Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 1:16 PM on Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homer-grown KBC commencement speakers chosen

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Dr. Gretchen Bersch

Two Homer High School alumni have been selected to speak to graduates of Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage, at commencement ceremonies at Mariner Theatre at 7 p.m. May 9.

Dr. Gretchen Bersch, UAA professor emerita, inductee into the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame and 1962 graduate of Homer High School is the keynote speaker. Valedictorian Charlene Flyum is the student speaker.

Of Bersch, Carol Swartz, KBC campus director, said, "I thought of her since she had just been inducted into the Alaska women's Hall of Fame along with others, she is 'Homer-Yukon Island grown' and she's been committed to adult education and lifelong learning all her adult life, reflecting much of what our campus and this commencement is all about."

Born in Berkeley, Calif., Bersch graduated from HHS in 1962, Bersch attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., from 1962-1964, and went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in general science and mathematics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1967. Four years later, she began work as a faculty member in the university's developmental education program.

Bersch began her career in education by teaching math and science to middle-school students. At the same time, she also taught GED (general education development) classes in the evening, which is where her interest and career in adult education began.

In 1971, she moved to Kaltag on the Yukon River and became a faculty member of what was then known as the Anchorage Community College. From there, she moved to Goodnews Bay and, in 1972, to Anchorage.

In 1973, Bersch received a master's degree in secondary education from the University of Alaska Anchorage and, in 1990, a doctoral degree in adult education from Florida State University.

While at Anchorage Community College and UAA, Bersch worked on the Adult Literacy Lab Project. In 1990, she was commissioned to create and coordinate an adult education master's degree program for UAA. She coordinated the credit for learning program and co-created the UAA-Magadan student exchange, a student exchange program with the International Pedagogical University in Magadan, Russia, beginning in 1992. Bersch served as the U.S. representative to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) conference on adult learning in Germany in 1997.

Putting to use her interest in filming interviews of noted national and international adult education scholars, Bersch created and produced the video series "Conversations in Lifelong Learning."

Bersch's awards include the Edith R. Bullock Prize for Excellence, being named "Alaska Professor of the Year" by the Carnegie Foundation and Outstanding Teacher of the Year" by the UAA Chancellor's Awards. In June 1997, Bersch was awarded emerita professor status at UAA. In 2006, the adult education college of UAA's Consortium Library was named for Bersch. In 2008, in conjunction with a UNESCO meeting in Hungary, Bersch was one of 11 international educators to be inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame.

Retired since 2006, Bersch continues to be involved in adult education activities. She has established a center for learning on her family's Yukon Island homestead, and uses it as a place for educators to increase their scientific, cultural and social understanding of the world, as well as a place for sharing ideas and theories on adult education and other areas of interest.


Charlene Flyum

Flyum, one of 13 students who will be awarded an associate of arts degree at the May 9 commencement ceremony, was born and raised in Homer. She graduated from Homer High in 1996. Eight years later she began her college education at KBC, with the goal of a bachelor of arts in business.

Now, with two children — ages 4 and 12 — and work as a human relations specialist at Homer Electric Association, Flyum is reaching the first milestone, her associate of arts degree. And she's doing it with honors, graduating magna cum laude with a grade point average of 3.83.

With those kinds of demands and responsibilities, when does Flyum do any studying?

"When I'm supposed to be sleeping," she said, laughing. "I just don't sleep."

She credited her husband, Daren Hill, and her parents, Willie and Karen Flyum, for the "tons" of support helping her achieve this goal.

Flyum will continue working toward her bachelor's degree with a focus on HR through University of Alaska Southeast's distance education program. But not before she takes some time off.

"I really pushed through the associates. Now I plan to take my summers off," said Flyum, who plans to spend this summer fishing, camping and "just enjoying it."

She is in the process of putting together her comments for commencement. For now, her comments could be summed up in one question, she said: "How the hell did I get here?"

Awarded at the 2012 KBC commencement ceremony will be:

• 13 associate of arts degrees;

• 1 associate of applied science, process technology;

• 5 bachelor degrees;

• 3 masters degrees; and

• 16 GED high school equivalency diplomas.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.