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Attorney Mary Nordale was born in 1934 to Katherine and Alton Nordale in Fairbanks, Alaska. She has deep family ties to Fairbanks. Her grandfather, Anton Nordale, built the Nordale Hotel; her father served in the Alaska Legislature; and her mother was clerk of the court in Fairbanks. Mary earned a bachelor's degree from Gonzaga University in 1957 and in 1960 became a staff member in the Washington, D.C. office of Alaska's Senator E. L. "Bob" Bartlett. This gave her a front row seat to the early days of the Alaska Native land claims movement, the development of the legislation to settle land claims, and the creation of the corporate structure for land ownership and money management. While working for Bartlett, she also attended law school at George Washington University, graduating in 1966. In 1968, Mary returned to Alaska and began a long career of service. She served as the assistant US Attorney in Fairbanks from 1968 to 1969, assistant state district attorney from 1969 to 1970, was branch counsel to the Small Business Administration from 1970 to 1972, was in private practice specializing in business and mining law, and served as Alaska's Commissioner of Revenue from 1984 to 1986. Mary has been a long-time member of the Alaska Bar Association, served on the board of the statewide Alaska Humanities Forum and the Alaska Reapportionment Board, and has been active in many community and political organizations in Fairbanks.