William R. Cashen Service Award archives

William R. "Bill" Cashen '37 was an alumni director, professor and university marshal, as well as a public servant, historian, family man, proud alumnus and friend to many alumni. Cashen set the example for service to the university and its alumni association. This award is designed to recognize and perpetuate his example and inspire all those associated with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Eligibility: Alumni and nonalumni qualify for the award. Only employees of the UAF Alumni Association are excluded.

Criteria for selection: Nominees will be judged on the basis of meritorious service at more than one level of alumni activity. This could include, but is not limited to, serving as a chapter officer, serving on the board of directors, assisting with a project, setting up a scholarship, or serving on a UAF selection committee or advisory council.

2018 William R. Cashen Service Award


2018 William R. Cashen Service Award winner

Kurt KoudelkaKurt Koudelka `96

Kurt was born and raised in Fairbanks, graduating from Lathrop High School in 1993. During high school he was involved in emergency medicine, having completed his first EMT course at age 17 and serving as a volunteer for the Steese Area Volunteer Fire Department. Kurt worked as a student firefighter at UAF from 1993 to 1996, during which he earned two AAS degrees; one in Hazardous Materials Control and the other in Municipal Fire Control. While a student at UAF, Kurt also became an EMT III, continuing his passion for emergency medical services. Kurt was mentored by the late Battalion Chief Phil Rounds and by retired Capt. Jerry Phillips.

Capt. Phillips’ letter of support for Kurt’s nomination states: “In my 40-year career in the Fire Service, there were several student firefighters who stood above the rest in character, dedication and commitment to his profession and community – Kurt was one of those Individuals.”

After UAF, Kurt attended Paramedic School at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Ore., graduating in 1997. He joined the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue in 1999 and is now a lieutenant paramedic. UFD Fire Chief Doug Schrage wrote: “Lt. Koudelka is a credit to UAF and is an inspiration to aspiring UAF student firefighters and paramedics. He is the epitome of a student that developed his passion at UAF and turned it into an education and distinguished career.”

Along with Chief Schrage, Kurt is a charter member of the Student Firefighters Chapter of the UAFAA, a group that came in with 100 founding members to help honor and celebrate UAF’s 100 year anniversary last year.

2017 William R. Cashen Service Award

2017 William R. Cashen Service Award winner

Jo Ryman Scott

This award is designed to recognize and perpetuate William R. Cashen’s example of service to the university and inspire all those associated with UAF. Awardees are selected on the basis of admirable service. It is the only alumni association award that may go to people who are not alumni.

The 2017 honoree, Jo Ryman Scott, was born in rural South Dakota just before the stock market crash of October 1929. During the Depression that followed, Jo worked hard with her family on the farm. She loved animals and fondly remembers her early teachers who encouraged a love of literature and music. Graduating from Warner High School in 1947, Jo earned a teaching certificate and taught in South Dakota for three years. She loved teaching, but wanted to go to college. She was the first woman from her high school to finish college, earning a bachelor’s degree in education from San Jose State in 1953.  After meeting someone from Alaska, she decided to apply for teaching positions in several Alaskan cities. She was offered contracts by all four schools she applied to, but took a job in Fairbanks because it was close to the University of Alaska.

Soon after moving to Fairbanks in 1953, Jo met her future husband, Dick. The couple married in February 1954 and began building their home at three-mile College Road. Together they had three children — Julie, Bryan and Shirley. Over the years that followed, Jo enjoyed a rewarding career teaching in Fairbanks public schools, retiringn as an English teacher at Lathrop High School. She started a musical nursery school in 1962 which she ran for eight years. In addition to that, she started a summer arts day camp in 1976, sharing the family's pool, sauna, grounds and horses with the youth of Fairbanks.

With cooperation from the UAF Music Department, Jo started in 1980 what later became the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. The event was a success and UAF accepted Jo’s proposal to expand the event into a two-week festival that following year.  Since then, the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival has grown exponentially. Now known around the world, the event has continued for 30 years, with Jo retiring in 2009. 

2016 William R. Cashen Service Award

2016 William R. Cashen Service Award winner

Karen Cedzo

Karen Cedzo started her career at the university in 1979 as the first-ever public affairs director. She retired nearly 20 years later as vice chancellor for university relations and institutional advancement, where she oversaw the alumni, development and public relations functions.

Throughout her career, Karen has worked nonstop to inspire Alaskans to advocate for UAF. She started UAF’s first private fundraising campaign, netting nearly $13 million in donations. She initiated UAF’s first statewide television marketing campaign and oversaw the celebration of UAF’s 75thand 80th anniversaries.

Karen drove her Ford Mustang north to Alaska from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1975. She and her husband moved in 1985 to their permanent home outside Delta Junction. She drove the Richardson Highway between Fairbanks and Delta every weekend for 14 of the 20 years she worked at UAF.

