The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Management has named the president of Usibelli Coal Mine as the 2020 Business Leader of the Year.

Joe Usibelli Jr. received 30 letters of support as a candidate for the award, which is “pretty much a record” according to Tammy Tragis-McCook, School of Management director of development and outreach. His win follows that of his father, Joe Usibelli Sr., who was the second ever recipient of the award in 1978. Usibelli Jr. could not immediately be reached for comment.

Candidates for Business Leader of the Year can be nominated by anybody.

“There’re open nominations all year round but we start to communicate that and market that more in October, September,” Tragis-McCook said.

Once candidates are nominated, they go on to receive letters of support and then the selection process is opened up to students, faculty members, past business leaders of the year and advisory board members. Around three finalists move forward from the larger pool of candidates.

Four categories define the selection according to Tragis-McCook: business acumen, leadership, community engagement and education.

“If you get to those three any one of those people would be an excellent Business Leader of the Year,” she said. “I think people just saw his education really stood out, and it’s not just to the university.”

Usibelli had some really good points in education from supporting schools in Healy and the museum to being a volunteer for junior achievement, according to Tragis-McCook, so in the education category he pulled ahead.

Usibelli graduated from UAF in 1981 with a degree in civil engineering and a minor in business. During his time at the university he was Vice President of Associated Students of Business and, in the 1980s, helped organize the same event tahat will honor him this year. He became president of Usibelli Coal Mine in 1987.

“Joe’s leadership and business acumen have produced tremendous benefits for our region and our state,” said Marisa Sharrah, president and CEO of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, in a university press release. “Development and growth of the Usibelli Coal Mine means numerous jobs for Alaskans. Those Alaskans, in turn, carry out Joe’s vision of a profitable and successful business that prioritizes workplace safety, environmental stewardship and community connections.”

The Usibellis continue a tradition of father and son reward recipients. In 2018, Cliff and Robert Everts were both awarded Business Leader of the Year. Paul and Dan Gavora received the award in 1977 and 2012 respectively.

Tickets for the 44th Business Leader of the Year dinner and award ceremony are now on sale at The ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. April 18, in the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel’s Gold Room. Tickets cost $125 per person or $1,200 for a table of 10. Sponsoring a student ticket costs $100 per person.

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: