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Longtime Community Boosters bring Morris Thompson Center Capital Campaign to a Close

Fairbanks, Alaska – Thanks to the help of more than a thousand generous donors and dedicated volunteers, the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center has successfully completed a capital campaign that raised $29.3 million to build the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. After nearly two decades of planning, the effort officially came to a close today with the fulfillment of pledges made by Sumitomo Pogo and Kinross Fort Knox.
Last Summer, Fort Knox and Pogo gold mines challenged the community to come together to raise the final $175,000 necessary to complete the campaign – promising to match each donation that came in until the goal was met. Today both mines made good on that pledge, presenting a total of $87,500 ($43,750 each) which amounted to their half of the mining match challenge.
“Both Pogo and Fort Knox wanted to jump in at the end to help complete this great project,” said Lorna Shaw, External Affairs Manager with Sumitomo Pogo. “We felt the Mining Match was a way we could encourage the community to get involved. Everyone I know believes the Center is a real jewel for our community, and both companies are very proud to have played a part in making it happen.”
It was a $25,000 gift from ConocoPhillips presented last month that actually took the mining match campaign over the top. Scott Jepson, VP of External Affairs at ConocoPhillips presented the final mining match gift to Morris Thompson Center President Charlene Marth at the Doyon annual meeting. “This was a special milestone for us because in 2004 Doyon made the first major gift to the campaign,” said Marth. “At the end, it was ConocoPhillips made the final gift that took us over the top.”
Marth, who is the late Morris Thompson’s niece, said, “This facility really does embody my Uncle. He was a bridge between cultures, this facility provides that. He brought people together, this center does that. He talked about being world class, this building is that!”
A Leadership Team made up of 28 volunteers from across Alaska was committed to raising funds to complete the building with zero debt, which is what makes operating costs affordable to the lease-holding partners. The $29,334,112 raised for planning, land purchase, construction and exhibit installation included a combination of federal ($16.7M), state ($7.6M), Fairbanks North Star Borough ($250,000) and private ($4.7M) funds. The project required a small line of credit during the construction phase, but that has been paid off and the Center is now debt free.
It was the late Senator Ted Stevens who first challenged the project partners to show how they could afford to operate the building once it was built. “The Senator always told us that we shouldn’t rely on state or federal funds to operate,” said Executive Director Cindy Schumaker. “The high cost of energy makes it tough, but with nearly five years under our belt, we’re doing it.”
Sumitomo Pogo and Kinross Fort Knox give heavily to education and youth programs, including more than $1 million each to UAF School of Mining Engineering. Representatives from both gold mines are chairing the upcoming Heart Walk, participate in the annual United Way campaign, and give to a number of other local organizations.
Incorporated in 2004 as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center is a partnership between the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tanana Chiefs Conference Cultural Programs, Alaska Geographic, and Denakkanaaga, an Alaska Native Elders’ organization. Through exhibits and programs, the new 32,720 square foot multi-use facility’s mission is to 1) celebrate Interior Alaska’s people, land and culture, 2) promote economic development via tourism, with an emphasis in rural Alaska, and 3) to be a community gathering place, where diverse cultures come together to understand, appreciate, and respect one another. The Center is open 7 days a week year round, 8am-5pm in the winter, and 8am-9pm in the summer and serves and average of 100,000 people annually. For more information, visit www.morristhompsoncenter.org.

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