Alvin S. Okeson

Born September 11, 1933 in Sisseton, South Dakota, Al grew up in a tri-lingual farming home, where English, Norwegian, and Swedish were spoken simultaneously, and sometimes competitively.

At age 6, Al was stricken with polio and spent a year in bed nearly completely immobilized. After a year, the polio in his legs mostly went away, but he forever lost the full use of his right arm.

Since polio made farming difficult, Al pursued his education and graduated from Minnesota's Concordia College in 1956. Al became a teacher and basketball coach in Mountain, North Dakota, where he saw his small team of 10 win a small school state championship in 1958.

On August 26, 1961, Al married Gloria Engle of Harmony, Minnesota and the next day they started driving to Alaska where Al was to be a Palmer High School counselor and part-time director of a then barely-operating night school community college. Al also started the guidance program at Wasilla High School while working full-time at Palmer High and running the fledgling college in the evenings.

The college grew into its own campus in 1972. In his role as Campus Director and then President, Al's work garnered a host of recognitions from the Board of Regents, Legislators, Governors, and even a Leadership Recognition Award presented to him by President George H. Bush in 1989.

In addition to his wife, Gloria, Al leaves behind three children: Phil, a chief financial officer; Mark, a high school principal; and Cathy, a professional counselor and behavioral specialist. Al will also be missed by five grandchildren.

Known for his kindness and generosity, Al was essentially a farm kid at heart, a man who enjoyed simple pleasures and was a life-long fan of western movies and music. Often a man of few words, the words he did speak he meant, and one would be hard pressed to find an example of him ever breaking his word.