Barney’s history with Chugach inspired Michael Shepard, the latest recipient of the Uhart scholarship, to learn more about the opportunity created by our former president. “The video I watched about the internship detailed the tremendous impact Barney Uhart had on the corporation,” Michael recalled. “At that point I realized the internship wasn’t only a great opportunity, but also served a great purpose​.”

When Barney Uhart became president of Chugach in 2000, the corporation had $43 million in assets; in 2012 when he retired, Chugach had more than $360 million in assets. Barney passed away later that year on September 8th after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Shortly after his passing, on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Don Young stated that Chugach had become a shining example of an Alaska Native Corporation that has succeeded, providing tremendous benefits to its shareholders and employees, and that this was, in large part, due to Barney’s 12 years of service to the corporation.

Congressman Young went on to say that the formula for excellence that Barney, and Chugach, had achieved over the years, could be found in Barney Uhart’s own words. “How have we gotten to where we are today,” Barney asked. “The reason is simple—all the people associated with Chugach are responsible for our success. From the wisdom of the Board of Directors; the patience of the shareholders; the vision and perseverance of management; and the dedication and drive of the employees; this has allowed us to succeed.”

This spirit of inclusion—that every person counts—lies at the heart of the Barney Uhart Memorial Scholarship. For Barney, the development of individual shareholders was a priority, and this legacy lives on through the scholarship dedicated to what he achieved during his tenure as president.

Michael is a Chugach descendant who was born and raised in Bloomington, Illinois. He is pursuing a double major in Economics and Government at the College of William and Mary, and he’s on course to graduate in 2020. Michael is a reservoir of golf knowledge and tips, having enjoyed the sport since the age of three. He has a sister in Bloomington, and two brothers who reside in Oregon. His mother and father have both had lengthy careers with State Farm, whose national headquarters is in Michael’s hometown. Following in his parent’s footsteps, Michael holds a license to sell life and health insurance in Illinois. Through his father’s side of the family, Michael traces his ancestry to the Eyak tribe.

The flexibility of the Uhart scholarship allows for a diverse applicant pool, tailoring the experience to the talents and education of each individual. In Michael’s case, his time with Chugach will be customized to his academic curriculum. “Personalizing the internship to my interests and skillsets is really exciting.,” Michael said. “This opportunity to directly apply what I’ve learned in college will help me gain clarity on the type of work I want to pursue after school.”

Growing up in Illinois, Michael is also new to the Last Frontier. “If you aren’t from here, this internship is an amazing way to experience Alaska and learn about the Chugach heritage. My experience so far has been terrific, and I can hardly wait for the rest of the summer.”

Michael will work with the Chugach leadership team on projects related to regional and community development, scenario planning of key corporate initiatives and other projects related to his educational goals. He will also spend some time working with the CGS team working on a government contract related project. “I’m excited to be working closely with the leadership here at Chugach,” Michael said. “This is definitely a unique opportunity.”

Josie Hickel, Executive Vice President of Lands and Resource Development​, shares in Michael’s excitement. “I’m honored to be working with Michael to support the scholarship created in Barney’s name, especially when it involves a candidate with his qualifications. We have some busy summers planned out for Michael, which will include a trip to Nuchek this summer where he will have the opportunity to learn more about our culture and heritage. I’m looking forward to his contributions to our team. Please join me in welcoming Michael to Chugach.”

Following in Barney’s desire to position Chugach people in fill key leadership roles, the Barney Uhart Memorial Scholarship is annually available to original Chugach shareholders and lineal descendants. It provides $10,000 of scholarship funding and a two-year summer internship with Chugach Alaska Corporation. The scholarship is not predesigned, and as with the opportunity that Michael Shepard is currently embarking on, the qualifications and academic coursework of applicants will drive what the experience will entail. At its most basic level, this scholarship endeavors to find the best fit for shareholders and descendants and help them grow to become leaders.

For more information, contact Stephen Grantier, Chugach Heritage Foundation Program & Systems Manager, at (907) 261-0400 or

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Director Randi Jo Gause

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