Sealaska Heritage


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April 2, 2013

One of the largest private foundations in the Pacific Northwest has made a substantial donation to Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) to help fund construction of the Walter Soboleff Center in Juneau.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has awarded $500,000 for the center, which is slated to break ground this year.

“So exciting!” said SHI President Rosita Worl. “I don't know if people heard me screaming and shouting down from my end of the office, ‘We got the grant!’ It's just marvelous to have that kind of support from these private foundations.”

The center has received major support from the State of Alaska, City and Borough of Juneau voters, federal grants, Sealaska, the Rasmuson Foundation and numerous individuals. This is the first time SHI has secured funding from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, said Worl, adding the amount exceeded expectations.

“This was a very significant and large grant to us,” Worl said. “It was larger than what we had hoped for, so it was really an awesome surprise for us.”

SHI is in the final phase of fundraising for the center, which will cost about $20 million to build. The center is named for the late Dr. Walter Soboleff, an influential Tlingit leader and former Chair of SHI’s board of trustees. (For more information on the center, see

The M. J. Murdock Trust was created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, co-founder of Tektronix, Inc., and an innovative, entrepreneurial leader with business involvements and interests throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Since its establishment on June 30, 1975, the Trust has focused most of its grantmaking efforts in the five states of the Pacific Northwest: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. A historical emphasis in grantmaking has been in higher education, scientific research and development, human social services, health care, and the arts.

The Trust began operations in 1975 with assets of $91 million. Over the years these assets have grown to nearly $800 million while over $600 million has been given out in grant awards. This places the Trust within the top five largest private foundations in the Pacific Northwest and one of the top 100 in the country. It is one of the only foundations headquartered in the Pacific Northwest that regularly awards grants in a five-state region, although some grants are awarded for national purposes.

Sealaska Heritage Institute was founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI president, 907-463-4844