Dr. Alan Boraas dies at 72

Nov 4, 2019


Dr. Alan Boraas taught at Kenai Peninsula College for 46 years.
Credit University of Alaska

Long time Kenai Peninsula College anthropology professor Dr. Alan Boraas died Monday morning at the age of 72, following a stroke.

Boraas spent nearly half a century at the college, but his influence was felt far beyond the Kenai, says KPC Director Gary Turner.

“It’s not a legacy that he has left just at KPC. It’s a legacy to the state, the borough, so many people. What he did with native languages and cultural research...it goes way beyond the realm of the college.”

Turner said he was already receiving notes of remembrance from around the university system Monday morning.

“The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences wrote me and said ‘Alan was a giant at UAA. Few people rise to the level where only their first name is needed and Alan was one.”

Boraas was born in Minnesota in 1947. He earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Minnesota in 1969 followed by a masters in 1971 and his Ph.D in 1983. He began teaching Adult Basic Education after meeting KPC founding director Clayton Brockel while working on a cabin at the Soldotna Historical complex.

Alan Boraas worked extensively with Dena'ina elder Peter Kalifornsky to preserve the language, history and cultural traditions of local Native Alaskans.
Credit University of Alaska

He started teaching full time in 1974, the same year he conducted his first archaeological dig on the Kenai Peninsula. In 1991, along with James Kari, he published Dena’ina Legacy: The Collected Writings of Peter Kalifornsky, a 500-page collection of Dena’ina history, language and stories.



Boraas remained active throughout his life, despite other health issues, leading regular field trips to cultural sites around the central peninsula.


He led research projects around the state, including field work identifying remote cultural sites that would have been disturbed by resource development like the proposed Chuitna coal mine. In 2000, he was granted honorary membership to the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. 

An avid skier, Boraas was also instrumental in the creation and growth of the Tsalteshi Trail system and coached for many years. He served on numerous non-profit boards, wrote hundreds of columns for the Anchorage Daily News and local publications and delivered lectures across the state. 

The college has tentatively scheduled a memorial service for some time in January. And we’ll have a special program this Wednesday for the Kenai Conversation remembering Dr. Boraas and his countless contributions to our community.