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UAF to present honorary degrees, service award


The University of Alaska Fairbanks will present three honorary doctoral degrees and a Meritorious Service Award on Saturday, May 6, 2017, at its 95th commencement ceremony.

Fairbanks architect Charles Bettisworth, ecoscientist M. Torre Jorgenson and public-health advocate Karen Perdue will receive honorary doctorate degrees. Bill Brophy, a retired Usibelli Coal Mine executive and U.S. Army colonel, will receive a Meritorious Service Award.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen for their lasting contributions to Alaska and the nation, and for significant achievements in their disciplines.

Bettisworth and Perdue, who are married, will each receive Doctor of Laws degrees. They will also give the keynote address at the commencement ceremony.

Bettisworth, now retired, is a lifelong Alaskan who 40 years ago founded the architecture firm that still bears his name. He was the principal architect in charge of many notable and award-winning projects, including elementary schools, retirement homes, courthouses and airport terminals. A particular focus of his work has been to strive for an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable Fairbanks, with an emphasis on renewable energy sources. He was named the City of Fairbanks’ Outstanding Citizen of 2014 and the Alaska Chamber’s 2015 Alaskan of the Year. Bettisworth and Perdue were jointly named the 2016 Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the Midnight Sun Council Boy Scouts of America. Three of their four children, as well as their partners, have graduated or are expected to graduate from UAF.

Perdue has had a varied and dynamic professional life, including work as a Teamster, health planner, business owner, newspaper reporter and aide to U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. Her work includes service as the Alaska commissioner of health and social services and as the University of Alaska associate vice president for health programs. She also has been recognized with the 1998 Alaska Meritorious Health Service Award and 2012 Farthest North Girl Scout Woman of Distinction Award.

Gov. Bill Walker appointed Perdue to the University of Alaska Board of Regents in February, after she had been chosen to receive an honorary UAF degree.

Jorgenson will receive a Doctor of Science degree.

Jorgenson has an international reputation as a permafrost scientist who has studied linkages in geomorphology, ecology, hydrology and soil science. His business, Alaska Ecoscience, is dedicated to studying the impacts of climate change on Alaska’s landscapes. Jorgenson’s contributions to UAF began as a camp manager at Toolik Field Station in 1977, which led him to earn a master’s degree in land resources management from UAF in 1986. His has contributed to oilfield impact assessments, land rehabilitation techniques, ecosystem and permafrost mapping, and coastal dynamics research. He has worked with many UAF graduate students and holds affiliate faculty positions with UAF's Institute of Northern Engineering and Institute of Arctic Biology.

Brophy will receive a Meritorious Service Award, which recognizes service to the local community or state.

Brophy first arrived in Fairbanks as a member of the military, serving as deputy commander of the U.S. Army in Alaska while stationed at Fort Wainwright from 1995-98. He returned to Fairbanks after retirement to accept a job with the organization that would become the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. In 2001, he became a vice president for Usibelli Coal Mine and executive director of the Usibelli Foundation, retiring in 2016. Brophy has served on the boards and committees of more than 25 nonprofit, advocacy and trade organizations, and his support for UAF includes work with the College of Engineering and Mines, Community and Technical College, ROTC, School of Management and University of Alaska Museum of the North.


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