Ed Rasmuson, philanthropist, has passed - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, January 16, 2022
HomeAlmanacEd Rasmuson, philanthropist, has passed

Ed Rasmuson, philanthropist, has passed

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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.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • A tall tree has fallen.. yet it’s roots are still deeply planted in the state coffers. Let us mourn the passing of the man, and yet rejoice if we are able to separate his organizations undue and unwarranted influence of state government and the legislature itself.

    • Ditto, Blessed be the People of the State of Alaska!!

  • Rest In Peace, Ed. Alaska is a much better place for your life’s work.

  • My thoughts and prayers are with you Cathy, Laura and Natasha. Such a loving giving familly.

  • Health is the great leveler. No matter if you are a celebrity, a great athlete, politician, powerful, or of great wealth. Those titles mean little at the end.
    Ed was very lucky to have inherited the family fortune. It allowed him to
    live lavishly. But he did more. His foundation, created out of the fortune he then found himself with , made life better for countless Alaskans. Yes, he jetted around the world in his Grumman Gulfstream, taking friends and family to exotic places. But He also used his wealth to provide to others what most of us take for granted; like a roof over our head, running water, heat, food, and educational Opportunities. He used his fortune to help countless others. And hopefully that is how he will be remembered. His family is undoubtedly comforted by that legacy.

  • Sorry Suzanne, but I just have to ask you (and others): why is there this sudden and strange avoidance of, and aversion to, the use of the words “death” and “died”?
    .
    What did Mr. Rasmuson “pass”? Are we on the highway with him?
    The headline should simply state “Ed Rasmuson has died”.

      • Well done.

    • Cool Jefferson. You and I agree on something.

  • Sad to hear of the loss of a good and philanthropic man from our city. (“A good man can save a city” according to scripture). I do not concur, however, with his position vis a vis the PFD. No matter how much private wealth he successfully husbanded within Alaska he has not been accorded by the US Constitution (“this constitution”) special, unique privileges to determine unilaterally or through personal agents the PFD share of the people of Alaska’s resources when that has been defined in statute especially when resource wealth, mineral rights, have been stripped without CFR 49 mandated negotiated, appraised and and prior paid-for process that is due prior to taking. That due process is not in evidence. It didn’t happen that’s why. The already delimited remedy is the current PFD statute which is now being broken by those who are the only ones who have an obligation to keep it – oath to obey laws and defend the Constitution while taking a stipend from public trust trust funds by elected representatives. This public law breaking with total impunity is an offense against Alaskans and justice.

    • Just when I think that reasonable minds can agree about the valuable contributions a man like Ed Rasmuson made during his 81 years, someone comes along and degenerates him with an unpleasant post that I challenge anyone to understand. Well done Aleutian. Your insensitivity is astounding.

      • I thought Aleutians post was totally on point, and more than generous it was fair. No one appointed the Rasmuson clan our saviors, and while they have done many philanthropic things, they’ve gotten wealthy and powerful and maintained that wealth and power, in at least some measure by the influence they wield in Juneau—influence which, heretofore, they have used to keep decisions out of Alaskans hands in the hands of a few wealthy elites like themselves. Their strong opposition to the PFD very bluntly reveals what they, and those like them believe; that they and their kind should hold Alaskas wealth in trust, and the average Alaskan is not worthy of that privilege. It’s not only accurate, it’s something that many people who peer into the workings of this state have known for years and yet the average Alaskan does not. It needs to be spoken of more, out loud, and in the daylight, but for fear of this same power this family holds for many years it has not. I won’t be as kind as Aleutian; Ed may have done good things, but his ultimate ideology of a benevolent ruling class, is just this side (and some would say just the other side) of evil, and it’s gotten us to where we are now: divided and insolvent.

      • Born, raised and marinated in this place where you choose to invest and place a family. I did not denigrate anyone. I said the CFR for public takings was not followed. It was not. He had different work.

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