Karen has maintained an active role in the university. She helped promote expansion of the UA Museum of the North. She has served on the UAF Chancellor’s Board of Visitors, the Delta Chamber of Commerce and as a director for Golden Valley Electric Association. She currently serves on the UAF Community and Technical College’s Community Advisory Council and is a trustee of GVEA’s Goodcents Foundation. She helped create Partners for Progress in Delta Inc., a nonprofit consortium that provides career training.

Karen earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations in 1973 and a master’s degree in political science in 1975 from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She is accredited through the Public Relations Society of America. She worked as a broadcast journalist for KTVF-TV and KFRB-AM in Fairbanks before becoming a principal of Northern Information Services, a public relations firm.

She has taught public relations classes in both Fairbanks and Delta, and she takes pride in having mentored many people over the years.

2015 William R. Cashen Service Award

DeShana York ’95

DeShana York grew up in Soldotna, where she learned a strong work ethic while commercial fishing in Cook Inlet with her family. She graduated from UAF, the first in her family to do so, with a degree in speech communication.

DeShana has worked for UAF and the UA statewide system for the past 19 years and currently is director of the Cooperative Extension Service’s Anchorage District office. 

A lifetime member of the UAF Alumni Association, DeShana served as president of the Southcentral chapter from 2006-2013. She has served on the UAFAA Board and was secretary from 2011-2012. She also has participated in UAF and UA statewide governance, supporting the staff and representing her peers.

DeShana shows her Nanook pride whenever possible and encourages other alumni to do the same. She has made many trips to Juneau to share the UAF story with legislators, supporting university funding and programs.

DeShana is married to Shane York, who works at UA Anchorage Facilities Maintenance. They often attend UAF-UAA sporting events, supporting both universities but always sitting on the Nanook side! DeShana enjoys kayaking, fishing and other outdoor water sports, as well as spending time with friends and family.

2014 William R. Cashen Service Award

Tania Clucas

Tania Clucas, ’95, ’08

Tania Clucas graduated from UAF in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in geography and in 2008 with a master’s degree in science management. She recently started taking classes for a doctorate.

As an undergraduate, Tania began volunteering as a crew worker in the James Doogan Memorial Hamburger Booth for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alumni Association. Tania held the offices of vice president of the Fairbanks Chapter of UAFAA in 2006 and president from 2010 to 2013. During her tenure, the chapter began sponsoring the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre’s Bard-a-thon and the Alaska Goldpanners’ Nanook Night, while continuing its support of Grad Bash, the UAFAA Wine Tasting and the commencement reception. She also held the Fairbanks Chapter seat on the UAFAA Board of Directors, holding a position on the Education Committee, chairing the Board Development Committee and serving as secretary, from 2012-2013.

Tania is a member of the UAFAA Fairbanks Chapter and is working to revive the Blue and Gold Award Scholarship and develop a program to partner alumni families with undergraduates interns who need summer. She volunteers regularly for KUAC and the Kiwanis. Tania currently works as the education, outreach and diversity manager for UAF’S Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association Fairbanks Chapter awards Tania Clucas with the 2014 William R. Cashen Service Award.


2013 William R. Cashen Service Award

Tammy Tragis-McCook

Tammy Tragis-McCook, ’99, ’00

Tammy Tragis-McCook grew up as an Army brat, attending 15 different schools, which may partially explain her outgoing personality. Kickstarting her post-secondary education at Texas A&M, Tammy eventually moved to Alaska to be with her family, completing a bachelor of business administration in 1999 and a master of business administration in 2000 from University of Alaska Fairbanks. Tammy has a wide range of experience in the UA system, having worked at the School of Management, in the Department of Orientation & First Year Students and with KUAC public broadcasting. She rejoined the School of Management in 2009 as the director of development and outreach, facilitating relationships with students,
businesses, alumni and donors.

Tammy wakes up every day and loves what she does. When not working she is involved in many other activities such as cooking, riding her bike or attending Zumba classes. She is a member of the Fairbanks Downtown Rotary Club and the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. Since 2007 she has devoted time to the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement and was previously a board member for United Way of the Tanana Valley and the Fairbanks Men’s Hockey Association.

Tammy is involved at many levels of alumni activity. In her current job she assists donors with establishing scholarships, impacting the lives of both students and donors. She teaches marketing, and one of her greatest joys is preparing students for their post-graduate career by encouraging active involvement on campus and in the community. She creates opportunities for alumni to be involved at UAF by visiting classes as a guest speaker, attending SOM events such as the Business Leader of the Year banquet, being interviewed for the SOM newsletter or flipping burgers at the fair in the UAF alumni booth.

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association Fairbanks Chapter awards Tammy Tragis-McCook with the 2013 William R. Cashen Service Award.

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