Alaska’s gold rushes were fading when George Gasser arrived in 1907 to take over the federal government’s recently established agricultural experiment station at Rampart on the middle Yukon River.
In Rampart, the 32-year-old graduate of Kansas State College of Agriculture began testing various grains. Decades later, a wheat variety that he helped develop there was given his name.
Gasser married Beatrice Peck of Fairbanks in 1909. They stayed in Rampart another dozen years before moving to Fairbanks, which also had an experiment station. The Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines hadn’t yet opened when Gasser arrived, but he ran the Fairbanks Experiment Station until 1928, when he joined the college as a professor.
The federal government closed several experiment stations, then transferred the last two in Palmer and Fairbanks to AACSM in 1931. Gasser directed the stations for several years while teaching and also leading the college’s new Cooperative Extension Service.
Territorial Gov. Ernest Gruening appointed Gasser as Alaska’s first agriculture commissioner in 1945.
Long known as “Doc,” the university made the title official in 1955 when it granted Gasser an honorary doctorate.
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