Celebrating UAA 2023 Meritorious and Honorary Degree Recipients

by Green & Gold News  |   

Chancellor Parnell speaking at the Honorary Degree ceremony
UAA Chancellor Parnell makes opening remarks at the 2023 Meritorious Service Award and Honorary Degree ceremony. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

On Wednesday, Dec. 13, 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

Duke Russell

For as long as Duke Russell could remember, creating art has been serious business. The lifelong Alaskan famous for his "street-level" art style captures the essence of modern-day life in Anchorage and has delighted all who've witnessed his colorful depictions of our northern city.

Russell's work has been exhibited in the Anchorage Museum, galleries throughout the city and the state, and trendy locals like the Spenard Roadhouse. His iconic "Spenardian" painting characterizes one of the city's most famous — or what some would call infamous —  neighborhoods.

In addition to his artwork, Russell has immersed himself in Anchorage's local art scene. He strongly believes in art education and providing the city's youth opportunities to experience the joy of creating art. Russell has offered drawing and painting courses where he encourages his young students to nurture their talents, and he is dedicated to fostering Alaska's next generation of creatives and artists.

While Russell is well-known throughout the state for his art, his humanitarian work advocating for the city's vulnerable, unhoused population has recently inspired others to join his efforts. From assembling volunteers to coordinate access to essential care and services, food and shelter to providing daily soup kitchens at Anchorage's Centennial Park and volunteering to pass out meals at the Sullivan Arena, Russell is committed to making a difference and serving his community.

In 2022, Russell's art and activism were recognized by the Rasmuson Foundation, which awarded him the prestigious President's Award. Russell's work as an artist and civic engagement continues to inspire those in Anchorage and across the state.

Meritorious Service Award

Jan Ingram

An Iowa farm-raised elementary school teacher, Jan Ingram has led a remarkable life filled with adventure and advocacy. In 1959, Ingram and her husband embarked on an Alaska adventure, teaching in the remote village of Kwigillingok. This experience ignited her passion for education and helping to support the preservation of cultural identity in Alaska.

Ingram worked for the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs during the 1960s, taking on extraordinary tasks in various villages. She created "The Story Knife," the first Native arts instructional TV program in Alaska, bringing Alaska Native legends to life through her drawings.

Driven by her thirst for knowledge, Ingram earned advanced degrees and became a strong advocate for Alaska Native education. She played a pivotal role in establishing two-year degree programs for Yupik students in 53 villages.

But Ingram’s dedication extended beyond education and the arts. She served as dean at Alaska Pacific University, led the Anchorage Opera, owned a radio station, contributed to Alaska Press Women and supported scholarship fundraisers.

Ingram’s life is a testament to the power of education, advocacy and pursuing one's passions. Her legacy lives on through her contributions to the state of Alaska and will continue for generations to come.

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