- Associated Press - Friday, May 5, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - University of Alaska celebrated its centennial Wednesday with optimism for the future, despite budget cuts that mimic its financial past.

University President Jim Johnsen called upon the people gathered to fight for the school’s legacy, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://bit.ly/2pd8y7e ).

“Although we’re celebrating today our 100-year anniversary, a successful next century will depend on many voices - yours, and many others across the state joining in the demand that our university stay strong for generations to come,” Johnsen said.

The first students arrived in 1922, five years after the university received $60,000 to begin construction.

The university then faced financial trouble in 1947, when alumni and other businesses had to loan $200,000 to complete the academic year.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, but with the support of Alaskans, they’ve mostly been ups,” Johnsen said.

Currently, the university is staring down the potential for massive budget cuts piled on top of consecutive years of cuts handed down by the state amid its financial crisis.

The cuts often have brought university officials in front of the Legislature to justify the funding.

History professor Terrence Cole said the fight for funding is important, but people cannot forget what makes the university system so great. He described it as a place for discovery and some of the most valuable real estate in Alaska.

“More valuable than Prudhoe Bay, not just because of the material wealth that comes out of here, but the spiritual, emotional and essence of lives for so many thousands and thousands of people, both students, faculty and administrators here,” Cole said.

“One thing that we do here is try to find out who we are,” he said. “That’s the whole essence of a university education, I think.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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