Gretchen T. Bersch

Gretchen T. Bersch, PhD

Hall of Fame Class of 2008

Gretchen T. Bersch, PhD, began her career in adult education in 1971 working for the University of Alaska (UA) system in Alaska villages. In 1990, she was commissioned to create and coordinate an adult education master's degree program for UA-Anchorage.

Bersch has dedicated her career to the world of adult education. Whether she was collaborating with international programs, inviting students and educators into her home or researching other scholars, Bersch always had improving lifelong learning in her goals.

 Internationally, Bersch focused on creating a partnership between the UA-Anchorage and the university in Magadan, Russia. Her work led to a faculty and student exchange program, joint conferences, policy and curriculum work, and eventually being awarded  
the title of honorary professor of the university in Magadan, Russia in 2001. Many Russian students lived at her Anchorage house over the years along with countless adult education visitors. Bersch also reached out on a personal level to Magadan, Russia demonstrating adult and continuing educators go beyond the university/academic 
relationship. During the winter of 1998, the town was struggling to survive the 
cold weather. Bersch co-chaired a committee of 40 volunteers and in two days they gathered 30,000 pounds of warm clothing, blankets and baby formula. She and her committee organized an overwhelmingly successful food drive.

A research interest of Bersch's had been to film interviews of noted national and international adult education scholars. She created and produced a video (DVD) series titled, Conversations on Lifelong Learning. The purpose was to create a visual set of interviews with scholars sharing their life stories in the field of adult and continuing education. The interviews reflect on the contributions, life work, ideas and experience from a unique and personal point of view. To date, 76 scholars have been interviewed and 35 finished programs are available to the field.

Bersch dreamed of establishing a center for learning on Yukon Island, at her family's homestead across Kachemak Bay from Homer, Alaska. For many years, she has hosted adult education scholars who have come there to teach graduate courses. The Yukon Island Center for Research and Education provides a place of serenity where educators can gather to gain a scientific, cultural and social understanding of our world and exchange ideas and theories in adult education and other fields.

Bersch has received numerous awards for her work, including the Edith R. Bullock Prize for Excellence, a statewide honor through the UA Foundation carrying a $15,000 award. She used some of the prize money to establish the Gretchen T. Bersch Outstanding Professor of the Year Award at the university in Magadan. The fall of 2008 marked the 12th year of the outstanding professor award. Bersch has also been honored  as the Alaska Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the UA-Anchorage Chancellor's Awards. In June, 1997, Gretchen T. Bersch was awarded Emerita Professor status  by the University of Alaska-Anchorage.