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Alaska editorial: She left a legacy for all of Alaska

Posted: May 26, 2012 - 11:07pm

This editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

From the 1950s through the 1980s, the Snedden family name was familiar to most people in Fairbanks. C.W. Snedden became publisher of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in 1950 and continued in that role until his death in 1989, after which the name gradually faded from its earlier prominence.

Behind the scenes, though, the former publisher’s wife, Helen Snedden, continued her tradition of quiet public service on multiple fronts in Fairbanks.

Mrs. Snedden died last week at age 96, but her contributions to this community and Alaska will live many decades into the future. Those involved knew of her work, but Snedden avoided publicity.

One of Snedden’s more recent contributions to the state was her work with the University of Alaska Foundation to help publish “Fighting for the Forty-Ninth Star: C.W. Snedden and the Crusade for Alaska Statehood.” The book, written by Terrence Cole, UA Fairbanks history professor, described the crucial role C.W. Snedden played in securing congressional approval of the Alaska Statehood Act in 1958.

Mrs. Snedden attended a talk by Cole at the UA Museum last year, where the author graciously took the rare opportunity to give her the public acknowledgment she deserved.

Snedden also created the first fully endowed faculty chair at UAF in 2003 in memory of her husband. The C.W. Snedden Chair in Journalism covers the cost of bringing a prominent journalist to join the UAF faculty for a year. It also brings such journalists to Fairbanks for a speaker series.

Snedden saw the chair’s role as more than that of an on-campus educator, though. “Right from the beginning, her concept included not just contributing to our classrooms on campus but using the chair to raise awareness of journalism and all its facets in the community at large,” he said. That’s why participants in the Snedden speaker series appear at venues off campus, such as the Noel Wien Public Library.

Snedden’s interests extended beyond campus in many other ways as well. We can remember her for the beautiful landscaping along First Avenue downtown, parks in Island Homes and many other lasting contributions to Fairbanks. The people of Fairbanks might not have been much aware of Helen Snedden in recent years, but her actions showed she was always thinking about them.

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