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

William Marley’s proposal for a bayfront park on the Sterling Highway. (Illustration provided)
Point of View: Some alternatives for a community center

Entering the City of Homer from Bluff Point has to be one of the most pristine view experiences of geography and nature, ever.

Alan Parks is a Homer resident and commercial fisher. (Courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: HB 52 would hurt commercial fishing and community

Upper Cook Inlet fishing families have been hit hard by ongoing politics

WH
Opinion: The buck stops at the top

Shared mistakes of Dunleavy and Biden.

A sign welcomes people to Kenai United Methodist Church on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
It’s time for a federal law against LGBTQ discrimination

When my wife and I decided to move to Alaska, we wondered if we would be welcome in our new neighborhood.

Terri Spigelmyer. (Photo provided)
Pay It Forward: Instilling volunteerism in the next generation

We hope to have instilled in our children empathy, cultural awareness, long-term planning and the selflessness of helping others

Hal Shepherd in an undated photo taken near Homer, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Hal Shepherd.)
Point of View: Election integrity or right-wing power grab?

Dr. King would be appalled at what is happening today

Nancy HIllstrand. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Trail Lakes is the sockeye salmon hero, not Tutka Bay

Tutka hatchery produces a pink salmon monoculture desecrating Kachemak Bay State Park and Critical Habitat Area as a feed lot

A map of Kachemak Bay State Park shows proposed land additions A, B and C in House Bill 52 and the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery. (Map courtesy of Alaska State Parks)
Opinion: Rep. Vance’s bill is anti-fishermen

House Bill 52 burdens 98.5% of Cook Inlet fishermen.

A sign designates a vote center during the recent municipal election. The center offered a spot for voters to drop off ballots or fill a ballot out in person. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The failure of mail-in voting

The argument that mail-in balloting increases voter participation never impressed me

Most Read