Mary K. Hughes has spent her professional life supporting various private and public institutions in Alaska, all the while living out Willamette’s motto of Non Nobis Solum. Her deep commitment to her alma mater is apparent in the generations of law students she has welcomed and supported through hosted dinners, coffees, professional networking opportunities, and check-in calls and emails. She has worked directly with Willamette Law admission staff for years to support recruitment and retention initiatives in the state and to help the development of our 4+3 program with the University of Alaska system, of which she is a Regent. She has been a tireless supporter of efforts to help make Willamette Law “Alaska’s Law School”. As part of this, she financially supports the school’s Alaska Law Scholars Fund, which helps make a legal education possible and affordable for students from Alaska each year. She also has made financial gifts to the Law Student Emergency Fund along with several other scholarship and university-based fundraising efforts.
It cannot be overstated just how instrumental Mary has been in positioning Willamette Law for success in the state, while sharing her insights and guidance on what lawyers need to succeed in the legal profession in Alaska. She also is deeply connected to and helps sustain the legal alumni community through many social and professional networking opportunities and has even served as the Alaska State Director for the Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a fellow Willamette Law alum from the Class of 1985.
One of her most impactful legacies is embodied by the law students from Alaska, who are able to come to Willamette Law each year and access a legal education that is not otherwise available in their state (Alaska has no law school presently.) The financial support they are offered is often life changing and Mary continues to invest in their success past graduation to ensure that each one comes back to a network of supportive alumni and potential employers, ensuring that some of the State’s best and brightest legal graduates, often from historically marginalized and indigenous communities, have an opportunity to come home and pay it forward through their own professional journeys.
She also has deep roots in her community and has worked tirelessly to strengthen local, regional, and national organizations committed to community health (YWCA), the arts (Alaska Repertory Theatre), education (University of Alaska Board of Regents, Willamette University’s Board of Trustees, Willamette Law’s Board of Visitors) and more.
Mary was appointed to the University of Alaska Board of Regents by Governor Knowles in July 2002, re-appointed by Governor Palin in January 2009 and re-appointed to a third term by Governor Walker in 2017. She graduated from the University of Alaska with a BBA in Management in 1971 and earned her juris doctorate from Willamette University College of Law in 1974. A partner in the law firm of Hughes, Thorsness, Gantz, Powell & Brundin until 1994, she served as the Anchorage Municipal Attorney from 1995-2000 and Of Counsel with the firm until May 2005 when she became Alaska State Director for the Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a position she held until January 2008. For seven years, she hosted a weekly radio show, Profile Alaska, on AM 700 KBYR. She is a past president of the Alaska Bar Association, Director on the University of Alaska Foundation, and a Life Trustee Emeritus of Willamette University. She was elected to the Board of Directors of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges in 2013.
Mary is an exemplary representative of Willamette’s mission to prepare alumni for lives of contribution and meaning. This is evident in her decades of service to the University and the College of Law, providing ongoing support in gifts of time, talent, and treasure as detailed above. It also is apparent in the many accolades and awards she has been given through the years for her service to the State of Alaska and its citizens.