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The life and accomplishments of Terrence Cole, Alaska Historian and longtime UAF professor

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 5:27 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Today we honor the life and accomplishments of a longtime University of Alaska Fairbanks professor and Alaska Historian Terrence Cole, who passed away last Saturday. We spoke with several of Cole’s friends and colleagues about the legacy of this mentor and author, and the impact he’s left behind on his students and the state of Alaska.

Cole succumbed to cancer Saturday at his home in Fairbanks at the age of 67. His long time colleague, retired professor of history Mary Ehrlander, emphasized the care and enthusiasm Cole brought to the classroom.

“I have just never met another faculty member who was more committed to the success and the wellbeing of students. He was such an extraordinary intellect, and so incredibly accomplished; so well published and knew virtually everything about Alaskan history, polar exploration, and yet he was so down to Earth. Most importantly as an educator he was so focused on the students and helping them to learn, and helping them through life. He had every reason to be arrogant or just full of himself but he wasn’t, he was so other oriented. He was so focused on helping, on mentoring others and so interested in others. I think that is the essence of why I’ve admired him so much,” said Ehrlander.

Cole was a Professor of Northern Studies and History at UAF, and taught thousands of students during his 30 years spent as an educator.

“Terrence was a mentor to countless Alaskans, and one of his most important contributions was really believing in your young people. Believing in their ability as scholars, and citizens. And having faith in them that they could go out in the world and understand Alaska’s deep and rich history,” said Philip Wight, Assistant Professor of History and Arctic Northern Studies.

Of Cole’s many published works, Wight recommends all Alaskans read “Blinded by Riches”.

“This is available online for free right now, and it is in my mind the single best explanation of Alaska’s economic history,” said Wight.

“He literally wrote the books on Alaska, so he contributed so much to what we Alaskans know about Alaska. It’s a loss for all of his cherished colleagues, and it’s a real loss for Alaska,” said Brandon Boylan, Director of Arctic and Northern Studies.

He will be dearly missed by all those who knew him.

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