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.

2019 William R. Cashen Service Award winner

Denise Wartes ’96, ’01, ‘07

Denise Wartes

When Denise Wartes moved to Alaska’s Arctic from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to join her new husband Mark in 1972, she did not yet have an Alaska parka to protect her from the cold April air. Based on just a few measurements, the well-known seamstress Kate Brower made her a beautiful parka. It fit perfectly.

Wartes would come to be known for her parkas, recognized by the hundreds of students she has shepherded through the Rural Alaska Honors Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks during her 30 years with the program. The parkas even inspired her Inupiaq name. James Nageak called her “Taqalusiaq,” which means “butterfly,” for the many butterflies on her favorite parka fabric.

Wartes and her husband lived a subsistence lifestyle on the edge of the Arctic Ocean on the Colville River Delta. They traveled the Arctic coast, where she was an assistant hunting guide for the family business. They also worked extensively with various researchers. That experience living a subsistence lifestyle without running water or electricity helped Denise connect with the Alaska Native and rural students attending RAHI.

Wartes is the program manager for RAHI — a six-week summer, college preparatory program for Alaska Native and rural high school juniors and seniors. RAHI began in 1983 at the request of the Alaska Federation of Natives. UAF was the perfect location, as it was the only campus that had residential housing at the time. The program is now in its 36th year. Wartes has assisted more than 1,900 alumni, helping them achieve success in a variety of fields.

This summer, Wartes will retire, and her passion for the program will be her legacy.

“It’s the things you don’t see that make Denise extraordinary,” said Debbie Mekiana, a RAHI alumna and one of the people who nominated her for the award. “I would guess Denise knows at least one person, if not more, at each village in rural Alaska. Her wealth of information and love for education overflows. And luckily it overflows on rural Alaska Native kids.”

2018 William R. Cashen Service Award winner

Kurt Koudelka `96

Kurt Koudelka

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 winner

Jo Ryman Scott

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 winner

Karen Cedzo

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 winner

DeShana York ’95

DeShana York

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 winner

Tania Clucas, ’95, ’08

Tania Clucas

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 winner

Tammy Tragis-McCook, ’99, ’00

Tammy Tragis-McCook

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.

2012 William R. Cashen Service award winner

Marilyn Romano

Marilyn Romano

Born and raised in Houston, Marilyn Romano arrived in Fairbanks in 1992 working for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner as its advertising director. In 1998 she became general manger of the paper and in 2000 publisher, becoming the seventh publisher in the 108 year history of the paper and first woman to hold the position. On Aug. 8, 2011 Romano joined Alaska Airlines as their new regional vice president, for Alaska. Romano oversees public affairs, corporate giving, sales and marketing, and governmental affairs in Alaska, in addition to interacting with the 1,700 employees throughout the state.

Romano’s service to UAF, the alumni association and the Fairbanks community has been immense. She is the chair of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Community Advisory Council, has volunteered for the alumni association for multiple years at its Fairbanks chapter Hamburger Booth and helped mentor countless students through the association’s job shadow program held over spring break. Romano sat on the board of directors of the United Way of the Tanana Valley, was chair of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce and was involved with multiple other non-profits in Fairbanks.

She received a “Top 40 Under 40” award from the Alaska Journal of Commerce in 1999 and was named as a Woman of Distinction by the Farthest North Girl Scouts in 2006. Romano recently married UAF Alumnus Brian Hove.

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association Fairbanks Chapter presents Marilyn Romano the 2012 William R. Cashen Service Award.

2011 William R. Cashen Service award winner

Barbara Day

Barbara Day

Born and raised in Virginia, Barbara Day arrived in Fairbanks in October 2001 with her husband, Jim Dixon. She found a job with the UAF Physics Department and currently works as the administrative assistant for the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Her involvement with the UAF Alumni Association started the minute her husband began serving on the board for the Fairbanks Chapter seven years ago. She has been a valuable member of the team that runs the UAF Alumni Burger Booth at the Fair and has a long association with many of the activities that UAFAA participates in, including Grad Bash, serving cake at the spring commencement reception and UAF Day at the Alaska Goldpanners baseball game among others.

