OPINION: The legacy of Sen. Ted Stevens lives on at UAA

Last week, a historic gift was made to the University of Alaska Anchorage. I am glad to share it with you.

Catherine Stevens and the Ted Stevens Foundation have gifted the papers of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens to UAA. Our university is very excited to become the new home for this invaluable collection of Alaska history. We are dedicated to preserving and sharing Ted Stevens’ legacy with Alaskans through historic preservation, and creating new opportunities for scholarship and civic engagement. This wonderful gift from the Stevens family will affect future generations of Alaskans and transform the way we share our state’s history with the world.

The Ted Stevens Collection is truly an Alaska-sized archive. It contains more than 4,000 boxes of the senator’s memorabilia, with 8 million pages of records and thousands of photos and audio-visual pieces representing his more than 40 years of public service to Alaska. It is one of the largest documented congressional collections in history.

The collection spans a half-century of Alaska history — and tells the story of our state and its people. It encompasses Sen. Stevens’ career in the military, executive branch, and 40 years as U.S. senator for Alaska. The collection ranges from the early days of statehood to contemporary issues. It features Stevens’ work on landmark legislation, including Indigenous land claims, sustainable fisheries, telecommunications, education, energy, aviation, public health, national security and the Arctic.

Like many Alaskans, I had the honor of knowing and working with Sen. Stevens. His service to our state is truly remarkable and a legacy that all Alaskans should know and appreciate. When I think about what this collection means for our state, I think about how Ted’s life work can inspire and inform future generations of students and Alaska leaders. Much more than just boxed records, the Ted Stevens Collection is a window into policy decisions and leadership that helped build Alaska.

Many Alaskans have a Ted Stevens story that they share, and we can see the senator’s work across our state and communities. Alaskans remember Stevens’ work to ensure rural communities had a health clinic, a post office and safe water and sanitation. We think about his work in health care and helping create the Alaska Native Medical Center. We think about our roads and ports, military bases and the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Ted Stevens knew his job was to work in partnership for Alaskans. It’s a bipartisan legacy of doing what’s right for Alaska to address the issues facing our state.

As Stevens stated, “the future continues to present challenges. We all have … new technology coming on the scene daily, a new generation of Alaskans with new ideas, new skills and new hopes and aspirations. But with the obstacles we’ve overcome, we know we have the ability to meet those challenges.”


We see the Ted Stevens Collection as a catalyst for our university and all of Alaska. Making these records available to Alaskans will inform students, scholars, policymakers and citizens with insights to help solve problems facing our state. At UAA, we see a benefit for nearly every academic program at our university. UAA is dedicated to making Alaska’s history accessible for all. Working with the Ted Stevens Foundation, we are advancing pathways for civic engagement through the creation of an Alaska Leaders Archive.

The Alaska Leaders Archive will preserve and teach the legacy of leaders who have served our state. At UAA, Alaska’s leaders of tomorrow benefit from the legacy of Alaska’s past leaders. Facility renovations to the UAA/APU Consortium Library will create a modern archive to preserve and present the archival papers of Sen. Ted Stevens, as well as records of Indigenous leaders, elected officials and business and community leaders. This will be an addition to the more than 130 Alaska leaders currently represented in the library’s collections.

The Alaska Leaders Archive will tell the story of the leaders and events that have shaped our state — allowing Alaskans the chance to see, hear and engage with the history that created the state we know today. The Alaska Leaders Archive will be the leading center for public service education in our state, with multidisciplinary programming in public policy and leadership studies, as well as seminars and community events.

This is an exciting time for Alaska with so much possibility on the horizon. Now, more than ever, is a time to celebrate the legacy of past leaders with an eye toward the future. Here at UAA, we are honored to become the home for the Ted Stevens Collection. Along with Catherine Stevens and the Stevens family, we look forward to sharing this wonderful history with you on our campus in the near future.

Sean Parnell is the chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage. He previously served as Alaska’s governor from 2009-2014 and lieutenant governor from 2006-2009.

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