Otto William Geist (1888-1963) was a German emigre who literally worked his way
across the Lower 48 States until finally landing in Alaska in 1923. Soon after arriving
in the state, Geist befriended pioneering biologists Olaus and Margaret Murie who
taught him how to collect and prepare biological specimens and nurtured his growing
interests in natural history. Geist soon became acquainted with Charles Bunnell, who
had just been appointed as the first president of the fledgling University of Alaska
(then called the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines) in Fairbanks. At
Bunnell’s behest, he sent Geist throughout the state of Alaska collecting archaeological,
ethnographic, and natural history objects for a new museum - today known as the University
of Alaska Museum of the North. Over several decades, Geist collected extensively throughout
the state, amassing important collections of Pleistocene (Ice Age) mammals, (fill
in some archeo highlights) and other specimens that form the core of the museum today.
Geist returned home to Germany for the last year of his life and passed away in 1963
at the age of 74.
Before he died, Otto Geist gifted most of his estate to the University of Alaska.
In 1963 the Otto William Geist Endowment was created with one of its main purposes
being “…to provide funds for scholarship or fellowship grants for students majoring
in anthropology, archaeology or paleontology”. Since then, this scholarship has assisted
many UAF students in accomplishing their Master's and Dissertation projects.
Departments: Archaeology, Earth Sciences
Application Deadline: April 5, 2021
Award: For 2021, individual awards will be considered up to $2,500