William L. Hensley, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Department of Business and Public Policy, University of Alaska, Anchorage, joined Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment Director Chris Field for a conversation on October 30. Watch video from the event below or read an edited Q&A excerpt.
William L. Iggiagruk Hensley is the Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of Business and Public Policy at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. He retired from Alyeska Pipeline Service Company where he served as Manager of Federal Government Relations in Washington, DC for nine years.
Willie was born in Kotzebue, a small community in Northwest Alaska about 40 miles above the Arctic Circle. His family lived on the Noatak River delta and lived by hunting, fishing and trapping.
Prior to his employment with Alyeska, Hensley was appointed Commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development by Governor Tony Knowles. As Commerce Commissioner, Hensley was responsible for state involvement in tourism and seafood marketing, international trade, insurance, banking and securities as well as occupational licensing. He also served on the Oil and Gas Policy Council, the Board of Directors of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, the Alaska Railroad Corporation and the Alaska Industrial Development Authority.
Hensley was a founder of NANA Regional Corporation, served as a director for 20 years and concluded his career there as President. While at NANA, he directed its involvement in the oilfield services area, most specifically in the environmental services and drilling ventures. He was also active in the development of the world's largest lead and zinc mine, Red Dog. He was a founder of Maniilaq, the regional non-profit representing the tribes in the Kotzebue region, and was involved in the formation of the Alaska Federation of Natives and served as executive director, President and Co-Chairman.
Hensley wrote a paper in a constitutional law course at the University of Alaska in 1966 titled "What Rights to Land have the Alaska Natives: The Primary Issue"which encapsulated the land claims issue and provided the background that many Native Alaskans needed to take action to begin the land claims process.
He is the author of “Fifty Miles From Tomorrow, A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People.” It is both the story of his life and connection to his homelands, and that of contemporary Alaska.
Hensley graduated from George Washington University in Washington, D. C. with a bachelor's degree in Political Science and a minor in Economics. Following graduation, Hensley was elected to the Alaska State House of Representatives where he served four years and was elected to the Senate for a four-year term. He was appointed by Governor Steve Cowper to the Senate again in 1987. Hensley also served as Chairman of the Capitol Site Selection Committee under Governor Jay Hammond, Chairman of the Land Claims Task Force under Governor Walter Hickel.
He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the First Alaskans Foundation.