Longest-serving KPC professor, Alan Boraas, passes away

On Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, Kenai Peninsula College’s (KPC) longest-serving professor, Alan Boraas, professor of anthropology, passed away peacefully with family at his side at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. 

Boraas first came to Alaska as a young graduate student to pursue his master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, although he ended up finishing his master’s program at the University of Toronto. Originally from Minnesota, Boraas had an affinity for the outdoors and wilderness but had not quite experienced as rugged a landscape as Alaska, and it captivated him. He left the state for a short stint, intending to complete a Ph.D. program, but made a split-second decision in a gas station parking lot along the Alcan Highway to return to the 49th state and make it his home. 

Alan Boraas
Professor of Anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, Alan Boraas passed away Monday, Nov. 2019. He was KPC’s longest-serving instructor and was hired by the community college’s founding director in 1972. (Photo by Alasha Brito, October 2018 / Kenai Peninsula College)

In 1972, while working on a construction project, Boraas was approached by KPC’s founding director, Clayton Brockel, who’d heard he was looking for a teaching position and offered him a job as a general education development instructor for a program through the Kenaitze Tribe. Over the next four years, Boraas worked closely with the Kenaitze Tribe and established a lifelong connection with tribal members. In 2000, at a Potlatch, he was awarded an honorary membership to the tribe.

From 1977-1981, Boraas took a brief break from teaching to open an anthropological consulting firm for two years and then earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from Oregon State University in Corvallis. In 1976, Boraas returned to Alaska and KPC as an anthropology professor, teaching both lower and upper-division courses. In addition to his teaching career, Boraas was an avid researcher and contributed his expertise to numerous books, journals and articles, and was often asked to consult on various anthropological projects in Alaska and across the U.S. From 2001-2014, Boraas had a weekly opinion column in the Anchorage Daily News, and continued his weekly pieces when the newspaper changed hands as the Alaska Dispatch News in 2014 before retiring his column in 2017.


In addition to his teaching career at KPC, instilling the next generation with “the culture of the North,” as he liked to say, Boraas valued his work outside the classroom just as much as inside. He was an avid cross-country skier and runner and board member of Tsalteshi Trails Association in Soldotna where he was heavily involved in the design and development of its ski trails. From 1991-1998, he served first as the assistant cross-country ski coach and then as the head cross-country ski coach for Skyview High School, winning Region III Coach of the Year in 1997. From 1996-1999, Boraas served on the Statewide Board for Cross-Country in Alaska and helped organize many of the widely recognized statewide competitive nordic ski races, like the Besh Cup.

Boraas’s career is extensive and he’s been widely recognized in Alaska and across the nation for his contributions in anthropology, his volunteerism and community efforts. In 2009, the University of Alaska Foundation awarded him the Bullock Prize, and he has been recognized by KPC at their 2001 commencement ceremony as Faculty of the Year, in 2003 for his 30 years of teaching and in 2008 for 35 years of teaching. In 2009, the Kenai Chamber of Commerce awarded Boraas a Log Cabin Award of Lifetime Achievement, and he was recognized as an honorable mention for the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists’ Praxis Award in 2009. In 2017, Boraas received a Paul Harris Award from the Soldotna Rotary Club. 

For Boraas, learning was a lifelong endeavor and teaching was the ultimate career because it was an opportunity to continue to learn and “never retire from life.”

“There are times when the magic happens in the classroom — I live for those times,” Boraas said in a 2018 Green & Gold News article, explaining there were lectures where, over the course of the hour, he felt the classroom’s energy rise to a tipping point, and loved watching his students excitedly spill out into KPC’s hallways after a successful lecture. 

For 46 years, Alan Boraas offered his service and expertise to KPC and his presence will be missed by the university communities. Boraas’ work and life extended far beyond the classroom and he touched many with his enthusiasm and deep love of learning. For those wishing to send their condolences to the Boraas family, please mail cards to Boraas Family, PO Box 702, Kasilof AK 99610. A memorial honoring Alan Boraas will be held at KPC’s Kenai River Campus in January. Please check the KPC Facebook page for date and time. 

Read more about Alan Boraas’ legacy at the Peninsula Clarion.