New book details UAA’s spirited history

Feb. 24, 2015

As the city of Anchorage celebrates its centennial, historian Will Jacobs provides a timely read on one of the city’s major institutions. His recently published book—Becoming UAA: 1954-2014—outlines the constant actions and reactions, pushes and pulls that shaped today’s institution. This book is the first printed history about the university.   

In 60 years, UAA has grown from a relatively unplanned institution to an impressive academic campus, and Jacobs has added an extraordinary amount of context—and an admirably even-handed approach—to the history of the university he called home throughout his career.

A UAA professor emeritus, Jacobs first arrived in Anchorage in 1973 behind the wheel of his trusty Pinto station wagon. Fresh out of a Ph.D. program, he joined a two-professor history department and became the youngest faculty member at Anchorage Senior College.

He’s the ideal person to record the institution’s history, as a history professor and an eyewitness to the political rollercoaster that saw the campus expand physically and evolve ideologically—from the early military classes and community college days to today’s UAA.

It’s a complicated story, but one Jacobs objectively navigates. With every decision, the author presents opposing perspectives, suggests what could have happened and moves on to what did.

“This institutional history of UAA is a remarkable achievement,” said Stephen Haycox, UAA professor emeritus of history. “It’s a story no one has yet put together, and the author brings to it his usual thoroughness and objectivity.”

Becoming UAA is an appealing read for anyone interested in the spirited internal backstory that created UAA. The book is illustrated with editorial cartoons,  historical images, and sidebars outlining the major players at the university and state levels, many now immortalized in the names of campus buildings.

Published by the University of Alaska Anchorage, Becoming UAA: 1954-2014 is available in the UAA Bookstore and online.

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