UAA celebrates spring 2020 Meritorious Service Award recipients

by Matt Jardin  |   

Spring 2020 Meritorious Service Award recipients, Edna DeVries (and Vic Fischer.
Spring 2020 Meritorious Service Award recipients, Edna DeVries (left) and Vic Fischer (right).

The Meritorious Service Award is bestowed to an individual who has demonstrated significant work in the areas of public, academic, volunteer or philanthropic service to UAA, one of the community campuses or an Alaska community. It is UAA’s honor and privilege to award Edna DeVries and Vic Fischer the Meritorious Service Award for the spring 2020 semester.

Edna DeVries

Edna DeVries’ name is synonymous with service. A 42-year Alaskan, DeVries is well-known in her community and other parts of Alaska for her decades of public and volunteer service. An open and compassionate person, she cares deeply about the welfare of her Alaska neighbors and the citizens of her community.

DeVries has served young and old people alike. As an accounting instructor at the Alaska Job Corps Center, she uses her 25 years of business experience to teach, mentor and advise young people working to overcome obstacles and get a good start in life. DeVries has also volunteered to serve the elderly through her work as vice chair of the Governor’s Commission on Aging. She has also served many other Alaskans as a member of the Alaska Human Rights Commission. 

In the realm of public service, DeVries is unparalleled. She has served as a state senator, both assembly member and mayor of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission of her hometown of Palmer and as the city’s treasurer/finance director. Her service to Palmer alone — as a city council member and mayor — has spanned a remarkable 15 years. Throughout her many years of public service, DeVries has shown compassion, respect and the highest concern for the interests and well-being of her constituents.

Together with her husband, DeVries has four children: Keith “Sheila” Armstrong, Teri Armstrong Tolon, Katie “Todd” Holmes and Gordon “Corie” DeVries, 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Vic Fischer

Born in 1924 in Berlin, Germany, Victor Fischer was 15 when World War II broke out in his home country of Russia. His family escaped Hitler and Stalin’s rampages, and after arriving in the United States, Fischer enlisted in the Army, fighting against both Soviet and German armies.

After the war, Fischer attended the University of Wisconsin, earning his undergraduate degree before earning his master’s in community planning from MIT. He moved to the Alaska Territory in 1950 and spent the early part of his career in community and urban planning, first working for the Bureau of Land Management as the state’s first planner, and then moving to Anchorage to serve as the city’s first planning director. 

He began his public service career in 1955, serving as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and on the local government committee. He played a key role in creating the state’s unique local government systems, as well as helping draft the preamble and portions of Alaska’s constitution. 

As Fischer’s name rose through local government, he caught the eye of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and served on the Housing and Urban Development Agency. He came back to Alaska after the 1964 earthquake, overseeing Southcentral Alaska’s reconstruction. 

Continuing his dedication to public service, Fischer spent six years in the Alaska State Senate in the 1980s before turning his attention to Alaska’s university system. He founded the Institute of Social and Economic Research and served as its first director, first at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and then at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Now in his 90s, Fischer has dedicated his life to public service. He’s one of the last living members of Alaska’s Constitutional Convention and detailed the historic event in his 1975 book. In 2012, he published his autobiography, To Russia with Love: An Alaskan’s Journey.

Fischer continues to be an actively engaged citizen, often speaking on public issues related to justice, equal rights and responsible citizenship.


Written by Matt Jardin, UAA Office of University Advancement

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