Sheldon Jackson College, Sitka, AK | CruiseBe
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Sheldon Jackson College

History and museums
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Sheldon Jackson College was a small private college located on Baranof Island in Sitka, Alaska, United States. Founded in 1878, it was the oldest institution of higher learning in Alaska and maintained a historic relationship with the Presbyterian Church. The college was named in honor of Rev. Sheldon Jackson, an early missionary and educational leader in Alaska.

Due to declining enrollment, the college closed in 2007; four years later, ownership of its campus was transferred to the organization behind the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.


Similar to the Carlisle Indian School, Sheldon Jackson College (SJC) was initially formed as a "training" school for Alaska Native boys. The school was founded in 1878 by Fannie Kellogg and future Governor of Alaska John G. Brady for the Tlingit people. Initially known as the Sitka Industrial and Training School, it nearly closed in 1882 after its original facility, located over a military barracks, burned down. The Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson came to the rescue of the school, raising funds through a national campaign, leading to the construction of a new building on the site of the present campus. In 1910, after Rev. Jackson died, the school was renamed in his honor.

The institution added a boarding high school in 1917, and a college program in 1944. The college program gained accreditation in 1966 and the high school was closed the following year.

In 1972, the school was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. The school was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001.


The school's educational accreditation was reviewed by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and State of Alaska, a process that happens nationally with colleges and universities. About this process, President David Dobler said, "SJC’s current authorization to operate as an Alaska post-secondary institution has been extended until July 2006, and SJC, at that time, will be required to provide the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE) with documentation of financial and administrative capacity in order for authorization to be renewed." (Dobler left the office of President in 2002.) Similarly, the college was under a "show cause" order from the Northwest Commission and was required to "show cause" why its regional accreditation should not be revoked.

On June 29, 2007, all academic operations were suspended and all faculty and staff were dismissed due to cash flow shortages. The Board of Trustees gathered all staff and informed them that June 29 would be the final day of employment. They were also informed all health insurance coverage would cease at that time.

On July 17, 2007, the Alaska Commission on Post-secondary Education announced the cancellation of Sheldon Jackson College's authorization to operate a college in Alaska. The college appealed the decision, but was ultimately shut down.

In March 2008, the official website for the school went off-line. In the summer of 2008, the college opened its dorms and facilities for use by local workers and companies.

As of 2008, the fate of the school libraries' collection of rare books and artwork is still in question; the collection has been boxed and stored.

On February 1, 2011, the Board of Trustees transferred the main campus to Alaska Arts Southeast, Inc., the non-profit parent organization to the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Stratton Library

Stratton Library was an academic library at the college. The library building contained 48,000 items in its collection with over 10 percent of all material being directly related to Alaska's history, including many first edition books and rare periodicals. In December 2010 the collection was broken up. Rare glass plate photographic negatives were loaned to the National Park Service, other "Alaskana" was split among local public and academic libraries, and the remainder of the collection was offered for sale to the general public. The building itself was sold to the State of Alaska.

Notable alumni

  • Sandra Marbut, Head Coach of women's basketball at California Institute of Technology
  • Edward Marsden Presbyterian minister, Tsimshian activist
  • Benjamin A. Haldane Tsimshian photographer, musician, businessman
  • Scott McAdams, mayor of Sitka, U.S. Senate candidate
  • Elizabeth Peratrovich, civil rights activist
  • Walter Soboleff, Tlingit scholar, Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand President Emeritus

Sheldon Jackson Museum

The Sheldon Jackson Museum is a Native American museum located on the former campus of Sheldon Jackson College. Many of the artifacts were originally collected by Rev. Sheldon Jackson in his travels through rural Alaska. Sheldon Jackson Museum was founded in 1887, becoming the first museum in the state of Alaska. When it outgrew its temporary quarters, a new specially dedicated concrete structure was constructed between 1895 and 1897 and, upon completion, became the first concrete structure built in Alaska.

The museum, collection, and grounds are currently owned and administered by the State of Alaska. Organized within the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums, the Sheldon Jackson Museum was purchased by the State in the mid-1980s during the administration of Governor Bill Sheffield.


Many of the artifacts housed in the museum (over 5,000) were originally collected by Rev. Sheldon Jackson in his travels through rural Alaska. The museum's collection almost exclusively focus on Alaskan Native groups such as the Aleuts, Athabascans, Eskimos, and Tlingit/Tsimshian.

An affiliated advocacy group, Friends of the Sheldon Jackson Museum, operate an on-site museum gift shop that exclusively carries items crafted by Alaska Native artists. The organization also sponsors several museum programs, including the Alaska Native Artist Demonstrators Program during the summer months.

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