A former student once described Earl Beistline as possessing a “hurry-up but happy, no-nonsense style.” That style, conveyed by his ever-present smile and energetic pace, made Beistline a popular leader at the University of Alaska and in Alaska’s mining industry for decades.
Beistline, who was born in Juneau in 1916, enrolled at the university in 1934. He played basketball and hockey and was elected student body president in 1939, the same year he graduated with a mining engineering degree. During summers, he drove steam points to thaw ground for the Fairbanks Exploration Co. dredges.
Beistline served with the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Aleutian Islands during World War II.
In 1946, the university asked Beistline to fill in for a year for a mining engineering professor who had resigned. It was the start of a 36-year teaching career.
Beistline also married Dorothy Hering of Fairbanks that year, and they had four children: Ralph, Bill, Kathy and Linda.
University administrators steadily promoted Beistline, first to dean of the School of Mines in 1949, then dean of faculty in 1960. He became provost in 1970 and later served as academic vice president for the statewide system.
While a strong advocate for his own views, Beistline always remained a gentleman. During the Vietnam War, he convinced UA President William Wood to allow a campus demonstration, which Beistline then attended even though he didn’t agree with the protesters.
After retiring from the university in 1982, Beistline operated a placer mine, consulted and advocated for the industry. In 1986, he led formation of the Alaska Minerals Commission to advise state government on mining policy.
After Beistline died in 2012, a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial said he had “left a legacy of service to Alaska that has been matched by few people in our state.”
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