Board of Regents resolution renames KPC anthropology lab to honor the late Dr. Alan Boraas legacy

The University of Alaska Board of Regents unanimously passed a resolution honoring the late Dr. Alan Boraas' life and legacy during its full board meeting on Jan. 16 in Anchorage. The resolution also recognizes the naming of the Kenai Peninsula College Anthropology Lab the Alan ‘Tiqutsex’ Boraas Anthropology Lab as a tribute to his legacy of teaching, research and service.

Watch the recording of the celebration of life for Dr. Boraas here.

Tiqutsex is the Dena’ina name given to him when he was designated an honorary member of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe in 2000. His passionate work on behalf of indigenous rights and language endeared him to members of the Kenaitze Tribe. Tiqutsex means “he is breaking trail.”

Dr Alan Boraas
Professor of Anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, Alan Boraas passed away Monday, Nov. 4, 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)

“After I announced Alan’s death to the University of Alaska Anchorage senior leadership, a UAA dean wrote, ‘Alan was a giant at UAA'” said Gary J. Turner, KPC director. “Few people rise to the level where only their first name is needed, and Alan is one.’ I think his quote epitomizes Alan’s legacy not just to UAA, but to UA as a whole and to our state.”

KPC’s longest-serving professor, Boraas taught for 46 years and offered 36 different courses. His work and life extended far beyond the classroom. He was known for inspiring students with his enthusiasm and a deep love of learning. 

Dr. Boraas was far more than a professor to me,” wrote UA student Christopher Beard in a Facebook post. “I thought of him as a mentor, and even as a friend. He was there for me in some of my most difficult times in the past two years. We would sit in his office, among the stacks of books and papers; and simply talk. He listened with patience, empathy and without judgment. When asked for advice his words were honest, straight forward and from the heart.

Boraas’ professional career also included writing a monthly newspaper column in the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Dispatch newspapers, public lectures, Indigenous rights activism and community involvement. His research documented the culture, history, and archaeology of the people of Alaska’s Cook Inlet region. An avid researcher and contributor to numerous books, journals and articles, he was frequently asked to consult on various anthropological projects in Alaska and across the country. 

Boraas’ work to preserve the Dena’ina language is widely recognized. He developed a program to teach the Dena’ina language. He published the collected writings of Peter Kalifornsky, who at his death in 1993 was the last speaker of the Outer Inlet dialect of Dena’ina. 

Boraas’ accomplishments have been recognized with awards from the university as well as community and professional organizations. In 2009, he received the University of Alaska Foundation’s Bullock Prize for Excellence, which is presented to an individual who has demonstrated excellence in supporting the university and its mission. Boraas received the Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Kenai Chamber of Commerce’s Log Cabin and the Paul Harris Award from the Soldotna Rotary Club. He received an honorable mention for the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists’ Praxis Award. 

Boraas grew up on a Minnesota wheat farm and received his bachelor’s degree in anthropology  in 1969 from the University of Minnesota. While working on his master’s degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, he fell in love with Alaska. After completing his master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Toronto in 1971, he moved to the Kenai Peninsula. Boraas received is Ph.D. in Educational Anthropology in 1983 at Oregon State University. His dissertation topic was Technology and the Origin of Human Hemispheric Asymmetry

Boraas was an avid cross-country skier and runner and served as a board member of Tsalteshi Trails Association in Soldotna where he was heavily involved in the design and development of its ski trails.

Boraas passed away peacefully with family at his side on Nov. 4, 2019. More than 250 people attended the celebration honoring Boraas’s life and legacy on Friday, Jan. 17 at Kenai Peninsula College's Kenai River Campus. Watch the recording of the celebration of life. Read more about Alan Boraas’ legacy at the Peninsula Clarion.