Claus-Michael Naske came to Alaska as a young man from war-ravaged Germany and stayed to become the premier historian of his adopted home.
Naske taught history at UAF from 1969 until his retirement in 2001. He was a prolific author whose books included biographies of two U.S. senators and a history of the Alaska statehood movement. In 2012, he updated his comprehensive history of Alaska, first published in 1979, and retitled it simply "Alaska: A History."
Naske walked across Germany as a 10-year-old boy when Russians evicted his family from Pomerania in 1945. Nine years later, the Barry family in Palmer, Alaska, sponsored him to work on their dairy farm. From there, he came to UAF and earned degrees in history and political science. After receiving a master's degree from the University of Michigan, he returned to UAF as a faculty member in 1969. He earned his doctorate from Washington State University in 1970.
He met his wife, Dinah, while they were students at UAF, and they raised two children in Fairbanks.
Naske died in 2014 after a long battle with cancer. Most remembrances allude to his willingness to enthusiastically correct those who he believed held erroneous views. Those corrections might be delivered in person, in letters to the editor or in extensive writings. At the same time, those remembrances also note his sociability and equally enthusiastic praise of those whose views and work he respected.
"We could all do well to recall and imitate the strength and determination that fostered such 'pushiness,'" wrote Bill Hunt, a friend and fellow UAF history professor.
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