The Alumni Association is a beneficiary of Barbara’s hard work, but not the only university activity she participates in. Barbara is two years into her second tenure as the treasurer for the University Women’s Association, a position she held for about four years before a two-year break. She looks forward each October to answering telephones for KUAC's annual fundraising. Her favorite community volunteer event is spending Tuesday afternoons at the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, helping prepare bags of food for distribution to needy Fairbanks residents.

2010 William R. Cashen Service award winner

Marta Mueller

Marta Mueller

Marta Mueller graduated from UAF in 1995 with a degree in biological sciences. She is currently a natural resource manager with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources in Anchorage.

As an alumna Marta has volunteered tirelessly on behalf of the UAF Alumni Association, initially assisting with events such as Grad Bash, the annual wine tasting, and the Fairbanks Chapter Alumni hamburger booth at the Tanana Valley State Fair. Her service led to becoming a chapter officer in both Fairbanks and Southcentral, first as Fairbanks Chapter Secretary from 2004 – 2007, and then transitioning to Fairbanks Chapter Treasurer for 2007 – 2008.

In 2008 a promotion moved Marta to Anchorage, where the Southcentral chapter quickly recruited her. She has served as treasurer since 2009. Even though she now lives in Anchorage, Marta each year comes to Fairbanks to work at the UAFAA hamburger booth as a day supervisor for the closing day of the Tanana Valley State Fair. She is known by her crews for her boundless enthusiasm and good spirit. Volunteers ask to work on her day, as they have grown to appreciate the bonhomie she brings to the booth.

Until she moved away from Fairbanks, Marta also gave back to the student population, holding a number of advisor positions with the Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority. Between 1998 until her move in 2008 Marta served at one time or another as membership/education advisor, chapter advisor, and financial advisor.

Marta is an excellent representative of the quality alumnae the University of Alaska Fairbanks graduates, and an example of how paying it forward can make a difference.

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association Fairbanks Chapter awards Marta Mueller the 2010 William R. Cashen Service Award.

2009 William R. Cashen Service award winner

Jack B. Wilbur

Jack Wilbur

Jack B. Wilbur has had a stellar career. Born and raised in Fairbanks, he began his career in 1975 as a mechanical engineer-in-training for Design Alaska, an architectural, engineering and surveying firm. He quickly rose through the ranks becoming executive vice president in 1990 and president in 1996. Under his leadership, Jack brought the company into a period of unprecedented growth as it has tripled its revenue and quadrupled its net worth.

Jack's commitment to UAF and the community has also been exceptional.  He has served on the Chancellor’s Board of Visitors, the Fairbanks Regional Economic Partnership Council, the KUAC Leadership Council and the College of Mines Advisory and Development Council. He also is a member of the Fairbanks Rotary Club; the United Way Board, where he served as the 2007 co-chair of the United Way of Tanana Valley fund drive; and is the 2008-09 president of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce.

Jack's contributions have been recognized as he has been presented numerous awards, including 2004 Rotary Club Spirit Award, the 2006 Boy Scouts of America District Award of Merit and the 2007 Business Leader of the Year award by the UAF Associated Students of Business.

2008 William R. Cashen Service award winners

Don Jamieson

Don Jamieson

Don Jamieson graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1987 with a BBA in marketing. Originally from Penticton, British Columbia, he played 4 years of UAF hockey and then went on to play professionally in Europe for 5 years after graduation. Upon his return to North America he attended Gonzaga Law School in Spokane where he graduated cum laude in 1994. He is currently a commercial real estate broker in Spokane, Wash.

Scott Keyes

Scott Keyes

Scott Keyes graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1995 with a bachelor of arts in justice. Scott is a home-town success story who donned the blue and gold hockey uniform from 1991-1994. He currently is a financial advisor with Younker-Keyes & Associates.

