Director Gary J. Turner: Biography
Gary J. Turner, director of Kenai Peninsula College, brings more than 30 years of experience in leadership, management, communication, and university administration and teaching to the Kenai Peninsula College. He assumed his position July 1, 2002.
Turner earned a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from the University of the State of New York in 1983, and a Master of Arts degree in Mass Communication from the University of Denver in 1989. He pursued doctorate level work in the communications field from 1989 to 1990 at Denver, and also did graduate work at the University of Oklahoma in 1985.
Prior to his present position, Turner was a senior vice president and general manager of Weber Shandwick Worldwide—the largest public relations firm in the world—in Seattle, Washington. In this role, he managed 60 agency employees and worked with clients including Microsoft Corp., Eastman Kodak Co. and numerous technology companies.
Turner worked for four years as the program manager for public affairs at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He was responsible for media relations, education and university outreach, community relations and organizational development. His team provided support to NASA’s top technologies including the International Space Station, Space Shuttle, experimental launch vehicle programs, space science and microgravity research.
The retired U.S. Air Force veteran lived previously in Alaska, both in Fairbanks and in Ketchikan. He served at Eielson Air Force Base as the public affairs director and served in that capacity at several other locations around the world, including time at the U.S. Air Force Academy as an English and Literature instructor. While in Fairbanks, Turner taught communication as an adjunct professor for UAA. He spent much of his time traveling throughout northern Alaska visiting remote communities and acting as the liaison between Air Force and Alaskan Native leaders. His work included handling numerous crisis situations and issues involving Alaskan resources and people.
In Ketchikan, Turner was an instructor, academic counselor, and coordinator of continuing education at the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Campus. He also served as the executive director of the statewide Alaskans for Drug-Free Youth.
In 1982, the Air Force recognized Turner by naming him One of the Twelve Outstanding Airmen of the Air Force. He was chosen from 500,000 service members, and is the only public affairs specialist in Air Force history to ever earn this accolade. Turner was a NASA Space Flight Awareness Launch Honoree in 2000 and is the recipient of various NASA achievement awards. He received honors directing the Top Public Affairs Crisis Management Office in the Air Force in 1993, managing the Top Public Affairs Office in the Pacific Air Forces in 1993 and 1994, and was named the Person of the Year in 1981 by the Spokane Chamber of Commerce.
Turner is active in the local community serving on the Kenai River Sportfishing Association Board of Directors and is a past board member of the Alaska Challenger Learning Center. He serves as a judge for the “Caring for the Kenai” Scholarship Program, teaches fishing for the National Wild Turkey Federation “Women in the Outdoors” program, and is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Elks, Air Force Public Affairs Alumni Association and Air Force Association.
Turner also serves as the director of the Kenai Fishing Academy, a week-long program, held each summer at the college that combines classroom instruction on fishing and on-the-water angling trips. He created the academy in 2002 so Alaskans and non-Alaskans could improve their fishing skills and learn about caring for the Kenai Peninsula’s natural resources.
In January 2004, he began working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA) Advisory Board and the Kenai River Professional Guides Association, to establish the Kenai River Guide Academy at the college. In March 2006, Alaska Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman signed new guiding regulations into law and the 5-day guide academy is now required of all Kenai River fishing guides.
He was appointed in Fall 2006 as the sole public member to the newly established Kenai River Guide Advisory Board whose purpose is to review guide issues and serve as a liaison to the KRSMA, and Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.
In August 2006, Dana Fabe, Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, appointed Turner to a three-year term on the State of Alaska Select Committee on Legislative Ethics, a body that advises the Alaska Legislature and administers the state’s legislative-ethics law. He was confirmed by the Legislature in January 2007. In January 2009, he was elected as the chair of the full committee and chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Ethics. He is presently still a member of the committee and will begin another 3-year term in Jan. 2013 if confirmed by the Alaska Legislature.
Turner was named the 2011 Person of the Year by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce in Jan. 2012. He and his wife Marlene have been married 33 years, and have a grown son and two grandsons.