UA Journey

History of the Presidents' Residence Part 2

"One of the finest homes in Alaska and probably the most photographed"

The second president's house was built in 1954. At the time, it was described on postcards as "one of the finest homes in Alaska and probably the most photographed."

The construction of the house was part of a deal Ernest Patty made when he accepted the job as third president of the University of Alaska. The UA Board of Regents asked for and received financial support for the home from the legislature and included extra money in the university budget to build the house, and also increased the president's salary from $13,500 to $16,000 when Patty took office. The university engineer was instructed to get the building started according to Patty's desires. It is suggested that the home built for Patty was identical to a new home that was being completed by the Pattys in Seattle. The Pattys moved into the house in March 1954, to leave upon retirement in the summer of 1960.

Dr. William Wood, selected as UA's fourth president, lived in the house from 1960 until his retirement in 1973. Dr. Wood and his wife retired to a home five miles away in downtown Fairbanks.

Rotating Presidents

UAF History Professor Terrence Cole, in his history of the university, wrote, "Even during the tumultuous days of the 1970s when a moving van parked permanently outside the president's house, most UAF students were hardly concerned about the turnover at the top."

Dr. Robert W. and Elizabeth Hiatt was selected to replace Wood as the fifth president. The Hiatts lived in the house until his resignation. In 1975, Hiatt began the initial steps toward reorganizing and decentralizing the university into what is now evolved into three separately accredited universities: University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Anchorage, and University of Alaska Southeast. This new organizational structure is governed by a single board of regents and supervised in Fairbanks by an administrative unit under the president, University of Alaska Statewide.

In this structural configuration, the UA system president was living on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus which was now governed by its own chancellor (in 1975 Howard Cutler was appointed chancellor of the Fairbanks campus), who was now in need of a campus residence. Hiatt resigned in 1977. Juneau's Chancellor Charles Ferguson became UA's fifth president on an interim basis February-August, 1977. Dr. Neil Humphrey was then selected as the seventh UA president. He both accepted and resigned the position in the fall of 1977. He lived in the house with his wife Mary. In early 1978, The Board of Regents' executive secretary, Foster Diebold was appointed the eighth president of the UA system on a sixteen-month contract. Foster and Patty Diebold lived in the house from February 1978-July 1979.

Solid Ground

In the summer of 1979, Dr. Jay Barton became the ninth president of the system. Jay and Ann Barton stayed in the home during his five-year tenure, he provided some much needed stability to the UA system. Barton resigned in 1984.

From 1984 to 1990, Dr. Donald O'Dowd held the position of the tenth president. Donald and Mary O'Dowd were instrumental in getting the Statewide System Offices and staff moved from the centrally located University of Alaska Fairbanks campus to the John Butrovich Building, their own Statewide Administrative Building on the West Ridge area of the Fairbanks campus. Prior to his leaving he began the process of putting in place a new residence for the president—one that was removed from the UAF campus.

After 40 years of presidential occupation, the house now became the official residence of the UAF chancellor. Dr. Jerome Komisar, newly named president of the UA System in 1990, moved into the residence on the UAF campus. The new president's home, just north of the Fairbanks campus on Yankovich Road, was finished in the spring of 1994 for the Komisars.
 


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