UA Journey

1989-1993 Morris Thompson

“There is a place in Interior Alaska where two great rivers meet; the Yukon and Tanana …The Alaska Natives have named the place Nuchalawoyya, meaning simply ‘where the two rivers meet.' On some high ground that overlooks this place is the grave of a great Alaska visionary, Morris Thompson. His untimely death some years ago took from all Alaskans a man who evoked trust and confidence from all he touched.”
—From an article by UA President Mark Hamilton,
April 2004, for the Anchorage Daily News and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Morris Thompson was born, raised, and is now laid to rest in the village of Tanana. Growing up, he witnessed the coming together of those powerful rivers thousands of times. Perhaps it was this experience that allowed him to be such a force in bringing people together.

Morris was one of Alaska's prominent business leaders. He was the youngest commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, held leadership positions in the Alaska Federation of Natives and Commonwealth North, as well as a cabinet position in the Hickel administration. In 1985, he took over the helm of Doyon, Limited, leading that corporation to become one of the most profitable and stable Alaska Native Corporations.

However, to hear Morris talk about himself he made clear he was “just another boy from Tanana”. He treated all with respect, whether he was at the White House or at fish camp. 'Big' as his family and friends knew him, was recognized for his gifts of open communication and diplomacy.

Quite simply, he was a bridge between cultures.

His life and leadership have inspired the plans for the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. It embodies a philosophy that Morris held true—work together on commonalities and celebrate our diversity. It brings together Native and non-native organizations, building bridges between cultures and encouraging all Alaskans to work together to build our future.
Above text borrowed with permission from the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center web site.

UA Board of Regents Resolution in Memory of Morris Thompson - February 2000
WHEREAS, Morris Thompson, an alumnus of the University of Alaska and a long-time member of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Board of Visitors, was appointed to the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska in 1989 by Governor Steve Cowper, and served with distinction as a member of the Board until 1993; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson's values and ideals were forged in the Yukon Village of Tanana where he was born and grew up, and later at Mt. Edgecumbe in Sitka, where he studied as a youth; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson became a leader who was as much at home with fish-wheel tenders as he was with corporate and government leaders of the nation and the world, yet never forgot the roots from which he drew his strength and eloquence; and

WHEREAS, the life of Morris Thompson exemplified deep love and commitment to the rights, dignity, and aspirations of his own Alaska Native people and all others, and worked all his life to turn those values and ideals into reality for his beloved Alaska and all its people; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson was a major force in seeking passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act resulting in the establishment of regional corporations and giving Alaska's indigenous peoples significant economic interests in their homeland; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson shared his personal and leadership talents with the citizens of Alaska and the United States by serving in many capacities including President of the Alaska Federation of Natives, Vice President of Northwest Alaska Pipeline Company, Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, President and Chief Executive Officer of Doyon, Ltd.; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson was selected as the 1997 Business Leader of the Year by the Associated Students of Business at the UAF School of Management; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson believed deeply in the value of higher education and demonstrated his belief by helping to establish the Doyon Foundation to provide scholarships for Doyon shareholders and their children; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson was furthering the work to someday establish a Doyon House, built at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to enhance the recruitment, retention, and increased graduation rate of Alaska Native students from the Doyon Region; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson was dedicated to preserving Alaska's cultural and natural historical treasures, and generously volunteered his time to serve on the Major Gifts Committee of the University of Alaska Museum Expansion Campaign; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson brought to his leadership and service on the Board of Regents the same qualities of patience, tolerance and wisdom that would endear him to all the colleagues and associates who had the opportunity to know him and work with him; and

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson was always able to lead his fellow Regents with a style of quiet

WHEREAS, Morris Thompson and his beloved wife, Thelma Mayo Thompson, and their daughter, Sheryl Lynn Thompson, were taken from us all too soon when they perished tragically in an airplane accident on January 31, 2000;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska officially mourns the loss of great Alaskans Morris Thompson, Thelma Mayo Thompson, and Sheryl Lynn Thompson, and takes official recognition of Morris Thompson's outstanding humanity and service, and extends to his family this statement of sympathy and appreciation for his contributions to the advancement of higher education in the State of Alaska; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution be conveyed to the family of Morris Thompson, Thelma Mayo Thompson, and Sheryl Lynn Thompson, with a copy to be incorporated into the official minutes of the February 18, 2000 meeting of the Board of Regents.

UAF gets new connection to Geist,by Bill O’Neill, Sun Star Reporter(doc)

In 2001 the Doyon Foundation established the annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic as a scholarship fund raiser for Alaska Native students.

An informative television documentary series about Native Alaska was produced by Channel 6 Television Denmark.

"The People Behind Campus Names" On these pages, you will find the stories of the people behind the names. Who are they and what did they contribute to the University of Alaska?