Multigenerational gift ties family to the sciences and aviation

May 21, 2013

A6_GayMemorialCard-finalIn 2011, Sarah “Liza” Gay memorialized her late son, John, with an endowed scholarship in his name. Liza passed away in August following a long and brave fight with cancer. She is survived by her husband, Kirk Gay, and an enduring legacy of UAA student support.

Her late son, John Russell, was a decorated sergeant honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force who had planned to attend UAA. Liza graduated from Harvard, completed law school at University of Oregon and became an assistant attorney general for Alaska, later serving as a section chief for the Natural Resources Section. She also completed ground school at UAA and became an accomplished pilot. Most of all she was a devoted wife and mother who so loved her son that generations of UAA science and aviation students will benefit from awards in his name. This month, UAA received $574,427 for two endowments in her son’s name, one in the sciences and the other in aviation.

Liza’s estate gift means that UAA students will benefit from the John Russell Gay scholarships forever. When the endowment is fully matured, in about 5 years, science and aviation students will be eligible for over $15,000 and $7,000 each year, respectively. (The UA Foundation inflation-proofs these funds to maintain their impact over time.)

In August 2012, the first John Russell Gay Memorial Science Scholarship awards were given to senior biological sciences student, Brady Salli, and sophomore chemistry major, Alexis Grieser. Brady’s award allows him to continue his undergraduate research work with arctic ground squirrels. Alexis is passionate about both science and art, her minor. She is currently eyeing the WWAMI School of Medicine program as a possibility for continuing her education at UAA.

At UAA’s Scholarship Celebration this year, Kirk was able to meet with both Brady and Alexis to learn more about their projects and future plans. Every year, high-achieving Alaska students like Brady and Alexis will spend more time focused on their studies rather than making ends meet thanks to Liza Gay and the John Russell Gay awards.

A mother’s love and admiration for the promise of her son will always be remembered and manifest in the achievements of UAA science and aviation students and alumni.

For more information about this gift, please contact Harry Need at (907) 786-4840 or

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