William R. Cashen Service Award

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.”