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UAA celebrates fall 2019 Honorary Degree Award recipients

by cmmyers  |   

Fall 2019 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters recipients, Peter Michalski (left) and Margaret L. Brown (right).

The criterion for individuals to receive an honorary degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage is evidence of a significant and lasting contribution to the university, the state of Alaska or to the individuals' discipline or profession. It is UAA's honor and privilege to award Margaret L. Brown and Peter Michalski an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the fall 2019 commencement ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 15.

Margaret L. Brown

A lifelong Alaskan of Yup'ik descent, Margaret "Margie" L. Brown is from Takotna, a small village in central Alaska. She left Alaska with her family to pursue education opportunities in the Lower 48, earning a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Oregon. Later, Brown, feeling the need to sharpen her business acumen, returned to school and earned a Master of  Business Administration from the University of Colorado. 

In 1976, Brown joined Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI), where she was enrolled as an Alaska Native shareholder, not long after CIRI was established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. After joining CIRI as an assistant land planner, her business skills established her ability to take on leadership roles and she quickly rose through the company's executive ranks. Brown was named president and CEO of CIRI in 2005 and served in this role until her retirement in 2013.

During her long tenure at CIRI, Brown helped implement the Cook Inlet Land Exchange, considered to be one of the largest land-exchange deals in U.S. history. As president and CEO, she was responsible for developing and implementing the company's corporate strategies, as well as overseeing business operations and serving as the primary contact for CIRI's many stakeholders. Brown's interest in renewable energy led the company to greatly expand its renewable energy footprint throughout the United States, including the arduous challenge of constructing the Fire Island Wind Farm in Alaska.  

Brown has served on many boards during her career. She currently serves as vice chair of the CIRI board of directors and chair of the CIRI Settlement Trust. She has served on the board of Alaska Communications, the national boards of The Student Conservation Association and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. She also serves on the advisory board for the Alaska Airlines and has served on the advisory board of the University of Alaska Anchorage Honors College. 

Brown's leadership in Alaska has earned her honors as a YWCA Women of Achievement recipient  in 1992, a 2009 Alaska Business Hall of Fame laureate, a winner of United Way's Tocqueville Community Service Award in 2011, the recipient of the 2012 Athena Leadership Award and the Alaska Journal of Commerce's 2013 Business Leader of the Year. 

Peter Michalski

Peter A. Michalski believes that we should all work to make the world a better place for all to live. He was born, raised and educated in Minnesota, His father was the first of his family to graduate from college and taught school in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Michalski earned his B.A. and J.D. from the University of Minnesota. 

Michalski's father served on Attu during World War II, and his twin brother, an uncle and a cousin also served in Alaska over the years. Michalski came to Juneau in 1971. He served as a legal assistant and assistant attorney general there for two years, then moved to the Fairbanks District Attorney's Office for four years. In 1977, he moved to Anchorage to open the Department of Law's new Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals.

In 1985, Gov. Bill Sheffield appointed him to the superior court of the State of Alaska. Over the next 27 years, Judge Michalski presided over every type of case in the superior court and many cases of significant statutory and constitutional interpretation.

Since retirement in 2012, Michalski has served on the board of the Anchorage Museum Association, the Anchorage Museum Foundation and the Alaska Community Foundation which he currently chairs.

Michalski and his wife Jo donate to and support a variety of community organizations including the University of Alaska, the University of Minnesota, the Anchorage Museum, Alaska Public Media, Alaska Legal Services, the Alaska Institute for Justice, the Anchorage YWCA, the Awesome Foundation of Alaska and the Alaska Community Foundation. 

The Michalskis were honored with the 2019 Shining Lights Award given to Alaskans dedicated to improving the world and demonstrating the highest level of character, integrity and ethics. In 2007 they were honored as philanthropists of the year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals at the National Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon. 

The Michalskis have two adult sons who live in Anchorage with their families.

Written by Catalina Myers, UAA Office of University Advancement

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