Don and Scott were involved with the organizing committee for the first Nanook hockey reunion held in July 2005. The event brought together several hundred former and current players and was a great success for the participants and the Hockey Alumni chapter. The reunion was the catalyst for the Hockey Alumni chapter becoming an active part of the UAF Alumni Association. The chapter actively supports the UAF hockey program and holds several social and fundraising events each year. Don served as the group's first president helping to establish the group's identity and mission. Scott is the current president and is continuing the vision of re-connecting former Nanook hockey players with their alma mater.

2007 William R. Cashen Service award winner

Nevada Bovee

Nevada Bovee

Nevada Bovee graduated magna cum laude as a non-traditional student in 1996 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. She is currently the Vice President of Marketing with the Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union in Fairbanks.

Nevada served six years on the Fairbanks chapter officer board, first as Vice President from 2001 - 2004, then as President from 2004 - 2007. As Vice President Nevada worked with the chapter officer board to build on traditional chapter activities, including the annual hamburger booth, scholarship awards, and Commencement reception. As president, Nevada served as the Fairbanks chapter representative to the UAF Alumni Association Board of Directors where she served as chair for the Fundraising Committee and provided significant contributions to events such as the Annual Wine Tasting and Silent Auction. She oriented a new officer board and led the chapter on identifying criteria for two new scholarship awards, supporting the UAF Grad Bash, and supporting the Benefactor Fund with an annual chapter contribution.

Nevada is well known for her enthusiasm. She enjoys working with people and values individual growth, living by the tenet, "As the individual grows, the community grows." In addition to a challenging career and active alumni participation, Nevada encourages individual growth through school business partnerships, career fairs, and college nights in local high schools. Nevada is an excellent ambassador in our community as a proud UAFAA alum.

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association chapters award Nevada Bovee the 2007 William R. Cashen Service Award.

2006 William R. Cashen Service award winner

Kenneth Larimore

Kenneth Larimore

Kenneth Larimore graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with three bachelor of science degrees over three decades; physical education in 1979, in anthropology 1985 and exercise science in 1997. He has been a member of the UAF athletic staff since 1981 and in 1996 became the department's athletic equipment manager. Kenneth is so talented that he has been recognized as Equipment Manager of the year for Region 10 by the Athletic Equipment Managers Association three times in 1997, 2000 and 2004.

Although Ken is active in multiple organizations in and outside of the Fairbanks community, he has always given time and energy to his alumni association. Ken is a lifetime member of the association and from 1996-2001 he served as an officer of the UAF Alumni Association Fairbanks chapter. From 1997-2001 he was the chapter president. He also served as the chapter's representative to the UAF Alumni Association board of directors. In 2001 Ken was elected to the UAF Alumni Board of Directors where he served until May 2004.

During Ken's tenure on both boards he provided leadership in many areas, but he shone as the chair of the reunion committee and as the general jack of all trades. He has worked for the association as a mechanic, plumber, sign-fixer, painter and done whatever was needed to help ensure the Fairbanks chapter hamburger booth at the fair ran smoothly.

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association Chapters award Kenneth Larimore with the 2006 William R. Cashen Service Award.

2005 William R. Cashen Service award winner

Cathy Persinger

Cathy Persinger

Cathy Persinger graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in business administration. She is currently a business analyst for the UAF Geophysical Institute.

From 1993-1995 Persinger served as executive director for the UAF Alumni Association. During her tenure at the association she contributed to an expanded alumni network and increased visibility for the organization.

Persinger is best known in alumni circles as the UAF Fairbanks chapter's alumni hamburger booth volunteer coordinator. Each year for the last 10 years she set the tone and established the structure that allowed a successful transition to recruitment of more than 150 volunteer alumni and friends needed to run the burger booth at the Tanana Valley Fair. Persinger's efforts have led to a more streamlined and efficient approach to volunteer recruitment. Since Persinger has been involved the chapter's revenue from the booth has increased and they have established three new scholarships for students. Persinger strives for win-win situations as she supports healthy group collaborations that often spill over to other opportunities to support UAF students and services.

Persinger helped make volunteers feel successful, gain UAF ownership and associate the Alumni Association with "FUN!"

It is with great pleasure that the UAF Alumni Association Fairbanks Chapter awards Cathy Persinger the 2005 William R. Cashen Service Award.