A strong local leader, Henry Ivanoff Sr. of Unalakleet, lived 78 years. He left a legacy of service to the people of Western Alaska.
His son, Henry Ivanoff Jr., admired his work ethic.
“He was a hard worker. … When he was younger, his father would put him to work around the house, you know, doing chores like getting wood. They didn’t have running water back then, so he’d have to go out there also to chop ice for water. And that’s how he started his younger life — working,” Ivanoff Jr. said.
Ivanoff Sr. showed dedication through all of his endeavors. Spending over 50 years in the broadcasting industry, he provided radio to several villages. In his hometown of Unalakleet, Ivanoff Sr. founded KNSA in 1982. His KNSA coworker Sam Towarak reminisced about early days of working with Ivanoff Sr.
“He was assigned to a live broadcast for the tugboat coming in, that first barge of the season, and we had a good laugh about that. If you could imagine trying to cover a tugboat coming in — what you can do to describe that,” Towarak said.
Most Western Alaskans knew Ivanoff Sr. for his accomplishments at Bering Straits Native Corporation. Over nearly five decades of BSNC service, he was both the CEO and president and chairman. Ivanoff is the longest-serving board member in the corporation’s history.
Current BSNC president and CEO Gail Schubert noticed his leadership and vision from when she met him as president of Unalakleet Native Corporation to working together at BSNC.
“I really think that in terms of being able to kind of grow an organization, you really need a strong board chair, and someone that someone like me, as President and CEO of the company can turn to for advice and guidance,” Schubert said.
Ivanoff Sr. served on many other boards, including those of Alaska Federation of Natives, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association and Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation. He was also the longest-serving Mayor of Unalakleet, 1994-2006.
Image at top: A memorial portrait of Henry Ivanoff Sr. Graphic courtesy of Bering Straits Native Corporation.