By Daily Sitka Sentinel Staff
Gil Truitt recently won the 2011 President’s Award for public service at the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention in Anchorage.
Truitt, a Mt. Edgecumbe graduate who went on to become a longtime teacher, coach and administrator at the Japonski Island school, was present to accept his award.
“I was quite pleased with that,” Truitt said. “Surprised, but pleased.”
Truitt called the award perhaps the highest honor he had ever received. He had not attended the AFN convention in a few years, but said it was the highlight of the year. He said he enjoys the event largely because of the large number Mt. Edgecumbe alumni who attend.
“It’s like the state tournament,” Truitt said, referring to the large turnout of MEHS graduates who typically turn out at Sullivan Arena to root on the Braves or Lady Braves when the qualify for the state basketball championships.
Orphaned at the age of 15 by tragic circumstances, life was not easy for Truitt, but he “never lost sight of the importance of securing an education.”
Truitt was a member of Mt. Edgecumbe’s original graduating class in 1948. He returned to Sitka in 1957 after receiving a Master’s degree in Education Administration from Arizona State University. He was hired as a teacher at MEHS and went on to work there for more than 30 years, retiring in 1990. That year, the school’s graduating class asked that the new auditorium be named the “Gil Truitt Activities Center.”
In 1983, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs shut down MEHS, Truitt worked, at his own expense, to have it reopened. One of Truitt’s main passions has always been athletics, particularly Southeast basketball. In 2006, he was inducted into the Alaska School Activities Association’s Hall of Fame for his “dedication as an administrator for Mt. Edgecumbe High School.”
“Basketball and other sports were very important to me when I was young because a young person, at the time, often went in one of two directions: sports or alcohol,” Truitt said, in a quote provided to AFN by Shee Atika as part of Truitt’s nomination packet. “Those who chose sports very seldom went off the deep end because proper training and keeping physically fit was very important.”
Truitt is credited with setting up athletic Halls of Fame for the ANB Hall, MEHS, Sheldon Jackson High School and Sheldon Jackson College. He also participated in the formation of ASAA’s Hall of Fame.
Truitt’s wife Shirley is a retired MEHS teacher. The couple has three grown children, Philip Dale, of Ketchikan, George Kenneth, of Juneau, and Laura Sharon, of Vancouver, Wash.