UA Journey

History of the Presidents' Residence Part 3

May 2003 view of the president's residence off Yankovich Road. Photo by Public Affairs, Isabel Martinez

Part 3 Current President's Residence

The Politics
The concept of building a new home for the University of Alaska president has been under discussion ever since the university reorganized as a statewide system with one president administering the various campuses, each of which is under the leadership of a chancellor.

At an initial estimated total cost of over $600,000, the idea of building a new home for the president of the University of Alaska System in the '90s seemed ludicrous for many.

The state of Alaska was in a time of economic upheaval, cutting services, cutting programs and cutting funding—justification for every dollar spent was demanded. The university community was undergoing a detailed program to save revenue called "program assessment." Every dollar allocated, program offered, and position of employment was being scrutinized for need. The University of Alaska System was looking seriously at declaring "Financial Exigency." Because of these tough times, the idea of a new home for the president became a major controversy in the state—the need for the home was real but where was the money going to come from, and if the university had the money, why put it there?

Why Build a New Presidents' House?

The need for the home was raised and the process for getting it done was started by Dr. Donald O'Dowd as he was leaving the presidency. In 1989 O'Dowd asked the regents to consider solving the housing problem for the UAF chancellor by building a new house for the UA president, leaving the existing president's residence for the chancellor in the center of campus. His argument was that with the declining state revenues, there was mounting pressure for the president and chancellor to raise funds for academic programs. Both have responsibilities for raising money from the private sector, and they are expected to use their homes for entertaining prospective supporters. Although these two positions need homes for such purposes, there was only one house on campus that was adequate for hosting these important gatherings— the president's home. The president's home on campus was built in 1953 and since then the campus has grown and expanded. The UAF campus is now headed by a chancellor and the chancellor's house is very inadequate for the 5,000 visitors per year that attend functions at the chancellor's or president's home.

The Plan

In August of 1989 the Board of Regents approved a motion asking the UA Foundation to raise money for the new president's residence. By September the UA Foundation Trustees accepted the task of raising money or otherwise financing the lease, purchase or construction of the new residence. Coincidentally, some residents of Anchorage volunteered to solve the problem, if Fairbanks could not, by providing a home for the president in Anchorage with private funds. The problem with that solution for Fairbanks was that along with the president, 200 jobs and a $6 million plus annual payroll would have left Fairbanks for Anchorage.

Events that cause movement

In June of 1990 President O'Dowd retired and was replaced by President Komisar. As newly appointed president, the Komisars entered the picture at an economically difficult and awkward time. He and his wife, Natalie, were immediately immersed in a housing controversy that was not of their making. Yet, by understanding the politics surrounding the controversy —the Komisars stayed mostly on the fringe, patiently waiting for the home to be financed publicized and finished.

The spring of 1991 brought UAF Chancellor O'Rourke's retirement announcement. During the process of hiring a new Chancellor, finalists expressed concern about the lack of suitable housing facilities for a chancellor expected to raise $10 million as part of an ongoing "quiet phase" of UAF's Northern Momentum campaign. Because of this committees were established in an effort to help resolve the house shortage problem.

In June of 1991 Chancellor Joan Wadlow assumed the chancellorship of UAF. Through the rest of the year many housing alternatives were investigated. No suitable homes within convenient distance of campus were found for sale or lease. Finally in September, members of the Fairbanks community headed by Jim Dodson offered to raise money for construction of a home on a piece of land located near the university on Yankovich Road, donated by Grace Schaible.

This strategy of having the home built entirely with donations from private individuals and companies, primarily from the Fairbanks area was done in order to counter the criticisms being voiced about whether this was a wise time to invest these amounts of dollars on a new home. This momentum got the project moving. In September architect C.B. Bettisworth was hired to do initial plans and by the first of the New Year, plans were in place to begin doing fundraising for the project. After a year of site and feasibility planning, it was determined that the total housing effort would cost $1,012,141. This was a professional estimate by Clark and Graves. The plan was reconsidered and simplified by a committee including C.B. Bettisworth to reduce the total construction costs to $700,990. By February 1993 material lists were compiled and sent to all Alaska vendors with requests for donations. After receiving a good initial response and positive reports on additional fundraising needed, the UA Foundation approved the construction of the house to commence. By April of 1993, construction was under way. Upon final completion of the project, total construction costs of the residence were estimated at $1,250,000.

The Home
This home needed to be more than a private residence. One third of the home was designed to accommodate public fund raising events, community gatherings and workshops. Not including the garage and basement the public space was 2,128 square feet and the private space is 2,215 square feet. The residence was also designed to be the most energy efficient home ever built in the state, showcasing many of the products and techniques researched and developed at the university and throughout the community. It was built strictly in accordance with the Alaska Craftsman Home Program guidelines and rigorous performance standards of the 6.02 version of the HOT2000.

The house faces about 15 degrees east of south with a panoramic view of the Alaska Range and the Tanana Valley. The new home was designed to serve as a model home demonstrating the very best energy efficient construction, and displaying some of Alaska's finest products. The president's home encompasses the most energy efficient building systems for the foundation, structural design, plumbing, heating, ventilating and electrical systems. The structural design includes radiant slab floor heating, double wall construction and the most energy efficient windows on the market. The plumbing system utilizes heat from multiple sources, including solar. Composting toilets are incorporated into the design. The heating and ventilating design includes air-to-air heat recovery, and the most energy efficient appliances and lighting sources available.

The house utilizes a digital control system that oversees and controls the environment in the house, both the private and public areas. This system generates periodic reports monitoring the level of energy efficiency in the home.

In August of 1998, Mark and Patty Hamilton became the new residents of the new home.

In June of 2010, Patrick and Ailese Gamble became the new residents.
 


Part 2                                                                                                                                                       Part 1

Back to Top