Celebrating UAA's fall 2022 Meritorious and Honorary Degree recipients

by Green & Gold News  |   

UAA celebrated the fall 2022 Honorary Degree and Meritorious Service Award recipients in a ceremony, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022.
From lef to right: Journalist Rhonda McBride and activist Cal Williams, both recipients of the Honorary Degree, and community leader Barbara Brown, who was honored with the Meritorious Service Award, in a special ceremony held at UAA on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

On Wednesday, Dec. 14, the University of Alaska Anchorage honored individuals with the Meritorious Service Award and Honorary Degree during a special ceremony in advance of fall commencement.

Honorary Degree

Rhonda McBride

Since 1998, Rhonda McBride has been a familiar face in Alaska journalism. Beginning her career in Bethel, working for the local public radio and television station KYUK, McBride has spent her career covering rural Alaska and giving a voice to diverse communities across our state.

McBride became a household name in Alaska after moving to Anchorage’s KTUU, working as a reporter, anchor and producer. In 2013, she left KTUU for KTVA television as rural editor and special projects manager. She developed “Frontiers with Rhonda McBride,” a 30-minute weekly news program investigating the diverse perspectives and challenges of Alaska Natives in rural and urban Alaska. In 2018, she was honored with a National Federation of Press Women Award for Frontier’s segment titled “Bethel High School Shooting: 20 Years.” 

Throughout her career, McBride has been a fierce advocate for fair and balanced reporting when approaching complex news topics and reporting on generational trauma, dating violence and alcohol and drug abuse. Her attention to detail, dedication to research and sensitivity when covering some of the more troubling topics facing our state have helped educate Alaskans on rural and urban issues. Her in-depth reporting on emotional topics consistently provided a voice for those whose stories were not typically covered in the regular news cycle.

Currently, McBride resides in Juneau, returning to her small-town reporting roots and continues to tell Alaskans’ stories as the arts and culture producer for Alaska Public Media Network’s KTOO. She continues to focus on essential issues and dedicates herself to educating the public on meaningful news topics for all Alaskans.

Cal Williams 

No stranger to public service, Cal Williams was born into a patriotic family who helped with the war efforts during World War II. As a young man, Williams enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving his country in Vietnam and participated in the historic march on Washington in 1963. Since arriving in Alaska in 1965, Cal Williams has immersed himself in activism, serving as a voice for racial equality and championing policy change across our nation. 

Originally from Louisiana, Williams came to the Last Frontier for job opportunities, racial integration and the hope for a better life. Like much of his life in the Lower 48, Williams wove himself into the fabric of Anchorage and Alaska culture, washing dishes in a hospital by day and using his musical and theatrical abilities and devotion to civic activism by night to advance change in the community. 

While Williams has held many professional roles within the Anchorage and Alaska community, his civic activism, which spans decades, stands out. From his involvement in politics, working with various statewide democratic organizations, serving as president of the Alaska chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and in 2008, serving as an Alaska delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado to serving as the Filipino choir director at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and the Chappie James American Legion Post 34 chaplain in Anchorage, he has touched many people through his various community contributions and service.

In 2017, he received the St. Francis of Assisi Award from the Archdiocese of Anchorage. The Anchorage Municipal Assembly recognized him for his contributions and growth to the State of Alaska. 

Meritorious Service Award

Barbara Brown

Barbara Brown is a dynamo of community service, well known for her enthusiasm and effectiveness as well as her dedication to inclusion and diversity.

As director of community relations at the Anchorage Daily News, Brown worked to engage the newspaper in education, recycling and literacy projects. At the Municipality of Anchorage’s Department of Cultural and Recreational Services, she increased public awareness of outreach programs at the Anchorage Library, Anchorage Museum and the city’s numerous parks and recreation sites. And as administrative staff for UAA’s partner nonprofit Opportunities for Lifelong Education, she worked to extend both the course offerings and capacity to accommodate more learners. 

Through her role as director of the Alaska Humanities Forum’s Leadership Anchorage program, Brown expanded the project’s scope, taking it to other communities and adding group projects which would benefit the public, all while reaching out to minority communities to enrich diversity. She also expanded the reach of the Best Beginnings program as project director, encompassing a larger number of towns and villages while developing teaching materials for families to maximize use of the books provided by the project through the Imagination Library. 

For many years, Brown was the volunteer storytime lady in the Alaska Botanical Garden, a program she launched to encourage the joy of reading. She continues teaching English to immigrants and refugees as a volunteer for the Alaska Literacy Program.

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