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Community leader Arliss Sturgulewski: A champion of UAA and Alaska

by Eric Olson  |   

In memoriam: Arliss Sturgulewski, 1927-2022
Community leader Arliss Sturgulewski passed away April 7, 2022.

"I love what education does for people and how it can change lives," said the late Arliss Sturgulewski in 2012, whose lifetime of monumental service to Alaska ⁠— as an Anchorage Assembly member, state senator, businesswoman, community leader and friend to UAA ⁠— came to a close on April 7, 2022, at the age of 94.

Arliss Sturgulewski walks in a parade for her gubernatorial campaign, 1990.
Arliss Sturgulewski walks in a parade for her gubernatorial campaign, 1990. (Arliss Sturgulewski papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage)

Arliss arrived in Anchorage in 1952 when 4th Avenue was the city’s sole paved street. She stayed to work as an accountant, marrying the love of her life, Bernard "Sturge" Sturgulewski (1919–1968) and raising her son Roe. She held a B.A. in economics and business from the University of Washington and received an Honorary Doctor of Laws in 1993 from UAA in recognition of her dynamic civic achievements and contributions to the university’s growth.

After a short time in Anchorage, Arliss got involved in shaping community vitality. Her role with the League of Women Voters brought together local governments in Anchorage. She was a part of the movement for a statewide university system, starting with the transition of the Anchorage Community College into the University of Alaska Anchorage in the early 1970s.

Arliss Sturgulewski and Glenn Hackney have a discussion in the Alaska Senate chambers, date unknown.
Arliss Sturgulewski and Glenn Hackney have a discussion in the Alaska Senate chambers, date unknown. (Arliss Sturgulewski papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage)

"I've been both a neighbor to this campus and also a supporter of the whole University of Alaska System," said the former Alaska state senator in a past interview. "I think UAA has a great role to play in bringing this state together and training the people we need to take part in the jobs that are here."

Today, Arliss’ trailblazing record of civic and women's equality achievements, including twice-winning Alaska Republican primaries for governor in 1986 and 1990, are documented in the UAA/APU Consortium Library archives, which holds the Arliss Sturgulewski papers.

For decades, Arliss directed her strategic community advising and philanthropy to UAA and civic organizations across Anchorage, including gifts of art to the university by Alaskan artist Fred Machetanz. She was named Director Emeritus of the University of Alaska Foundation after years of leadership on the Board and also served on the Community Advisory Board for the School of Nursing. In 1999, she established the Sturgulewski Family Scholarship Endowment at UAA to empower future generations of journalists, engineers, teachers and nurses.

Arliss Sturgulewski in the Spenard Community Recreation Center while under construction, 1984.
Arliss Sturgulewski in the Spenard Community Recreation Center while under construction, 1984. (Arliss Sturgulewski papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage)
Arliss Sturgulewski congratulates an athlete in the Special Olympics Alaska, 1990
Arliss Sturgulewski congratulates an athlete in the Special Olympics Alaska, 1990. (Arliss Sturgulewski papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage)

Reflections on Arliss Sturgulewski by UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell

A great personal friend and supporter of UAA and Alaska passed away Thursday. Arliss Sturgulewski was my state senator when I was a teenager and lived in Midtown Anchorage. She was one of the best legislators at constituent relations that I ever saw in the Capitol and was deeply connected to her community.

I remember her taking nightly walks through the neighborhood with her “Arliss Sturgulewski” T-shirt, and always stopping to talk with neighbors. She had an amazing ability to connect with the people she represented and was known for her moderate and bipartisan approach.

Arliss’ legacy in Alaska and at UAA assists and inspires future generations to pursue their dreams. Thanks for your service, Arliss. You will be missed. My condolences and the condolences of the entire UAA community go out to Arliss' family and friends.

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