When the University of Alaska had no money to keep the doors open in 1947, Andrew Nerland was among the Fairbanks businessmen who loaned the institution money to operate.
Nerland had a lot invested in the university by then. He had helped James Wickersham pour the concrete cornerstone in 1915. He introduced the legislation to create the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in 1917. And he had served as a trustee and regent since 1929.
The university had no money because the Legislature hadn’t raised enough revenue to pay for the spending it had approved. The checks bounced.
Nerland contributed $10,000 of the $200,000 pledged by local businesses to keep the university running for the 1947-1949 biennium.
For decades, the name Nerland was synonymous with furniture in Alaska. An immigrant from Norway, Nerland went to Dawson with other gold stampeders in 1898. He started a painting business. Moving to Fairbanks in 1904, he shifted to furniture and expanded to Nenana, Iditarod and Anchorage.
In addition to his service as a university regent and legislator, Nerland was a mayor of Fairbanks, a Fairbanks city councilman and a member of the Alaska Statehood Committee.
The university granted him an honorary doctorate in 1952. Nerland Hall, the dormitory, is named for him.
He died on Feb. 6, 1956, the day the Alaska Constitutional Convention finished its work in the university’s Constitution Hall. His son, Les, had been a delegate and gave him a copy of the document before he passed away.
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