Ruth Blankenship Sandvik traveled the world with her husband, fellow UAF graduate Peter Sandvik. But she always returned to her home in Kiana in Northwest Alaska, where she served as a community leader, business owner and family matriarch for decades.
Sandvik was born in Kotzebue but spent much of her childhood in the village of Kiana, where her parents ran a small store. Like many Alaska Native people of her generation, her education took her from home early — first to a boarding school in White Mountain near Nome and then to Fairbanks, where she lived with a couple while finishing high school.
Sandvik excelled at the university, where she earned a biology degree and became one of UAF's earliest Iñupiaq graduates. She earned the 1951 Marion Frances Boswell Award, given to the outstanding graduating senior woman.
After marrying, the Sandviks moved to cities across the United States as Peter followed his career as a geologist.
The couple nourished their roots in Kiana, though, returning frequently for visits and to work at the store. Ruth and her cousin Rob Blankenship assumed management in 1955. Sandvik continued in that role until her death in 2014.
"Ruth was an adventurer, an Iñupiaq woman who walked in two worlds with one spirit," her family said in her obituary.
More online about Ruth Sandvik: