AEF would like to remember one of the founders of Arctic Education Foundation, Dr. Oliver Aveogan Leavitt, who passed away in January at the age of 79. Oliver’s vision for the future of our youth is what created AEF, and thousands of students over the last four decades have been able to pursue their dreams because of him.
A whaling captain, a fierce champion for the rights of the North Slope Iñupiat, a devoted public servant, and an avid Barrow Whalers fan, Dr. Leavitt was a massively influential force in the growth of ASRC, and a perpetual advocate for the rights of the people of the North Slope.
A lifelong resident of Utqiaġvik, Alaska, Dr. Leavitt married Annie Hopson Leavitt and together they had three children. He grew up in camps and villages along Alaska’s Arctic coast, leaving to serve in the United States Army in Vietnam. Dr. Leavitt’s return to the North Slope coincided with the Alaska Native land claims fight and the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)—and his impact was monumental.
Dr. Leavitt served in innumerable leadership positions on the North Slope and across Alaska, serving on ASRC’s board, including as board chairman, and in senior management positions since its inception in 1972. That same year, he was elected as the first president of the North Slope Borough Assembly–-a position he held for four years, followed by an additional twenty years of service on the Assembly. Dr. Leavitt also served on the boards of the Arctic Slope Native Association and the Alaska Federation of Natives, among many others. He served as ASRC’s Vice President of Lands and Vice President of Government Affairs, carrying the message of North Slope Iñupiat economic self-determination to state legislators in Juneau and policymakers in Washington, D.C.
His time in our nation’s capital led to the passage of several amendments to ANCSA that improved the law for future generations of Alaska Natives. He also helped enact legislation that authorized development on North Slope lands, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for the long-term economic benefit of the region’s eight communities and the state of Alaska. Throughout his decades of service to the North Slope Iñupiat, Dr. Leavitt served alongside numerous members of the ASRC board of directors, including the late Dr. Jacob Anaġi Adams, whom he considered one of his closest friends.
Dr. Leavitt is survived by his beloved wife, Annie Hopson Leavitt, his two daughters, Mary Lou and Martina (Jamie), his daughter-in-law, Doreen, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his and Mrs. Leavitt’s son, William Jens Leavitt.
A mentor to many, from the halls of Congress to the trails out on the ice, Dr. Leavitt was looked upon as a friend and confidant by national leaders and Alaskans, from the smallest village to the largest city. Dr. Leavitt occupied a special place in Alaska’s history and in the hearts of those who called him a friend. Memorial details will be shared once available.
AEF is forever grateful to Oliver for his leadership! In honor of Oliver, AEF is proud to announce its new Aveogan Leadership Award, which will be offered for the first time this 2023 fall semester. We would also like to thank Robert and Alice Glenn who made the first contribution to this scholarship. Thank you so much to the Glenn family!
For more information on the new Aveogan Leadership Award please visit Programs HERE.