Mark Hamilton got to know Alaska during two stints in the state while serving with the U.S. Army. Alaskans got to know him as well. So when the University of Alaska needed a new president in 1998, Hamilton got the job.
Before retiring as a major general that year, Hamilton led the Army’s nationwide recruitment program. The work capped a 31-year career that had featured such coups as negotiating a peace agreement in El Salvador (while speaking entirely in Spanish) and a pause in the warfare that wracked Somalia. He received the Army’s highest peacetime award, the Distinguished Service Medal.
Hamilton joined the university as oil prices and state revenues sank to unusual lows. His passion and eloquence are often credited with helping to convince the Alaska Legislature to increase funding for the institution.
Hamilton also successfully advocated for the UA Scholars program, which offers scholarships to the top 10 percent of graduating high school seniors.
In 2001, Hamilton gained national attention for his response to a controversy about a poem written by a University of Alaska Anchorage professor. Hamilton wrote a one-page memo quashing any investigation of the circumstances.
Hamilton said in 2010 that he planned to retire in Anchorage, spend more time with his 10 grandchildren, and do more hunting and fishing.
Nevertheless, Hamilton returned to the public stage in 2017 as executive vice president of external affairs for the company seeking to develop the Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska.
Acknowledging the mine’s controversial nature, he asked Alaskans to keep talking, and did so in language not usually found in corporate news releases: “Refusing to hear the evidence that supports opinions contrary to our own signals the rejection of the dialectic and the end of reason,” he said.
More online about Mark Hamilton:
An interview as part of the Centennial Speaker Series organized by UAF Summer Sessions in 2017
A profile on the UA Journey site
A Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article from May 30, 2010, as he prepared to leave the UA presidency
An advertisement for UA that he filmed as president in 2008
A podcast interview, produced by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, from February 2018 concerning his response to a controversy over a UAA professor’s poem in 2001
A news release announcing his new position as an advocate for the Pebble mine