In our Storyteller profile series, we highlight the dreams, journeys and achievements of Doyon Foundation students, alumni and supporters. Profiles are available to read, watch and listen. In this Storyteller supporter profile, we speak with one of our alumni and loyal donors, Aaron Schutt, president and CEO of Doyon, Limited. You can watch or listen to Aaron’s full interview below, or read a transcript, with minor edits for clarity.
PURESTYN MILK: In this episode of Storyteller, we’re here with Aaron Schutt, a past Doyon Foundation scholarship recipient and now a loyal Doyon Foundation supporter. Thank you so much, Aaron, for joining us.
AARON SCHUTT: Very happy to be here today.
PURESTYN MILK: To start, tell us a little bit about yourself.
AARON SCHUTT: I grew up in rural Alaska, mostly in Tok. My parents, Dave and the late Joyce Schutt, were teachers across the Interior and in a couple other parts of Alaska as well, before I was born. I have a twin brother. My brother, Ethan, and I grew up together and went to school together for many years after high school. My Native family is mostly on the Yukon River. My mom’s Jeannette Scannell from Tanana; my grandparents were the late Josephine and Lawrence Roberts from Tanana; and I have a lot of relatives in Tanana and Galena and other parts of Yukon.
PURESTYN MILK: You received Doyon Foundation scholarships as a student. Tell us a little bit about your educational journey.
AARON SCHUTT: I had a long educational journey, which I enjoyed all parts of. When I graduated from Tok High School, I spent two years studying engineering at the University of Colorado, and then I transferred to Washington State University, where I got my bachelor’s in civil engineering. After that, I got a master’s in civil engineering from Stanford University and then stayed on for law school and also got my JD from Stanford Law School in 2000.
PURESTYN MILK: Thank you for sharing that. What did Doyon Foundation’s support mean to you as a student?
AARON SCHUTT: It was really important to me because I was in school for nine years post-high school, and I got either basic or competitive scholarships all of those 18 semesters that I was in school. That financial support was what allowed me to be able to keep pursuing the various degrees and continue my educational journey.
PURESTYN MILK: You’re working at Doyon, Limited now. Tell us about your role there. Also, what does it mean to you to be a Doyon shareholder, Doyon Foundation alumni, and now be a part of the team at Doyon, Limited?
AARON SCHUTT: I’ve been the president and CEO of Doyon since 2011, and I came to the company in 2006. I practiced law for about six, seven years prior to coming to Doyon, and then came over to Doyon, Limited. I’m really excited to come to work every day. It’s fun to be a Doyon shareholder and work at Doyon. You really know who you’re working for. Many of our employees value the mission and the opportunity to provide value, whether that’s dividends, job training opportunities, Foundation scholarships, and all the other things Doyon is able to do for our shareholders and their descendants and families. So, it’s really fun to get to work with the Foundation. As I said, I was blessed to have all those years of support and I’m excited to be able to give back now at this point in my career.
PURESTYN MILK: That’s great. Thank you. You were a Doyon Foundation student and now you’re a long-time supporter of the Foundation. Can you share a bit about why you choose to support the Foundation?
AARON SCHUTT: I’ve been donating to the Foundation since I got my first job out of law school, and it was just an opportunity to give back for all those years of support. I also enjoy going to various Foundation events and interacting with the students. They’re excited, they have their dreams, many of them are achieving their dreams, and it’s really great to hear those stories from our students.
PURESTYN MILK: What would you say to other people who may be considering supporting the Foundation’s work?
AARON SCHUTT: I always look back to the statements of our Elders and early board members at Doyon. Education was such an important dream of theirs for our people, and that’s a motivator and a direction for those of us who have the ability to help others in that journey. So, for students: hear those words and listen to them. They’re really wise, they said it for a reason, and education can really help many people with stability in jobs and career opportunities.
And then for Foundation donors and supporters, just listen to the stories from some of our students. You can hear incredible stories of people overcoming adversity in their lives to achieve educational dreams; you can see what many of our students achieve. The changes in my 20 years of being a supporter, where we have medical doctors and PhDs and people all over the country and world succeeding in their educations is really exciting for us as a people.
PURESTYN MILK: As a Doyon Foundation alumnus, do you have any advice or words of encouragement for our current students today?
AARON SCHUTT: I recognize that getting your post-secondary education is not necessarily easy, so as much as I want to encourage students, I also want to recognize that there are resources beyond financial that are sometimes necessary for people to achieve those educational goals. So, my advice is always to reach out, whether it’s people that can emotionally support you; find mentors. In most university systems, there are lots of resources and people that are able to and very willing to help if you reach out and ask for that help. Asking for help is really the most important thing that students can do.
PURESTYN MILK: That’s great advice. Thank you. Is there anything else that you’d like to share today?
AARON SCHUTT: I’m proud of the Foundation and its growth, and its ability to help thousands of our students over the years. So, as we look back on 50 years of ANCSA, one of the most important things that Doyon did was establish the Doyon Foundation. There’s been a strong commitment to the Foundation from our board and from our company leaders, all the way back through those 50 years. I’m pleased to be able to be a small part of that.
PURESTYN MILK: Thank you so much for your time today, Aaron, and sharing your story with us. I’m sure a lot of our students will appreciate it, so thank you for joining us today.
AARON SCHUTT: Tsín’ęę.