Celebrating UAA's spring 2023 Meritorious and Honorary Degree recipients
by Green & Gold News |
On Wednesday, May 3, the University of Alaska Anchorage honored individuals with Meritorious Service, Honorary Degree and Emeritus awards during a special ceremony in the Fine Arts Building recital hall ahead of spring commencement.
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
In his final year of instruction, Don Decker, who had served as an adjunct art instructor in UAA’s Department of Art, was awarded a 2016 Distinguished Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation. It came as an unexpected but welcome surprise after a 45-year career with the Anchorage School District and UAA came to a close.
Decker, who has long participated in Alaska’s art scene, credits much of his success as an artist and an educator to his teachers, who inspired his life’s work. He began his artistic career as an abstract painter, followed by large-scale wood constructions. He’s dabbled in many forms of art, from performance art, video, drawing and painting and assemblage. At UAA, he taught 2D design classes, focusing on teaching his students how to master the foundations of drawing and art.
Decker has been honored for his ability to teach the fundamentals of art to students in Anchorage and across the state and has received awards from the Anchorage Teacher Association, as Anchorage Teacher of the Year in 1987, been recognized by Anchorage’s mayor and Municipal Assembly for his “devotion to Anchorage in support of art and artists” in 2004, and received an Anchorage Mayor’s Arts Award in 2006 for Excellence in Artistic Discipline.
For Decker, art has been a lifelong passion and journey full of ups and downs. In 2013 he hosted a one-man performance art piece titled 50/50 at the Anchorage International Gallery of Art, showcasing the dueling roles of his life as an artist. His artistic career includes 35 solo shows and 250 exhibits in Alaska and the Lower 48. Decker’s work can be found across Alaska and most notably at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Museum of the North, State Museum, Alaska Contemporary Art Bank, State of Hawaii Collection, Del Mar College National Collection and Alaska One Percent for Art.
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
Kikkan Randall is a five-time Olympic skier and activist for women’s health. Currently a member of the International Olympic Commission Athletes’ Commission (and former chair 2013-2015), Randall was the first American, male or female to win an FIS World Cup in Alpine Skiing. In December 2007 she became the first American woman to win a World Cup competition in cross-country skiing. She capped her athletic career with America’s first Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing, taking gold in the women’s team sprint freestyle cross-country race at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, China.
Just three months after winning gold, Randall was diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided to share her journey through treatment with the public, hoping to provide information and inspiration to other women. Through surgery, six rounds of chemotherapy and 33 sessions of radiation, Randall shared the ups and downs of treatment on social media, demonstrating optimism, resilience, and opportunities for recovery of an active life following serious illness.
Randall’s work now focuses on community involvement and encouraging young people and women to embrace a healthy lifestyle. She has partnered with Healthy Futures, a program geared toward inspiring and teaching Alaska’s kids to get active and make healthy decisions. Their mission is to “empower Alaska’s youth to build the habit of daily physical activity for a lifetime of wellness and to provide youth the opportunity to participate in recreational events.” She also works with Fast and Female, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of young women ages 9 to 19 through involvement in sports.
Randall has also joined forces with Protect Our Winters to fight climate change. This organization works to engage the global sports community in leading the movement against climate change.
Her volunteer efforts include fundraising for AKTIV Against Cancer, a nonprofit organization focused on ensuring that physical activity becomes an integral part of cancer treatment. Through her website It’s Going to be Okay, she markets motivational merchandise focused on cancer recovery. Part of the proceeds of each sale are donated to AKTIV Against Cancer.
Meritorious Service Award
Over the last two decades, the UAA Bookstore played host to over 900 public speaker events, book readings, and a podcast series, none of which would have been possible without the dedication and creativity of Rachel Epstein.
Epstein launched a series of public presentations at the Bookstore featuring the multidisciplinary work of faculty throughout the entire University of Alaska (UA) System, showcasing experts and topics sometimes not widely known or frequently discussed. In the following two decades, Epstein organized more than 900 presentations, often drawing large audiences resulting in lively question and answer periods.
In this work, Epstein performed a valuable service to the university and the community, broadening countless attendees’ horizons by providing them with the opportunity to learn more about the valuable, critical work being done by UA faculty across myriad topics.
As special events coordinator at the Bookstore, Epstein managed every aspect of these presentations on her own — scheduling, publicity and clerical work. She is a prime example of the many individuals working behind the scenes to support the university’s mission, demonstrating a concerted commitment to education, broadening peoples’ perspectives and enhancing the university experience.
(All photos by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)
The position of emeritus is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a full-time professor or staff member who has retired after a minimum of 10 years of faithful service to the University of Alaska. Congratulations to the 2023 honorees:
- James Muller, Professor Emeritus of Political Sciences
- Darren Prokop, Professor Emeritus of Logistics
- Jill Flanders Crosby, Professor Emerita of Dance
- Hiroko Harada, Professor Emerita of Japanese
- Janet Burton, Staff Emerita
- Jocelyn Krebs, Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences
- Margaret Mete, Professor Emerita of Nursing
- Brenda Henderson, Staff Emerita