FAIRBANKS — Most maps of the United States show the state of Alaska in a little box somewhere in the South Pacific, next to Hawaii.
If not for Sen. Ted Stevens, every map might still be that way.
In 1975, Stevens spearheaded an effort to create the first U.S. Geological Survey map displaying an accurately proportioned Alaska in the Arctic and Hawaii in the Central Pacific.
Stevens sent the new map to every school in Alaska.
“Teachers across the state responded with requests for duplicates so that students would understand Alaska’s location within the United States,” according to the exhibit.
That map is part of the new Mapping Alaska exhibit in the Sen. Ted Stevens Gallery, on Level 2 of the Rasmuson Library.
The exhibit explores the creative pursuit of navigating the 49th state’s diverse geography through GPS, celestial navigation, photography and cartography. It features materials from the Ted Stevens Papers archive.
Curator of the exhibit is Susannah Dowds, graduate student in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Northern Studies program. She talked earlier this week about the role maps played in the senator’s career.
Her talk was part of a special 90th birthday celebration for Stevens, complete with birthday cake and special comments by special friends.
One of those special people was Marie Matsuno Nash, who began working for the senator in 1969, a month after he was sworn in. She ended up working with him for 29 years, starting as his secretary in Washington, D.C., and retiring as his state director.
Chancellor Brian Rogers also welcomed everyone and suggested the late senator would have been pleased at the gathering.
“There’s a reason he was named by the state legislature as ‘The Alaskan of the Century,’” Rogers said. “Senator Stevens was an integral part of making Alaska what it is today.”
That included statehood, the pipeline, ASCSA and ANILCA and the Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
“His hard work and dedication to the state affect the lives of all Alaskans today and in the future,” he added. “His vision was supported by a long list of Alaskans who worked for and with him.”
That included 438 employees and 795 interns.
“A former staffer told us recently that he said ‘once a staffer, always a staffer’ and so many of these people took that to heart, staying connected to one another and devoting their lives to public service in their communities,” he said.
Included in the display is a letter to Sen. Stevens from a fifth-grader in Massachusetts. She bet a friend that Alaska had a capital city. The friend disagreed. She asked Stevens to settle that bet.
It was 1975, and Steven wrote back just a few days later and assured her that Alaska did have a capital city and it was Juneau.
Fairbanksan Krystal Blackburn Tribble spent her 29th birthday in a coma at Alaska Native Medical Center.
The mother of three children slipped into a coma after a traffic accident in Fairbanks on Nov. 5 and was medivaced to Anchorage, her cousin Amanda Cockrell said.
Family and friends are rallying to hold a fundraiser to help with medical expenses. The Gold Rush Saloon, her former employer, is hosting the event Saturday.
The establishment will prohibit smoking for the first two hours, 4-6 p.m., so families can enjoy the event, a spaghetti feed.
A silent auction will feature homemade items including Native beadwork, dinners for two, certificates for hair cuts and massages. Alaska Aerofuel will donate home heating fuel for a raffle. That drawing will be held on Thanksgiving Day. You can buy tickets at 388-9633.
For more information, call 479-4891.
Raven Landing Community Center celebrates its grand opening from 2-6 p.m. Saturday.
The celebration will include tours of the community center and a live radio feed.
Contact community editor and columnist Kris Capps at email@example.com and at 459-7546. Follow her on twitter:@FDNMKris.