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Click through to learn about the people behind the names of Anchorage schools.



1. Which school was named for a Yup'ik culture bearer who advocated for the preservation of traditional dance and oral histories? Answer »


2. Which school was named for a pediatric physician and medical director of the Alaska Crippled Children's Treatment Center? Answer »


3. Which school was named for an Aleut student from Chignik who designed the Alaska flag in 1926 when he was 13 years old? Answer »


4. Which school was named for a leader of Anchorage's African-American community, former state legislator and civil rights advocate? Answer »


5. Which school was named for a pioneer teacher and Anchorage's first principal? Answer »


6. Which school was named for the naturalist on Vitus Bering's 1741 voyage to Alaska? Answer »


7. Which school was named for the writer who penned exciting poems of colorful Gold Rush characters? Answer »


8. Which school was named for a chief surgeon who practiced medicine in rural communities and served as mayor of Anchorage? Answer »


9. Which school was named for the woman who arrived in Anchorage when it was a tent city and organized its first school? Answer »


10. Which school is named for a former guidance counselor, Superintendent of Schools at Fort Richardson and eight-year Alaska State Senator?  Answer »



This information was originally published by Mike Doogan of the Anchorage Daily News on Dec. 28, 2001.

William Tyson Elementary

Named for Rev. William Tyson


William Tyson (1916 - 1993) was born in Akulurak, a small Yupik village near Sheldon's Point, located across Norton Sound from Nome. In 1977, he was ordained a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. As a deacon, he conducted church services at the Alaska Native Medical Center, as well as various correctional facilities. He was a strong advocate for Alaska Native peoples across the state, and fought for the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Tyson also worked as a teacher and postmaster, but his first love was keeping Yup'ik traditions alive through dance, oral histories, and art. He and his wife founded the Greatland Traditional Dancers in 1983 after learning that no such dance group existed for urban students in Anchorage. In 1988, Tyson was named the "Elitnaurvik Within East Chief" for his involvement with and advocacy for students at East High School. Among many other achievements, he was also named Elder of the Year by the Alaska Federation of Natives, and Parent of the Year by the Alaska Native Education Council. A scholarship was named after him by the Johnson O'Mally Program.


Whaley School

Named for Dr. Helen Stoddard Whaley


Dr. Helen Stoddard Whaley (1924–1971) was the first female pediatrician in Alaska, and a pioneer in championing medical and educational resources for all Alaska children, especially those with physical and developmental disabilities. Known as a brilliant clinician, she was tireless in the treatment and support of those whom she affectionately referred to as “her kids”. Dr. Whaley co-founded the Anchorage Pediatric Group, founded the Alaska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, founded the Child Study Center in Anchorage, which provided diagnostic services for brain injured and handicapped children, and also provided pediatric consultation services to the Alaska Native Hospital. Dr. Whaley has been described as “brilliant”, “formidable”, and “deeply caring”, and her energy and vision and energy added a new dimension to pediatric care in Alaska.

Benson Secondary

Named for John Ben "Benny" Benson, Jr.


Benny Benson (1913 - 1972) was born in Chignik, a small village on the south shore of the Alaska Peninsula. His father was a Swedish fisherman and his mother was an Aleut-Russian. During Benson's childhood, Alaska Native villages were hit with waves of devastating epidemics, and at the age of 3, Benson lost his mother to pneumonia and his house to a fire. This series of events caused Benny and his younger brother to be sent to an orphanage in Unalaska. In 1927, Benson won a contest open to all Alaska children grades 7-12 to design a flag for what would later become the State of Alaska. Benson was then a seventh-grade student at the territorial school at Seward. His design of eight stars to represent the Big Dipper, placed on a blue background to represent the sky, and the forget-me-not flower, was selected the unanimous winner by the panel of judges. By May of 1927, the flag design was unanimously adopted by the two houses of the territorial legislature. On his design submission, Benny had also written some words of explanation: “The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaska flower. The North Star is for the future of the state of Alaska, the most northerly in the Union. The dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strength.”


Bowman Elementary

Named for Willard L. Bowman


Willard Bowman (1919 - 1975) came to Anchorage 1950, after serving in the U.S. Navy between 1938 and 1945. He began working as a laborer and was an active union member, later becoming a labor management consultant. He remained an active member of the NAACP in Anchorage, and in 1963 was appointed the first Director of the Alaska Human Rights Commission by Governor Egan. He served in that capacity until 1970, when he ran for the State House of Representatives. He was elected to the House in three consecutive elections (1970, 1972, and 1974). A member of the Democratic Party, he maintained a consistently liberal and humanitarian record. Representative Bowman was one of the first Black Americans elected to the Alaska Legislature.


