Naturally Inspiring


FY13 Scholarship Program
Click to see the 2012 Scholarship Program

A note from Chancellor Rogers:

Dear Friends,

Sherry and I were thrilled to have welcomed you to the 16th annual Scholarship and Award Breakfast. Thank you for joining us at that early hour – it is inspiring to see students and donors together, sharing the impact of the outstanding opportunities that are made possible with your generous support.

Sherry and I look forward to this event every year. As scholarship supporters at UAF, we are honored to host this event and join all of you who have made a personal commitment to support higher education. More than 450 privately funded scholarships and awards have been created at UAF through philanthropic support from alumni and friends such as you. Today, this support results in more than $1 million each year for UAF students. This is tremendous and truly life changing for students.

As we prepare for our next 100 years, your partnership will help grow higher education in Alaska for generations to come. Together we are teaching, building our workforce and inspiring future leaders. Thank you for all you do to make it possible.

Chancellor Brian Rogers

Guest Speakers:


Ralph Sinnok - To save his home

“Our community is who we are. Shishmaref needs help.” — Brice Eningowuk, Shishmaref Erosion Relocation Committee

Shishmaref, Alaska, is located on Sarichef Island in the Chukchi Sea and is highly vulnerable to coastal erosion, thawing permafrost and flooding. Relocation efforts began in 2001, but people and property are still at risk. Scholarships have contributed to Ralph’s academic success and he will be able to apply what he has learned at UAF to help Shishmaref — to save his home.

Ralph is graduating this semester with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering. He explains his goals after graduation by saying, “I plan to help Alaska’s economy through my work while I gain valuable engineering experience to prepare for helping Shishmaref.” Ralph’s whole university experience has been funded by scholarships; he will be graduating debt-free. “Every scholarship I am awarded is an inspiration which fuels me every semester to be the best student I can be.” Ralph would like scholarship donors to know, “You are just one person and can only pursue your own dream. When you inspire others, you are enabling the pursuit of many dreams.”

Ralph is the recipient of the 2012 – 2013 ANSEP Alumni UAF scholarship and the Sue McHenry AISES Scholarship.


Hannah Foss - Inspiring stories through animation

“Trying for a theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about ‘til you’re at the end of it.” — Emma Coates, Pixar Story Artist

Hannah Foss has had an amazing four and a half years at UAF and is finally able to see what her UAF story has been about. “UAF has granted me a wealth of opportunities that have supported and encouraged me to further my education … from the wide range of traditional and digital art courses to the ever-supportive and engaging teachers,” she explains. These opportunities have equipped Hannah with the tools to pursue her goal.

“My dream is to work at Pixar Animation Studios, the company that has inspired me for the last 10 years. I would love to help animate on one of their future films and hopefully inspire young animators in return,” she says. She explains that scholarships gave her encouragement to push herself academically and get her degree finished, and that the scholarships made her feel validated and financially supported in her academic ventures.

Hannah’s story at UAF is concluding with a sense of joy, excitement and loss. She says she feels like she is letting go of family. But before she goes, Hannah wants to say thank you to UAF donors. “You are doing an awesome thing,” she says, “providing opportunity, peace of mind and academic encouragement to students wanting to strive and pursue their dreams.”

Hannah is the recipient of the 2012 – 2013 Helen Walker Memorial Fund and the Patricia A. Davis Memorial Scholarship.

Nina Tartakoff & Nathan Gerson
Nina Tartakoff & Nathan Gerson

Nina Tartakoff - Carrying on the legacy

In many ways Nathan Gerson lived the life of a true Alaskan. He served in the Merchant Marine, worked in the goldfields, built a number of cabins, flew a plane and spent much of his life outdoors. He was an avid bottle and stove door collector, making trips to the old mining camps near Dawson City and throughout Alaska to look for the best specimens. There is a photo of him holding a stove door from the Chilkoot trail which looked exactly like a stove door he had hanging on the wall in his kitchen. As a pilot and outdoorsman he knew the value of a lightweight saw which he could easily carry on his travels. He designed a popular folding saw best known in Fairbanks as Nat’s Pak Saw and could be seen selling them in the Wood Center at the University Women’s Association Christmas bazaar.

Nathan’s purpose in providing the Gerson Family Memorial Scholarship is to give students who would not be able to afford it otherwise and who overcame some challenge or obstacle in their lives an opportunity to go to college. I believe his intent with this stipulation was he wanted people granted this scholarship to appreciate the opportunity to gain an education and work hard toward their goals. Nathan was so unselfish to stash all his spare money in order to help provide an education to students in need or who face adversity or barriers.

UAF has had a huge impact on my life. I received my master’s degree in education in counseling at UAF in 1986 and am now a retired high school counselor. I was fortunate to be hired as a UAF staff member for the Fast Track Program and Tech Prep Program at the UAF Community and Technical College.

Having been a high school counselor and seeing the struggles of students trying to juggle money for further education, it makes me very proud and honored to have the opportunity to meet the students chosen to receive the Gerson Family Scholarship.

Nathan would be very proud of the opportunities he has provided. I believe he would have wanted his legacy of giving to continue for many years to come, which is why his entire estate was given for UAF scholarships. Thank you for carrying on Nathan’s dream by excelling at yours.

2013 Scholarship & Award Breakfast Thank You Video
Click to hear thank-yous from scholarship recipients!
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