Did you know there's a website dedicated to the history of the University of Alaska system and key moments in state history?
Did you know there's a website dedicated to the history of the University of Alaska system and key moments in state history? UA Journey contains articles, stories about the notable people behind the names of buildings and locations across the UA system, records from Alaska's constitutional convention, honorary degree recipients, former presidents and regents, and much more.
The history of the University of Alaska, originally the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, is captured through articles, memoirs and trivia. But just how old is the University of Alaska? The answer depends on what you are counting. Over the past few years there have been many 100-year celebrations - the Cornerstone was dedicated in 1915, the Land Grant college approved in 1917, the first students enrolled in 1922, and its name was changed to the University of Alaska in 1935. The UA Seal has been changed several times over the years to reflect these changes before finally settling on the 1917 date.
One common question about the university is, "Why was the university originally located in Fairbanks?”
The location for Alaska's land-grant college was selected by the legendary James Wickersham, the foremost public figure at the time. On July 4, 1915, Judge Wickersham placed a cornerstone on vacant land where the Bunnell Building now stands on what is now the University of Alaska Fairbanks Troth Yeddha’ campus. Wickersham wanted a physical location established before the Legislature convened. He had no legal right to dedicate anything, since the college didn’t yet exist, but Wickersham recognized the need for a symbol in those early years of the university.
When the Legislature convened in 1917, the idea of establishing an agricultural college in Fairbanks wasn’t popular, but, as time passed, the attitude toward the college was changing and people were more willing to listen to arguments in its favor. When the bill finally passed, there were seven votes against it in the House but only one in the Senate. The bill was approved to establish the university on May 3, 1917.
Stories from the Past
Some of the greatest features on the site are not so much about the university, but fascinating stories from the past, like the discovery of Blue Babe - an ice age bison uncovered by miners that now is featured in the UA Museum of the North - stories from a homestead frat house, Benny Benson and the origin of Alaska’s flag, the great Fairbanks flood of 1967, and a 1923 visit to the then new college by President Harding.
The People Behind the Places
From the Nagozruk Building in Nome, Cuddy Hall in Anchorage, to the Akasofu Building in Fairbanks, the buildings, parks, landmarks, and venues throughout the University of Alaska system often bear the names of individuals.
Buildings are named to recognize supporters, such as the UAA ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building, and key people in the university’s history. The naming tradition continues to this day. In fact, UAF named its engineering building for UAF alumnus, philanthropist and miner Joseph E. Usibelli at a dedication ceremony held on August 4, 2022.
In the site, you can find the stories of the people behind the names, who they are, and what they have contributed to building the University of Alaska. In addition to the stories of the ‘people behind the places’ across the system, the site also has a collection of all the past university presidents, regents, honorary degree, meritorious service and Medal of Excellence awardees.
Creating Alaska - Alaska’s Constitutional Convention
There is also a comprehensive collection of documents and news related to Alaska’s Constitutional Convention of 1955-56 in the Creating Alaska section of the site, including information on delegates, old news stories, speeches, and the ultimate product, Alaska’s Constitution, signed in what is now called Constitution Hall. The voters of Alaska approved it on April 21, 1956, by better than a two-to-one majority. And it is widely regarded as one of the finest constitutions ever drafted.
Take a UA Journey
Take a moment and go on a journey through time, learn more about fascinating characters in Alaska’s history, read first-hand accounts of people who were there in the beginning of the university’s history, and recognize the great leadership that has helped to grow our university system for more than 100 years.