Who better to serve as royalty for the Progress Days 2000 theme, "Racing into the Future," than two physicists? This year's king and queen are Dennis and Ginger Steffy.
Ginger said she felt touched by the honor.
"Physics majors didn't tend to be prom queens," she said.
Educators and outdoor enthusiasts, the Steffys believe Soldotna to be one of Alaska's great communities. The two have lived in the area for more than 30 years.
Growing up separately in Pennsylvania, the two met while both were graduate students at Indiana University. In college, the couple learned they loved physics and one another.
"There were so many similarities between us," Ginger said. "We were both from small towns in Pennsylvania and we both were studying physics."
In 1969, Dennis and Ginger were recruited by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board to teach in Alaska at Kenai Central High School. After accepting the job, Ginger said she went straight home and looked at an atlas.
The couple believes they made the right decision in moving to Alaska.
"At the time, Kenai and Soldotna were the best places in Alaska to live," Dennis said. "I've been just about every place there is in Alaska, from the North Slope to Juneau, and I still believe that there is no better place to raise children."
The Steffys have four children. Son Jim Steffy worked in the school district's auditoriums as the head technician. Daughter Melissa Aberill earned a degree in health and safety. She works with Unocal and has two children. Daughter Katie Jones studied computer science. Her husband is enrolled in law school in Washington, D.C. Son Matthew Steffy is a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Like his parents before him, he is studying science. His major is biology.
Dennis said he has a lasting appreciation for his own youth. He said these days he rarely has free time. His job as the director of Mining and Petroleum Training Service with the University of Alaska has him out of town 75 percent of the time. But when he isn't teaching students petroleum mining health and safety, he is usually woodworking, boat building or playing guitar.
Ginger is the director of KPC's Soldotna campus.
Dennis said he is proud to serve as king over the people of Soldotna.
"Soldotna has done a great job of managing its growth," he said. "A lot of wise choices have been made in the city of Soldotna."
However, Dennis said he believes the town has lost some of its community spirit. He blames the homogenization of America.
"It used to be if you saw a car pulled over to the side of the road, you'd stop to see how you could help," he said. "No one had to worry."
Ginger points out that Soldotna's increase in size has brought about positive changes. She cites the development of the college as a primary example.
"The college used to be nothing more than an office inside KCHS that offered a few night classes," she said.
Ginger also remembers having to make trips up to Anchorage to buy supplies.
She has played an important role in the managing of Soldotna. She has served as president of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, helped in the development of the Challenger Learning Center and is president of the United Way.
Even while working with so much responsibility, the Steffys said they are still able to find time to spend with one another. Their favorite hideaway is their summer cabin in Peterson Bay.
"It's where we go to get away from the university," she said.
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