As the university changed post-World War II, Druska Schaible broke ground by heading a science department despite being not only a woman but also married. Just a few years earlier, either circumstance might have kept her out of the job.
Schaible, who had family connections to several prominent figures in UAF’s history, died tragically in a 1957 apartment fire. The university named Schaible Auditorium for her a few years later.
Schaible was born in 1905 in Antibes, France, and came to the U.S. at age 5. Her parents, the Rev. Charles Hampton and his wife Elisabeth, lived in Yakima, Washington.
Schaible’s mother later married William Elmhirst Duckering, an engineer working in the Pacific Northwest. He joined the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines’ engineering faculty in 1932 and eventually rose to dean of the university before his death in 1950.
Schaible followed her mother and Duckering to AACSM in 1935. But at the time, she was known by her married name of Druska Carr, and she had a young son, Michael. A Seattle census document says she was divorced.
After graduating from UA with a science degree in 1938, Schaible earned a master’s from the University of Washington in 1941. She was back in Fairbanks as the university’s registrar by 1943, a time when World War II made faculty, staff and students hard to hire. In 1945, she joined the biology faculty.
By the mid-1950s, Schaible had risen to head of the Department of Biological Sciences and dean of women. At Schaible’s encouragement, her sister Lesley’s husband, Lee Salisbury, joined the university as a drama professor. Decades later, Salisbury Theatre was named for him.
In 1949, Schaible wedded a well-known Fairbanks physician and surgeon, Dr. Arthur Schaible, who would later marry Grace Berg and serve as a UA regent.
Arthur and Druska Schaible lived in a Lathrop Building apartment in downtown Fairbanks, where the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner was published on the ground floor. A paperboy playing with matches started a fire on Nov. 23, 1957, and much of the upper building burned. The Fairbanks Fire Department’s ladder was too short to reach Schaible’s third-floor window, and she died in the fire.
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