Alumni Profile: Ian Wheeles '04, B.A. Political Science

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Big things are in store for UAA alumnus Ian Wheeles. Chances are this won't be the last time you hear about him. A catalyst for the Anchorage community, this young leader is an eager professional and an active volunteer and philanthropist. At 27, he's already graduated from law school and started his own practice.

UAA alumnus Ian WheelesWheeles was born and raised in Anchorage and is loyal to his home state. "I never really wanted to leave Alaska, but I wanted to play baseball, and there's not a law school in Alaska," he said. An '01 graduate of Dimond High School, Ian left Alaska to play ball for the Illinois Institute of Technology. He started off studying architectural engineering, but decided to pursue a career in law after seeing the movies Erin Brockovich and My Cousin Vinny. He thought, "I could be a lawyer..."

Determined to pursue his new path, Ian came home and enrolled in UAA's political science program. "Having a university that prepares job-ready graduates is paramount to Alaska's growth," said Wheeles. "UAA offers programs that lead to high-demand jobs, and it's important for us to keep our graduates in Alaska to continue growing our industries. A lot of people discount UAA as 'oh, it's just UAA,' but I've always thought of UAA as a top-notch school. Anchorage is my hometown and I've had Seawolf spirit since I was a kid."

After earning his B.A., Wheeles left Alaska for the second time to continue his education at the University of Idaho College of Law. With law degree in hand, he returned home and worked as an associate attorney at a local firm for a year-and-a-half before starting his own practice, the Law Office of Ian Wheeles, in '09. "I've always loved the idea of building my own business," said Wheeles.

Ultimately, though, Wheeles went to school to help people, which is exactly what he's doing. He believes deeply in giving as much as possible and makes it a priority to share his expertise with those who may not be able to afford legal assistance. "Everything you do affects your neighbors," he said. "I feel that it's my calling to help people."

The Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Alaska Native Justice Center, Anchorage Youth Court and the Alaska Pro Bono Program are just a few of the organizations that Wheeles proudly supports. Ian believes so much in giving back that 50 percent of all profits generated by his firm are donated to charitable organizations.

Always a hard worker, Wheeles put himself through college and law school by driving trucks and forklifts and plowing snow at local hardware store Spenard Builders Supply. Ian's proof that hard work pays off. He wanted to motivate other hard-working students who face financial or social barriers so he recently established a scholarship to help support working students. "I've been blessed with a career that provides me with more than I need, so it's important for me to give back and provide for other people." A part of the application process for the scholarship includes explaining how the student plans to use his or her degree to benefit others. "My real hope is not just to help others, but to help others help others."

Wheeles has done a lot for a 27-year-old, and he doesn't plan to stop anytime soon. "I've always been interested in politics and plan to run for governor of Alaska someday," Wheeles said. He also plans to try his hand in real estate investing and recently purchased his first four-plex.

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