Edward Bernard Rasmuson died on Jan. 4, 2022, at his home in Anchorage, the Rasmuson Foundation announced on Tuesday. At 81, the banker, philanthropist, and civic activist had incurable brain cancer and had been in hospice care during recent weeks.
“One of Alaska’s tallest trees has fallen,” said Rasmuson Foundation President and CEO Diane Kaplan, who was hired by Ed as the Foundation’s first employee in 1995. “Ed’s intense love of Alaska inspired a generation of board members and staff. He was a mentor in all matters Alaska and modeled how effective leaders balance work with a full and satisfying life. With Ed, you always knew where you stood. He gave the Rasmuson staff the encouragement and resources to pursue our passions so long as the aim was to benefit Alaskans.”
Rasmuson was born Aug. 27, 1940, in Houston, Texas, to Elmer E. Rasmuson and Lile Vivian (Bernard) Rasmuson. Raised in pre-statehood Alaska, he joined the family business, National Bank of Alaska, starting out as teller and eventually becoming chairman of the board.
In July 2000, the family sold the bank to Wells Fargo. When his father died that year, most of the estate was bequeathed to the the family foundation created by his father and grandmother in 1955.
The gift quickly made the Rasmuson Foundation the largest private funder in Alaska, and was key to the development and expansion of many nonprofit organizations, the Anchorage Museum, Pick.Click.Give., the Alaska Community Foundation and community foundation in several communities across the state.
Since 1955, Rasmuson Foundation has provided more than $475 million in charitable donations.
The Rasmuson Foundation also got involved in politics, notably with the creation of Plan for Alaska, which promoted restructuring the Permanent Fund to the current management of the fund under an endowment model, with a “percent of market value” used to help fund government. The foundation also promoted creating new sources of revenue, budget cuts, and revision to the state’s oil and gas tax credit system. The foundation launched the Plan for Alaska to move the needle in public perception to reduce the Permanent Fund dividend and diversify income for the state.
“Data shows that our efforts had an impact. Across the board, there has been an increase in the percentage of Alaskans who support the implementation of a state income and sales tax, a combination of cuts and new revenue, and a permanent reduction of the PFD as a means of balancing the state’s budget. We shared these findings with Governor Walker and Alaska legislators as well, giving them unbiased feedback on the pulse of Alaskans that can help guide them in their decision-making this session,” the foundation wrote in 2017.
Ed’s community service included the University of Alaska Board of Regents, the Anchorage Museum Foundation board, Atwood Foundation board, Rotary Club of Anchorage (three decades of perfect attendance), Elks Club, Pioneers of Alaska, Explorer’s Club, UAF Fisheries Research Center advisory board, United Way of Anchorage, and The Foraker Group.
Rasmuson is survived by his wife Cathy, and daughters Laura Emerson and State Sen. Natasha von Imhof. He was preceded in death by sons David and Bruce.