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Humanities chairman to speak at 2012 commencement

Fairbanks, Alaska—National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Jim Leach will give the keynote address at the University of Alaska Fairbanks commencement ceremony Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 1 p.m. at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

Leach served in the U.S. House of Representatives for three decades, where he chaired the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services, the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Following his service in Congress, Leach made a brief foray into academia as a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Government at Princeton University and the interim director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Leach to chair the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency that is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

Leach attended Princeton University, the School of Advanced International Studies of John Hopkins and the London School of Economics. He holds 11 honorary degree and is the recipient of the Wayne L. Morse Integrity in Politics Award, the Adlai Stevenson Award from the United Nations Association, the Edgar Wayburn Award from the Sierra Club, the Norman Borlaug Public Service Award and the Woodrow Wilson Medal from Princeton.

UAF will award Leach an honorary doctor of laws degree during its 90th commencement ceremony. The university will also present honorary doctoral degrees to artist Danny Pierce and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation CEO H. Robin Samuelson Jr.

Pierce came to the university in 1959 at the invitation of then-President Ernest Patty to be a Carnegie-sponsored artist-in-residence. He established the art department at UAF and taught courses in printmaking, drawing and painting. He traveled the state conducting workshops and is credited with influencing many of Alaska’s notable artists. In addition to his work at the University of Alaska, he also taught at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he is honored with an archive in his name. Pierce, 91, will receive an honorary doctor of arts degree.

As CEO and board president of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation in Dillingham, Samuelson led efforts to establish several scholarships and programs to support students in achieving their collegiate education goals. He is known for his passion for fisheries, which is evident in his service on the Alaska Board of Fisheries and the National Pacific Fishery Management Council. Throughout his life, Samuelson has been an advocate for the betterment of Alaska Natives and communities across Bristol Bay. Samuelson, 61, will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Patty Kastelic and Bob and Carrie Uhl will also be recognized at the ceremony with Meritorious Service Awards. Kastelic is an innovative leader who advocates for women’s rights, supports higher education, public broadcasting and the arts in Alaska. She championed the Ruth Lister Scholarship fund, which provides financial assistance to single mothers attending UAF’s Community and Technical College, serves on the KUAC Leadership Council, is a member of the board of directors of the Georgeson Botanical Gardens. Kastelic held a variety of positions at the university and her dedication to UAF continues after her retirement.

Bob and the late Carrie Uhl spent the last 50 years living off the land in Alaska. Their observations and chronicling of seasonal movements of various fish species and growth patterns in rare plants has been invaluable to UAF and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Uhls were instrumental in establishing public policy for subsistence issues in the Western Arctic National Parkland and for all parklands established under the Alaska National Interests Conservation Act. The couple has also made contributions to the UAF Oral History Collection. The Uhls will be honored at the commencement ceremony at UAF’s Chukchi Campus.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen for their lasting contributions to the state and nation and for significant achievements in their respective disciplines. Meritorious Service Awards recognize outstanding service to the local community or state.

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