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Woodrow "Woody" Johansen
Woodrow "Woody" Johansen was born in 1919 in Eyak, Alaska (now known as Cordova), and was valedictorian of his 1932 high school graduating class in Cordova, Alaska. As a young man, he worked as as a welder for the Copper River and Northwestern Railroad, and by watching engineers drive the touring rail cars, he decided to become a railroad engineer. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) from 1933 to 1940, earning a degree in civil engineering. But when he graduated, there were limited opportunities for engineers, so he got involved with mining, and worked as a foreman in Livengood, Alaska, and then for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base. In 1942, Woody becamse a faculty member in the Civil Engineering Department at UAF, where he became department chair and taught courses until 1955. During this time, he worked several summers for the Alaska Road Commission working on a variety of road projects around the area. In 1955, Woody took a job as Fairbanks District Engineer for the Alaska Road Commission, which, with statehood, became the Alaska State Highway Department. In 1968, when Governor Walter Hickel ordered construction of a winter ice road to Prudhoe Bay (Hickel Highway), as District Engineer, it was Woody's job to preside over the design and construction of the road. His responsibilities included project management, engineering, recruitment, logistics, and contract negotiations. In addition, Woody oversaw the road crew in the winter of 1968/1969, and experienced the hardships of extreme cold, route finding through tough terrain, building ice bridges, and modifying equipment for the cold and remote conditions. Woody remained District Engineer until his retirement in 1979. Many of northern Alaska’s major modern roads were built under his direction, including the Dalton Highway, the northern half of the Parks Highway, and most of the main roads in the Fairbanks area. After retirement, Woody consulted with the Associated General Contractors on a variety of state projects in the post-oil pipeline boom. In 1988, the Johansen Expressway, which connects the east and west sides of Fairbanks, was named for him. Woody Johansen passed away in 1991. For more about Woody Johansen and an obituary, see his profile on the UAF Centennial website.