The museum’s press release:
Kodiak Celebrates Haakanson’s Achievement
On a grey Tuesday morning in September, Kodiak Islanders awoke to uplifting news. One of their own had received academia’s top honor – the academy award of scholarship – the MacArthur Fellowship. Sven Haakanson, Jr., the Alutiiq Museum’s Executive Director, was one of just 24 scholars nationwide selected to receive the prestigious 2007 prize.
Presented annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the fellowship honors scholars who show exceptional creativity, have a record of significant achievement, and display the promise of important future work. The fellowship will provide Haakanson with a five year, $500,000 award. Selection of the fellows is a secretive process. A team of nominators working for the foundation submits their nominations and then each is intensively reviewed. Haakanson has no idea who nominated him and he likely never will.
As news of Haakanson’s well deserved achievement spread through public radio and the morning papers, well-wishers mobbed the Alutiiq Museum’s phone, website and email system. “We had 15 calls in the first half hour of the day,” reported Gallery Attendant Sarah Kennedy, who staffs the usually peaceful front desk and had the happy job of greeting excited callers. The Alutiiq Museum web site received over 300 hits, and Haakanson’s family was swamped with phone calls. “We got so many calls at home, my wife Balika just stopped answering the phone!” said Haakanson.
True to form, however, Haakanson was busy working and missed much of the excitement. He was sitting in a seminar in Homer learning how to evaluate and enhance the work that he leads so ably. “He spent this momentous day doing what he always does,” noted Deputy Director Amy Steffian, “finding more ways to preserve and share Alutiiq heritage.”
“I was attending the annual meeting of Museums Alaska – the statewide professional organization for museum people,” explained Haakanson. “I knew about the award,” he said. “The foundation called me about a week beforehand and arranged for a couple of journalists to interview me for the announcement. I also told the museum’s board and staff the day before. I wanted them to share in the excitement and to know how much their hard work and support has contributed to this amazing opportunity.”
Haakanson, who is still trying to digest the enormity of his recognition, plans to save his award for retirement. “The museum can’t offer retirement benefits. We just don’t have the money. This award means that I can keep helping my people, without worrying about my family’s future.”over 5 years ago