May 02, 2007

Pioneer Alaskan gives generous donation to UA

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, May 2, 2007

University officials recently announced the single largest gift ever given to the University of Alaska by a living alumnus, and praised the donor, Alaska pioneer Ronald F. Cosgrave, for his generosity.

Cosgrave’s $2.6 million gift was made without any restrictions and is to be used  at the discretion of the university president.

In making this commitment, Cosgrave noted, “The university has had a profound effect on my life and helped me to achieve the success that I’ve enjoyed.  It’s an honor and a pleasure for me to give back to the university, which has given me so much.”

UA President Mark Hamilton said, “This is truly a transformational gift for the university.  As remarkable as this gift is, Ron’s leadership and integrity deserve special attention. The university is grateful to Ron for the trust he is placing in us.  We take this responsibility seriously, and thank Ron for his generosity.” 

The gift was used to purchase 30 acres of undeveloped land in Fairbanks, directly across Geist Road from the UAF campus.  The university has no definitive plans for developing the property at the present time.

Cosgrave, 75, originally came to Alaska in 1954 in search of work.  While working as a longshoreman in Valdez, Cosgrave was convinced to enroll in the University of Alaska by geology professor John McCall.  Always one to take on a challenge, Cosgrave commenced his studies that fall in Fairbanks. He found that he enjoyed William S. Wilson’s chemistry class so much that he switched his major to chemical engineering. 

Four years later he became the first chemical engineering graduate of the University of Alaska.  Subsequently, Cosgrave was awarded a teaching fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was the first UA graduate to be given such an honor. After a brief stint at MIT, Cosgrave quickly decided he wasn’t the lab type and returned to Fairbanks.

Cosgrave was greatly influenced by University President Charles E. Bunnell, and became known as one of “Bunnell’s Boys.”  During his senior year, and with President Bunnell’s encouragement, Cosgrave and a small group of other students formed Northern Alaska Development Corp., which began investing in and developing real estate near the university.  Cosgrave still owns some of this land today.

Cosgrave was instrumental in establishing College Utilities Corp. in Fairbanks.  He later joined Alaska Airlines and is credited with saving Alaska Airlines from bankruptcy in the early 1970s. He served as chairman and chief executive officer of Alaska Airlines from 1972-1979.  Cosgrave now holds the distinction of being a chairman emeritus of the company.

Cosgrave served on the University of Alaska Foundation’s Board of Trustees from 1979-1983, was named the 1978 Alumnus of the Year by the UAF Alumni Association and received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from UAF in 2003.


For more information, contact UA Foundation President Mary Rutherford at 907/450-8030.

For a 200 dpi jpeg of Cosgrave, go to