I am delighted, excited and humbled to serve in my new role as Rasmuson Foundation board chair. This is a time of change for Alaska and the Foundation. We are starting to look past the pandemic, but in our case, without the leader who guided us since 2001. During his 21 years as chairman, my uncle, Ed Rasmuson, grew the Foundation from a small nonprofit into one that gives away over a half million dollars every week. Moreover, Ed possessed the rare combination of visionary and tactician. He could identify Alaska’s most pressing issues and then skillfully assemble the right people to address them. No problem was ever too big for “Big Ed.” I already miss his guidance.
I so appreciate the counsel of my aunt Cathy, in addition to that of my aunt Judy and mother Lile, or “Mom.” The “three sisters,” my cousin Natasha, my brother, Jay, and six more dedicated board members from around Alaska will keep Ed’s spirit alive. Meanwhile, as a “bonus challenge,” our other long-time leader, President and CEO Diane Kaplan, has announced that she will be departing, too, next year. We’re grateful for her commitment to lead us into 2023 for stability and continuity. Ed and Diane were an amazing team, and they left an indelible mark on Alaska.
My great-grandmother, Jenny, and grandfather, Elmer, created the Foundation in 1955 to honor my great-grandfather and give back to the place that gave our family so much. Now Natasha has taken her mom’s role as vice chair, and Jay has stepped up as secretary/treasurer. Our generation isn’t starting from the same place as Ed — we didn’t learn at the heels of Elmer. But we did learn at Ed’s. Even as we ponder the family question, “What would Elmer do?” we hear Ed’s voice, “See? Do it this way.” Ultimately, however, we must take responsibility for our turn. As Elmer and Ed did, our generation must engage in Alaska’s communities and maintain our family values of hard work and giving back if we are to make our own mark.
Ed instilled in us his love for wild Alaska, and you can expect to see more projects that help Alaskans and visitors alike enjoy the great outdoors. We want to do more to support our youth, whether through early literacy or projects like our Camps Initiative, featured in this report. Organizations like Seacoast Trust in Southeast Alaska and Anchorage Community Land Trust are working to support creative individuals and small businesses. We will continue to tackle homelessness even as we look at new areas, such as accessible and affordable broadband for all. We will continue to embrace the diversity that is Alaska, another core value. Through it all, we are blessed with the stability of our gifted staff to advise us.
Transitions are hard, but the next generation of Foundation leaders will find its way forward. I can’t promise we will not make mistakes. I’ve already made plenty. But by keeping an open mind, listening hard to partners and communities we serve, and refining our work to incorporate their voices, I’m confident we can continue to help solve Alaska’s greatest challenges. Our family owes Alaska everything. Ed, Alaska, we will not let you down.
Rasmuson Foundation Leadership
- Adam Gibbons, Chair
- Natasha von Imhof, Vice Chair
- Jay Gibbons, Secretary/Treasurer
- Lile R. Gibbons
- Rebecca Brice Henderson
- Kathy Hurlburt, MD
- Curtis McQueen
- Mike Navarre
- Cathryn Rasmuson
- Judy Rasmuson
- Marilyn Romano
- Angela Salazar
- Diane Kaplan, President and CEO
Ed Rasmuson reflects in July 2020 at the Anchorage Museum, Rasmuson Wing, Art of the North Galleries. He was the driving force for a dedicated space depicting the land and people of the North. (Photo by Kyle Seago for “Magnetic North: The Alaskan Character”)