In the beginning...
In 1915 Alaska was still a territory and a territorial government that was only three years old. The Klondike Gold Rush put Alaska on the map, but gold fever had waned by this point in time. Fairbanks, a mining camp in decline, was a lousy location due to a sparse population.
After James Wickersham's laying of the cornerstone of the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines on July 4, 1915, it took two years before the legislature would meet again. Andrew Nerland, a senator for the Fourth Judicial District in which Fairbanks was located, introduced two bills.
On May 3, 1917, Alaska's appointed governor, J.F.A. Strong signed Senate Bill 14 and Senate Bill 15 that established the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines.
The first eight
In the fall of 1917, Governor Strong appointed the initial board of eight trustees and established the Board of Trustees. Five of the trustees were from Fairbanks. The five Fairbanks appointees were Harriet Hess, Anton J. Nordale, Henry Bradley Parkin, Albert R. Heilig, and Richard C. Wood. Others were Philip Ernst of Nome, Leo Francis Shaw of Anchroage, and Louis Scott Keller of Skagway.
The first meeting of the Board of Trustees was on August 15, 1917 in the office of Albert Heilig. Mr. Heilig was appointed Chairman of the Board and Mrs. Hess was appointed Secretary of the Board. At the first meeting Heilig had doubts that this Board could legally act until the appointed members were confirmed by the Legislature. Confirmation came at the next meeting of the Legislature.
Trustees to Regents
On March 12, 1935 Governor John W. Troy signed the bill which changed the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines to the University of Alaska.
House Bill 97, which became Chapter 49 of the Session Laws of Alaska, 1935, provided provisions for the university including a Board of Regents to replace the Board of Trustees of the College, and defined the duties and powers of the Regents and the President of the University.
Eight became eleven
In 1974 the Board of Regents appointed Ronald W. Wendte, the first Student Regent.
As of January 2011, the Board of Regents has had 145 members. The Board has had bankers, politicians and lawyers, but the Board has had schoolteachers, fishermen and miners.
The Board of Regents continues to grow and adapt to an ever changing environment, but the purpose has always stayed the same. Develop and advance the University of Alaska.