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Mining giant: Beistline helped build the state and university

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Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 11:58 pm | Updated: 4:15 pm, Fri Jan 25, 2013.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editorial

Earl Beistline, who has died at 96, leaves a legacy of service to Alaska that has been matched by few people in our state.

Born in Juneau in 1916, he came to Fairbanks in 1934 as a student at what was then the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. His close association with what became the University of Alaska began with his tenure as president of the student body and a key player on the hockey team. He was also co-manager of the basketball team. Like many students of his day, he worked in the summers for gold mining operations, strengthening links with the industry that continued until he was 90.

He earned a degree in mineral engineering in 1939 and a professional engineer of mines degree in 1947 from the University of Alaska. In 1969, he received an honorary doctorate from the university.

Four years after World War II, in which he served in the Aleutians, at Nome and in Anchorage, Beistline returned to the university as dean of the school of mines.

In the 36 years of university service that followed, he helped make the University of Alaska what it is today. Through the years, he held a variety of leadership positions, including dean of faculty, provost and vice president.

Beistline was dedicated to community service and active in organizations ranging from Rotary to the Boy Scouts of America.

As a practicing mining engineer, he also became one of the most influential voices in the Alaska mining industry. He was recognized for his research and contributions to engineering.

Among other things, he helped start the Alaska Minerals Commission and the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame, and he was a prominent consultant to various mining companies.

Tom Bundtzen, a prominent Alaska mining consultant, once wrote that Beistline had “a unique blend of theoretical and practical knowledge in the field of mining.”

Of the things that he was most grateful for in life, Beistline was known to say, he placed his family at the top of the list.

Beistline married Dorothy Hering in 1946 and they had four children — Ralph, Bill, Kathy and Linda — as well as 13 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren.

A memorial service is set for 1 p.m. Dec. 29 at the University Community Presbyterian Church.

We join with others all across Alaska in expressing our condolences to his family and recognizing the example he has set for others to emulate.

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