2008 Alumni Achievement awards


Business and Professional Excellence


Patrick Cole

Patrick Cole

Patrick Cole graduated from UA at Fairbanks in 1972 with a bachelor of art degree in speech communications. After graduation, he became a VISTA Volunteer assigned to an outreach program at the old borough library at the corner of First and Cowles.

Pat's love of public policy and public service continued as he pursued and received a law degree at the University of Idaho School of Law in 1978. Upon his return to Fairbanks, Pat continued his work in local government for the Fairbanks community as an attorney, city manager and chief of staff. Pat has worked on a wide variety of issues with multiple Fairbanks city and borough mayors including John Carlson, Bill Allen, Juanita Helms, Bill Walley, Jim Nordale, Wayne Nelson, Jim Hayes, Steve Thompson and Terry Strle.

In addition, Pat has worked with many public servants on the borough assembly and city council and thousands of dedicated local government employees over the past 30 years working to provide quality essential services to our community. From public safety, police protection, fire suppression and emergency medical services to street repair, building code creation and engineering, Pat helps make sure the city runs efficiently as possible.

When Pat is not working for the city, he spends his time as an active KUAC-FM volunteer. He and his bothers Terrence and Dermot host the annual fall "Cole Brothers" fundraiser to assist the station in meeting its funding goals.


Lorena Hegdal

Lorena Hegdal

Lorena Hegdal graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, becoming the first Native woman in the University's history to receive this degree. She continued on her trajectory working first for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and currently at Alyeska Pipeline Service Company as the engineering director responsible for all engineers covering the 800-mile pipeline.

Lorena's abilities have not gone unnoticed in the state or nationally. She was recognized in May 2008 as a Woman of Distinction by the Farthest North Girl Scouts Council. In 2007 she was the keynote speaker at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society national conference in Phoenix and was recognized as their Professional of the Year. The Alaska Society of Professional Engineers also awarded her Engineer of the Year this spring.

In addition to Lorena's professional achievement in engineering, she works to improve students at UAF by assisting the next generation of Alaska Native and American Indian engineers. She has helped multiple students clarify their goals in engineering by providing information about programs and intern opportunities at Alyeska. Lorena is a fixture at Rural Student Services and UAF athletic events. She has also been involved in the Randy Smith Middle School central council PTA, and as a board member of both the United Way of the Tanana Valley and AISES.


Kay Wallis

Kay Wallis

Kay Wallis graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a bachelor of science degree in psychology. Upon graduation, she was employed by the Tanana Chiefs Conference where she recruited students to attend college.

Kay worked in Juneau as a legislative aide in the early 1980s and after three years was encouraged to run for state representative. She lost her initial run but was elected the following term. Kay served for three terms as a legislator and spearheaded passage of the state's Indian Child Welfare Act and the first Indian repatriation legislation.

Upon leaving the legislature, Kay worked for the Gwichyaa Gwich'in Tribal government of Fort Yukon as an Indian Child Welfare Act advocate for five years. As an ICWA advocate, Kay was one of the first Natives to enter the state's court room on par with attorneys. Breaking trail in the legal area was indeed challenging for a non-lawyer but advocating for children was her passion. She served for six years on the Family Centered Services board in Fairbanks assisting children and families with mental health challenges.

Kay continues her career with children by working with the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteer program of Alaska where she assists children/young people in state custody and promotes their best interest at Office of Children's Services (OCS) hearings, at school and in court.

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association awards Pat Cole, Kay Wallis and Lorena Hegdal with the 2008 Alumni Achievement Awards for Business and Professional Excellence.



Community Support


Merritt Mitchell

Merritt Mitchell

Merritt Mitchell graduated from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks in 1950 with an engineering degree.

After retiring from a career in water quality engineering with the territorial government of Alaska, the EPA, and the State of Alaska, Merritt began a second career of volunteer work for his community and the university. From 1994 to 2000 he served on the board of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. He designed and helped to build a dock for the center's facility at Peterson Bay and also designed and built a water and wastewater treatment facility with composting toilets to protect the delicate coastal environment. He donated hundreds of hours of his time and the use of his personal boat to this effort and continued after he left the board in 2000. He was a strong advocate for the center and for the environmental education opportunities that the center offers.

