UAA announces largest estate gift in university history
The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) announced Wednesday it received the largest estate gift in the university’s history from the late Caroline “Carrie” E.B. Lewis. A longtime university supporter, Lewis passed away on Nov. 10, 2020, at age 90. Her gift, valued at approximately $15 million, will support two endowments that build educational opportunities for first-generation college students and foster student success initiatives at UAA.
"I am grateful to Ms. Lewis for her devotion to higher education in Alaska,” said Roberta “Bobi” Rinehart, UAA associate vice chancellor for development. “She wanted to help more Alaskans pursue their academic dreams in their home state, and that's what her gift will do. We are humbled to have the opportunity to carry her vision forward."
Lewis visited Alaska in 1961 and returned in 1962 to make it her home. Her love of the Last Frontier inspired a philanthropic passion for supporting programs and educational initiatives focused on building Alaskans’ prosperity and resilience. She had a special interest in health care and learning. Lewis focused on investing in Alaska residents who planned to remain in the state, envisioning her gifts would help students finish their degree programs, secure employment in state and contribute meaningfully to their communities.
A committed donor to UAA since 2000, Lewis established UAA’s First-Generation Student Scholarship fund. In 2012, Lewis made significant gifts to endow this fund in perpetuity, while also establishing the Alaska Endowment for Excellence to support the chancellor's priorities. Since its inception, the Alaska Endowment for Excellence fund has supported the Recruitment and Retention of Alaska Natives into Nursing Program and most recently the Alpine Skiing team at UAA. Both of these programs represent areas that were personally meaningful to Lewis given her love for Alaska, interest in health care and passion for Alpine skiing.
During her lifetime, Lewis’ investments in UAA were anonymous. She specified that long-term use of the Alaska Endowment for Excellence should remain flexible in order to ensure the transformational gift continues to serve the highest priority needs of the university. UAA’s immediate plans for the endowed funds include supporting initiatives that increase access to higher education for first-generation students and advance student success at UAA.
Short-term plans include strengthening existing student resources such as the Peer-to-Peer Learning program and the Learning Commons while also investing in new tools such as an Open Educational Resources (OER) incentive program, which would encourage the use of lower-cost educational materials and textbooks. After the first few years, the university will evaluate the success of these initiatives and weigh institutional priorities in order to make decisions about the use of the endowment moving forward.
“We are deeply honored to receive an endowment of this magnitude from Ms. Lewis, an avid supporter of the university,” said Bruce Schultz, UAA interim chancellor. “This gift will allow us to continue funding programs that further student success at UAA and ultimately fulfill Ms. Lewis’ aspiration to advance educational attainment in Alaska.”