Margaret Thomas grew up in Fairbanks after arriving by sternwheeler at age 9 in 1911. Her stepfather, Louis Gillette, was an assistant U.S. attorney in Fairbanks.
After graduating from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in 1924, Margaret married Olaus Murie, a federal biologist. The ceremony was held at 3 a.m. in the Yukon River village of Anvik during a sternwheeler stop. They had arranged to meet along the river on the first leg of an expedition to the Brooks Range to study caribou. Another expedition a few years later involved boating from Fairbanks hundreds of miles to the Old Crow River in Canada to band geese.
The couple left Alaska soon thereafter but returned to visit many times in the following decades. Murie recounted her Alaska adventures in the autobiography “Two in the Far North.”
The couple bought a former dude ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in 1945. Olaus Murie became the first director of The Wilderness Society the next year. Their efforts helped establish what is today the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Olaus died in 1963, the year before Congress passed an act establishing a nationwide wilderness system.
Margaret lived at the ranch until she died at age 101 in 2003. UAF granted her an honorary doctorate in 1976 and named the new biological sciences building on West Ridge for her in 2013.
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