The Palmer Research Laboratory was renamed “Kerttula Hall” Friday, Aug. 29 in honor of Alaska’ longest serving state legislator, Jay Kerttula.
“This is a celebration not of a building but of a vision and a man,” SNRAS Associate Dean Mike Sfraga said. He added that many of today’s trendy topics, such as organic gardening, supported farming, food safety, and sustainability, were in Kerttula’s vocabulary decades ago. “Jay helped make agricultural research happen.”
Other speakers, including University of Alaska regents, chancellors from UAF, UAA, and UAS, the UAF Alumni Association president, and the UAF president, called Kerttula the dean of Alaska agriculture, a statesman of the highest order, and a friend of the university.
UA President Mark Hamilton speaking at the dedication. Seated to the left is UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers. At right are Regent Kirk Wickersham, UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer, UAF Alumni Association President Gail Phillips, and SNRAS Dean Carol Lewis.
UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers said the Board of Regents exhibited unprecedented support for renaming the research facility. “It’s the right thing to do for the university and the right thing to do for Jay,” Rogers said.
Dean Carol Lewis said it was fitting to name one of the most important buildings in the Matanuska Valley after Kerttula. “He made it possible for us to dream and do new things,” Lewis said. “When I look at Kerttula Hall I don’t see a lab; I see classrooms and new students learning. I see a place for the community to participate in outreach.” She thanked Kerttula for his vision that will carry agricultural research into the future.
Members of the Kerttula family at the ceremony with a framed mockup of the bronze plaque that will be placed on the building. From left to right: Joyce Kerttula, Representative Beth Kerttula, and Senator Jay Kerttula.
Kerttula came to the Matanuska Valley as a child with his family who were part of the Matanuska Colony farming families that helped to settle the Valley in the 1930s. The family farm gave Senator Kerttula the inspiration and skills to establish his own successful farm. He is the only legislator who has served as both Speaker of the House (1968-1970) and President of the Senate (1980-1984).