar to a miniature streetcar powered with a gasoline motor, which left the railroad depot in Fairbanks promptly at 7:30 a.m. It left promptly with handbell clanging noisily and motorman Marsh casting a worried eye about if some student failed to arrive. He would watch the Chena bridge for as long as he could see it and if a student was seen dashing madly across the span he would come clanging and grumbling back to pick up the tardy one.

At College Station, on the railroad right-of-way, the Brill Car disgorged the occupants who formed a queue for the climb to the top of the hill. Muffled to the ears in sub-zero weather, perspiring in Spring and Fall, the queue would go upward serious or laughing; they were all panting by the time they reached the top.

All of Fairbanks gave what assistance they could to these first students. The Alaska Railroad employed them, the stores gave them credit, the clerks gave them that "extra ounce of weight," the waiters, knowing the slimness of each purse, silently placed an extra serving, or even two or three, near the plate of a dining student. President Bunnell employed them, loaned them money, alternately cajoled and harassed them, and the faculty fed them and tutored them assiduously.

In 1922 the campus consisted of two buildings—the president's residence, where Charles E. Bunnell and his wife lived with their daughter, Jean, and the Main Building. These two structures looked a little lonely atop College Hill and with only seven faculty members, counting President Bunnell, six students, a secretary, a maintenance man and a plant engineer in the Main Building, the steps of the sixteen people sounded a bit forlorn on the new wood-floored halls.

As modest as the opening of the College was, Fairbanks and the Territory were proud that a beginning toward higher education had been made and that a permanent structure, physical evidence of permanency, had been completed, staffed, and opened for instruction.

With funds provided by the Territorial Legislature, the Main College Building had been constructed and equipped. It was a two-story frame structure 83 feet long by 52 feet wide with a basement 11 feet high under the entire building. The floor of the basement and the walls to a height of 5 feet were of solid concrete. The basement contained the heating and electric light plant, rooms for the engineer, two laboratories and stock rooms and two rooms for domestic science. On the first floor were the President's office, library, two cloak rooms and four class rooms. On the second floor were the assembly hall and six class rooms.
 

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