Merritt served on the Advisory Board of UAA's Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College from 1994-2005, the last five years as its chair. During his tenure on the board, he was greatly committed to the mission of the Kachemak Bay Campus as evidenced by actively advocating for the development of its facility and program infrastructure. He chaired the building subcommittee, providing much professional and technical assistance.

Merritt served two separate terms on the UAF Alumni Association Board of Directors in the 1980s and 1998-2004 and served as UAFAA board president for two terms in 1999-2001. He began the efforts and hard work to reconnect the alumni association and UAF which have proven to be very successful with the UAF alumni relations office being re-established in 2005.

Merritt has been an advisor to three UAF chancellors (Wadlow, Lind, and Jones). His wisdom and expertise have been invaluable to UAF and its leadership. He has been identified as a potential member of Chancellor Rogers' new Board of Visitors. Merritt has also been an exceptional mentor to UAFAA executive directors and to the UAF vice chancellor for university advancement. The UA Board of Regents has sought Merritt's counsel on numerous topics over the years.

As a past president of the alumni association, Merritt was involved in the UAF Vision Task Force, which is shaping the university for the future. His ideas and counsel have been a great help to the university as we build the 2017 vision.

Merritt has also advocated for the university and encouraged many students to attend UAF while serving as the admissions point of contact for UAF in the Homer area.


Marie Matsuno Nash

Marie Matsuno Nash

Marie Matsuno Nash graduated from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks in 1967 with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and was named student of the year.

Upon graduating from UAF, Marie followed her love of public policy as she first served Governor Hammond as his executive secretary, then was staff assistant on boards and commissions and ultimately deputy commissioner of Community and Regional Affairs. After leaving the Hammond administration Marie worked for U.S. Senator Ted Stevens in both his Washington D.C. and Anchorage offices where she retired after 29 years of service in November 2005.

Marie has been a leader with multiple organizations in Alaska. She has served on the Bristol Bay Native Corporation for 11 years and has chaired the corporation's education foundation for six years. Marie served on the Ugashik Traditional Village Council where she was vice president. She also served with the First Alaskans Institute as a member and treasurer.



Richard "Tark" Tarkiainen

Richard "Tark" Tarkiainen graduated from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks in 1970 with a bachelor of arts degree in education.

As an undergraduate Tark played club hockey and in his last year as a collegian he played in the first intercollegiate hockey game in the state's history when UAF played Alaska Methodist. Tark was awarded the most sportsmanlike player award that year even though he was the most penalized player.

Tark's love of hockey continued as he began his career as a teacher in the Fairbanks North Star Borough and also coached hockey. Tark was instrumental in having men's hockey recognized as a high school sport in Fairbanks and he led the charge to establish the first men's league, both in 1974-75.

After leaving Lathrop High School, Tark went to West Valley where he was the boys' hockey coach until 1988-89. As the coach of the Wolfpack his teams went to state often and finished as high as second in the state in 1983-84.

In 2004 Tark was admitted to the Pioneers of Alaska and was elected to the Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame.

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association awards Merritt Mitchell, Marie Matsuno Nash and Richard "Tark" Tarkiainen with the 2008 Alumni Achievement Awards for Community Support.



University Support

Mike Sfraga

Mike Sfraga

Mike Sfraga graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in physical education, and in 1997 with an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in geography and northern studies.

Mike has worked at UA and UAF for 23 years in several administrative, academic and research positions. He is the current and founding director of the University of Alaska's geography program. Before accepting the position, he was an associate vice president for the UA statewide system office.

Mike chairs both the Denali Education Center and the UA International Polar Year Community Outreach and Engagement committees. He also serves on several community and national boards to include the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, Alaska Geographic Association, Interior Issues Council, and Institute of the North. He is also a former board member of the UAF Alumni Association.

Mike is an accomplished author having written "Bradford Washburn: A Life of Exploration" (2004), the first comprehensive biography of celebrated American explorer Bradford Washburn. Sfraga lectures frequently about Washburn's work and legacy. His next book covers the history of the first ascent of Mount Fairweather.

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association awards Mike Sfraga with the 2008 Alumni Achievement Award for University Support.

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