Diane Kaplan welcomes guests attending a dinner in August 2021 for Alaska nonprofit leaders and visitors on the 2021 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska. (Photo by Amber Johnson)

LOOKING INWARD AND ONWARD

A message from President Diane Kaplan

Diane Kaplan welcomes guests attending a dinner in August 2021 for Alaska nonprofit leaders and visitors on the 2021 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska. (Photo by Amber Johnson)

Last year, I received the extraordinary gift of dedicated time for reflection on more than 26 years of projects and initiatives, relationships and friendships, trials and successes. All about Rasmuson Foundation. In a series of recorded conversations, a former colleague prodded me with sharp questions from staff, board members and the public to download memories of the Foundation’s early days, inner workings and key decisions since 1995, when I started as the Foundation’s first employee.

The setting could not have been more inspirational. I was among the participants in The Rockefeller Foundation’s month-long Bellagio Center residency program in northern Italy. Academics and artists, policy makers and top thinkers of our time gathered in a villa overlooking Lake Como. I worked hard to produce hundreds of pages of recollections that should provide the basis for a history of Rasmuson Foundation’s development into Alaska’s largest philanthropy.

New Chair Adam Gibbons with the late Chairman Emeritus Ed Rasmuson and President and CEO Diane Kaplan at a reception in August 2021.

The world is changing and so is the Foundation. I always said I would stay with the Foundation as long as our longtime Chairman Ed Rasmuson needed me. We lost Ed early in 2022 to a vicious brain cancer. He pushed us to address the big things: homelessness, the State of Alaska budget and many others. He left the Foundation in its best shape financially and programmatically. For me, there’s never a good time to leave work you love but the time seems right. I will be departing early in 2023 as president and CEO. The search is on for my replacement.  Already the next generation of Rasmuson family members is leading the board, including Ed’s nephew, our new Chair Adam Gibbons. I hope you’ll get to meet him. He is a smart, capable investment guy, but also a compassionate, caring human being. Adam loves Alaska, loves music and the arts, and loves all things outdoors. He’s got great political instincts, a gracious manner and a strong, ethical voice. We are lucky to have him at the helm.

Early in the pandemic, when financial markets were in a freefall, we paused routine spending. Then our assets not only rebounded but grew to an all-time high. We are considering new priorities driven by Alaska’s biggest needs.

The pandemic underscored the importance of being strong but flexible and exposed gaps and inequities that were always there. The Foundation has met with partners and Alaska leaders and identified universal, affordable broadband as a new area where we can help. We believe Alaska needs strategic solutions for closing the digital divide and a fair system of distributing a once-in-a-generation technology windfall of federal dollars. We are also exploring areas such as behavioral health and childcare, looking to leaders in both areas for how we might make a difference. We will keep you posted about these opportunities as they develop.

As Ed Rasmuson used to say, “There are all kinds of ways of giving back.” I’m looking forward to my next iteration of making that statement true. For now, the work continues. There’s much to do.