Clark Middle School

Named for Orah Dee Clark


Orah Dee Clark (1875 - 1965) first moved to Alaska and began teaching in 1906. She was named the first principal and first superintendent of Anchorage schools in 1915, and later co-founded several schools along the Alaska Railroad. She taught in many villages throughout Alaska before her retirement, including Kodiak, Tanana, and Moose Pass, and advocated for desegregated schools where Alaska Native and white students could learn together. In the late 1950's, when Anchorage's first junior high school was envisioned, the decision was made to name the school after Clark. She visited Clark students often in the school's early years, and students enjoyed talking with her between classes and after school.


Steller Secondary

Named for Georg Wilhelm Steller


Georg Wilhelm Steller (1709 - 1746) was a German-born zoologist and botanist who served as naturalist aboard the ship St. Peter during the years 1741–42, as part of the Great Northern Expedition which aimed to map a northern sea route from Russia to North America. During the expedition, Steller sighted a number of animals not previously known to science. He recorded his observations of the wildlife on and around the islands in The Beasts of the Sea (De Bestiis Marinis), which was published in 1751. In his work, Steller recounted his observations of sea lions, sea otters, and northern fur seals. In addition to the sea cow and Steller’s jay, many of the other animals that Steller collected or described were later named for him. Included in this list are the mollusk Cryptochiton stelleri, Steller’s eider (Polysticta stelleri), Steller’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus), and Steller’s sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus).


Service High School

Named for Robert Service


Robert Service (1874 – 1958) sailed to western Canada in 1894 to become a cowboy in the Yukon Wilderness, inspired by the writings of Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson. He worked on a ranch and as a bank teller in Vancouver Island six years after the Gold Rush, gleaning material that would inform his poetry for years to come and earn him his reputation as “Bard of the Yukon". He traveled widely throughout his life—to Hollywood, Cuba, Alberta, Paris, Louisiana, and elsewhere—and his travels continued to fuel his writing. A prolific writer and poet, Service published numerous collections of poetry during his lifetime, including Songs of a Sourdough, or Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses (1907), which went into ten printings its first year, Ballad of a Cheechako (1909) and Ballads of a Bohemian (1921), as well as two autobiographies and six novels. Several of his novels were made into films, and he also appeared as an actor in The Spoilers, a 1942 film with Marlene Dietrich.


Romig Middle School

Named for Joseph Herman Romig


Joseph Herman Romig (1872–1951) was a frontier physician and Moravian Church missionary who served as Mayor of Anchorage from 1937 to 1938. The Moravian Church sponsored his medical training at the Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia, in exchange for a pledge to serve for seven years as a doctor at a mission. In 1896, Joseph moved to Bethel to join his older sisterher husband as missionaries to the Yup'ik people. For a time, Romig was one of the only physicians in Alaska. He became known as the "dog team doctor" because he traveled by dog sled throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in the course of his work. In the 1920s, he was chief surgeon at the St. Joseph's Hospital in Fairbanks before setting up a hospital in Nenana for the Alaska Railroad. In 1930, he was asked to head the Alaska Railroad Hospital in Anchorage. Romig was elected Mayor of Anchorage in 1937, serving a single term.


Mears Middle School

Named for Jane Mears


Jane Mears in 1915 organized the Anchorage Women's Club specifically to raise funds for a new school in Anchorage. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson approved the route of the Alaska Railroad and named Ship Creek Landing (current site of Anchorage) as a construction base. Almost overnight more than 2000 workers traveled to Alaska in search of work on the new federal project. A town quickly formed on the banks of Ship Creek and was, for a time, called “Tent City.” As many of these workers came to Alaska bringing families, it was soon evident that there was a desperate need for a school. It is said that when Jane Mears approached her husband, Lt. Col. Fredrick Mears of the Alaska Engineering Commission, and asked him to build a school, his reply was, “I’m busy building a railroad; if you want a school you’ll have to build it yourself.” And that’s just what she did. On September 16, 1915, she and other women of the town organized The Anchorage Woman’s Club, now a part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs established in 1890. Their primary goal in forming the club was to build a school. With left over material from the railroad, the women spearheaded the project and organized the construction of the first schoolhouse in Anchorage. For this and other civic leadership, Jane Mears Middle School was named in her honor.


Begich Middle School

Named for Nicholas Joseph "Nick" Begich, Sr.


Nick Begich (1932-1972) worked as a school guidance counselor in Anchorage, and was later named Director of Student Personnel for the Anchorage School District before becoming Superintendent of Schools at Fort Richardson. In 1962, he was elected to the Alaska Senate, where he served for eight years. Begich also taught political science during this period at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. He disappeared in a plane crash in Alaska in 1972. His son Mark Begich served as a U.S. Senator from Alaska from 2009-2015.


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