Behind The Scholarship: The Sachtjen Family Alaska Scholarship

If there is one thing that Jim and Marilyn Sachtjen value above all else, it is education.

“It’s the way that we Americans lift ourselves up into a better position, and we hope each generation does a little better,” said Jim. Marilyn agreed, “Education is the only thing we can do!”

In 2006, the Sachtjens established the Sachtjen Family Alaska Scholarship at Gonzaga to help students from Alaska have the opportunity to better themselves through Jesuit education. Their affinity for education is closely matched by their appreciation for the state of Alaska, where Jim and Marilyn met and fell in love.

“Alaska was a wonderful place,” said Jim. “Opportunity can be somewhat limited because of the industries there. Education is helpful in any place like that.” The Sachtjens’ hope is that the recipients of their scholarship will graduate and take their education back to Alaska to help others. Jim added, “We just hope that they do well in life.”

Originally from Bend, Ore., Jim attended Catholic grade school. He then went on to Oregon State University and through a program called the “Western Undergraduate Exchange,” which allowed Jim to attend Veterinary school at Colorado State University. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a military Veterinarian at a base near Fairbanks Alaska.

“Veterinarians don’t exist in the Air Force anymore, just the Army,” said Jim. “They take care of security dogs and such. But back in the sixties, we were there – every base had one.”

Marilyn was originally from Pittsburgh, Pa. and like Jim, attended Catholic grade school. She was in Alaska working as an X-ray Technician when she was set up on a blind date with Jim by his roommate.

“A year later, we were married,” laughed Marilyn. “You never hear too much about that happening anymore after a blind date!” After that, Jim set up a private Veterinary practice in Fairbanks, where the Sachtjens lived for more than 30 years. Marilyn helped set up the X-ray equipment in the clinic and occasionally helped out on the side while raising their family. “I really loved my field,” she said of her career.

Both Jim and Marilyn benefited from scholarships when they were in college and were very grateful for the financial help.

“In high school, I worked part time doing bookkeeping,” recalls Marilyn, “and my employer gave me a scholarship. Even to this day, I think ‘that was just great.’ I think it was $300, which paid for my first year.”

“Back then, scholarships would be $100, $200 or $300 and you just picked up little ones. They seem small now,” said Jim, “but it was a big amount back then.”

The Sachtjens had two children, who attended a Jesuit school in Fairbanks. Marilyn was instrumental in establishing the Kindergarten at this school in 1981. Jim served on the Monroe Catholic School Foundation board for 10 years and also served on a Catholic parish council for one of the churches in Fairbanks.

 “Alaska was good to us,” they both agreed. They felt a strong desire to give back to the community and help provide Alaskan students with the ability to attend a Catholic University in the Northwest.

“Gonzaga fit the bill as the University to work with,” said Jim. “Gonzaga is easily available to Alaskan students.” With a strong academic reputation, the Sachtjens felt that Gonzaga would be attractive to Alaskan students who are just starting out in their adult lives.

 “We want more people to recognize what Gonzaga is,” said Marilyn, “and we hope the recipients will pay it forward to another student when they’re able to.”

 If you would like to learn more about the power of scholarships at Gonzaga, visit, where you can make your gift in support of the Zag Scholarship Promise.