Dr. Alan Boraas leads a tour of Kalifornsky Village, a former Native settlement, in April 2014. Boraas was a professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, an honorary member of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and the driving force behind the creation, maintenance and expansion of the Tsalteshi Ski Trails. (Photo courtesy of Jenny Neyman)

Dr. Alan Boraas leads a tour of Kalifornsky Village, a former Native settlement, in April 2014. Boraas was a professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, an honorary member of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and the driving force behind the creation, maintenance and expansion of the Tsalteshi Ski Trails. (Photo courtesy of Jenny Neyman)

Voices of the Peninsula: Remembering a man who challenged and inspired us

From Alan, there was always something new to learn.

Nearly 43 years ago, I was 18 years old, probably a bit too big for my britches, and almost devoid of any sense of personal direction. With no winter job to make me a productive member of society, and practically no idea what to do with the rest of my life, I found myself, in January 1977, taking classes at Kenai Peninsula Community College, where I met Alan Boraas, who was then in only his fourth year as a full-time instructor and who would challenge me intellectually and inspire me personally for the next four decades.

I had no idea then how often our paths would cross, but I have been blessed by all those aggregate moments.

The college class — the first of several I would take with Alan over the years — was Introduction to Geology. My clearest memory from that semester was a weekend field trip up the highway and into the mountains, where we students regularly disembarked from our vehicles to hear Alan use the topography to illustrate the story written by time and geology on our landscape. The experience was eye-opening. I had lived my entire life on the Kenai Peninsula without truly seeing what was right in front of me.

Alan had a knack of doing this — challenging me to look deeper, getting me to see beyond my own perspective. Alan was persistent, and his message was consistent.

In the 1980s, when I was in charge of the Clarion’s feature magazine called “The Tides,” Alan became a regular contributor. I became his editor. His treatments on anthropology, history and Native culture needed little editing, but I mention this because I became a regular reader of Alan’s ideas. When he became a columnist for the Anchorage Daily News and other publications, I continued to read him, awash in his ideas and, when he chose to be political, in his challenges to his readers.

Our paths crossed often — on Tsalteshi Trails, in the KPC anthropology lab, in the classroom, at Kaladi Brothers. We talked history, culture, education, outdoor recreation, morality, even politics. From Alan, there was always something new to learn.

I’m going to miss that — the encyclopedic memory, the wealth of experience and insight, even the challenges. And I’m going to miss his understated humor — and that sidelong glance of his as he checked to see whether I got the joke.

Alan was fiercely proud of his children, justifiably proud of his accomplishments, and so in love with the northcountry, with the glide of his skis over snow, and with the inherent beauty of life. I can almost hear him now telling me to keep my eyes and my ears open, to have compassion for those who deserve it, and to fight the good fight against those who do not.

I’ll try, Alan. Not all of us are as brave as you.

— Clark Fair


• By Clark Fair


More in Opinion

teez
Opinion: Refuge oil leases are a dose of harsh reality

To have the state step in the role of the private sector is clearly a move of desperation.

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, addresses reporters during a Wendesday, March 25, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Office of the Governor)
Opinion: Protecting Alaskans — the race to vaccinate

Given the limited national supply, Alaska, like all states, has had to decide who gets vaccine first.

Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka (courtesy)
Opinion: Better government or bigger government? It’s your decision

Despite all the challenges and tragedies that COVID-19 brought to our state, it also brought us opportunity for improvement.

teeze
Opinion: The truth of what America has become

No, we aren’t better. This is what we’ve become.

A vial of the Pfizer vaccine used at The Reservoir nursing facility, is shown, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in West Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo / Stephen Dunn,Pool)
Opinion: We can be grateful that state vaccine plan prioritizes seniors

Alaska’s plan departs from federal guidance in several respects.

Peter Zuyus
Point of View: Alaska seniors and disabled suffer under Department of Administration change

Closure of Homer, other DMV offices will hurt seniors and disabled.

Teaser
Opinion: Let’s keep the pot from boiling over

We need to put our differences aside, and work together.

Kate Troll (Courtesy Photo / Kate Troll)
Opinion: I appreciate Murkowski’s climate and energy leadership

The real sleeper is the relief and hope this bill offers for a rapidly warming Earth.

Caribou graze on the greening tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska in June 2001. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)
Alaska Voices: Alaska Friends stand against ANWR development

‘Let Love be the first motion.” — John Woolman, early Quaker “It… Continue reading

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Governor’s DHSS plan offers chance for API improvement

We can have a higher standard for psychiatric patient care.