I LOVE UAA: Pat Yack

by Kathleen McCoy  |   


When veteran newspaperman Pat Yack moved to Alaska, the UAA Department of Journalism and Public Communications (JPC) knew his 30+ years as a journalist would be a great asset to the program and offered him the 2009 Atwood Chair of Journalism. That first connection with UAA proved to be mutually beneficial, introducing Yack to his current boss, Alaska Public Telecommunications Inc. (APTI) president Steve Lindbeck, and securing Yack's enduring support of JPC.

The Atwood Chair of Journalism, a visiting professorship funded through an endowment, allows JPC to host a nationally recognized journalist for one semester each academic year to teach news writing and reporting and to represent the journalism profession in the community. Yack loved the opportunity he had to work with students so much during his too-brief tenure as Atwood Chair that JPC has had no trouble getting him back in the classroom nearly every term since. "I love being on campus with the students," he says. A quick check of UAA's fall 2012 schedule reveals he's signed up to teach JPC A204 Information Gathering.

Yack's continued work in the classroom is only part of his commitment to UAA. He is also an advocate for the Atwood Chair position. "I've been working to try and attract some additional interest and enthusiasm for the Atwood Chair," he says. "It's a phenomenal program." He would like to see it become a yearlong visiting professorship, which would benefit both students and the community. He's seen firsthand the mutual benefits gleaned by a community from having a strong, connected university-access to great athletics, library resources, visiting speakers and artists, to name just a few. "In some communities, there's a real gap between the gown and town, as they say, and that's unfortunate because the college benefits from the community and the community unquestionably benefits from the college." Another charge of the Atwood Chair is connecting "the gown and town" through networking with local journalists and embracing public speaking opportunities.

"I've been fortunate to live in communities that have really vibrant universities, vibrant campuses," Yack says, referring to past hometowns Dallas, Texas, Eugene, Ore., and Jacksonville, Fla. "I'm just bullish on universities and love living in university towns." So, although he's relatively new in town and a busy newcomer at that, working as the vice president of public media for APTI (the folks who bring us KSKA, APRN and KAKM), he still makes the time to foster connections with UAA. He and his wife Suzanne have offered to open their home to host a fundraiser for the Atwood Chair of Journalism endowment. The Atwood Foundation has pledged $2.4M toward the full endowment of the Atwood Chair of Journalism contingent on broad community support to raise the remaining $100K needed.

A first generation college graduate, Yack, who attended Southern Methodist University, appreciates that he had that opportunity for higher education. He says, "I've always felt it was important to give back in some way. I think people sometimes make the mistake of thinking their contribution, whether it's to the university of somewhere else, if it's not headline-making, it's not valuable. I think that's a mistake." Beyond giving to his own alma mater, he feels it's important to give back to his kids' universities and to the university in his town. "I've never expected a room to be named after me or to have some special award from the president, I just felt it was the right thing to do," he says. His philanthropic philosophy is simple: support what's important to you and your family. "That's been the reason for my involvement at UAA and my continued involvement at UAA."

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