We seem to be busier than ever, and so do many of the nonprofits and tribal organizations working to make life better for Alaskans. We were grateful to gather with many of you in memory of Chairman Ed. Read about his memorial and celebration of life and much more in this month’s President’s Report.
— Diane Kaplan, president and CEO
The Ed of an Era
We gathered June 23 with the Rasmuson family and many friends of our late Chairman Ed to celebrate a life lived with purpose for family and for Alaska. A funeral service at First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage was followed by a Celebration of Life that drew hundreds to the Dena’ina Center. Cathy Rasmuson worked with Jess Haley, manager of the President’s Office, and event planner Zulie Mason to share love and appreciation with flowers of blue and gold, poached salmon topping a menu of delectable canapés, and blown-up photos of Ed hunting, fishing, grilling, flying and enjoying the world with friends and family. Of course, Ed would have wondered what all the fuss was about.
Stories and songs carried us through. His sisters, Lile Gibbons and Judy Rasmuson, spoke at the church service, keeping those in audience both laughing and tearing up. His nephew, Foundation Chair Adam Gibbons, shared how when it came to setting the net for sockeyes, Ed’s insistence on getting the net just right paid off. “If you’re going to do something, get it right,” Adam remembers his uncle saying. I shared my first encounter with Ed. I had been told he hated radio, and I was trying to get the National Bank of Alaska to support the Alaska Public Radio Network, which I had come to Alaska to run. Not only did he answer his own phone, he agreed to a meeting — and to $6,000 for public radio.
Adam and Jay Gibbons joined Jeff Baird, Alexandra McKay, Lailani Stone and me in our ode to Ed, “You picked a fine time to leave us, Big Ed.”
Natasha von Imhof emceed the celebration, sharing wisdom from her father: Life is a gift, not a grind. Daily conflicts are puzzles, not problems. Life is outside, not in the office.
The Anchorage Assembly also honored Ed with a resolution read at its July 12 meeting. Cathy and Natasha were present. Special thanks to the sponsors, Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance and Assembly member Chris Constant.
In search of creative, hardworking people
We are currently accepting applications for a number of positions at Rasmuson Foundation, some newly created and some replacing those who have left. We thank the board for the support in growing the team. Along with advertising on all our social media platforms, we have placed ads in the Sol de Medianoche, a bilingual newspaper serving the Latinx communities in Alaska, on the Anchorage Daily News job site and in Alaska Native Hire, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, ASHRM, Jobs2career, Career Builder, Council on Foundations, The Foraker Group, Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, Nexxt, Peak Grantmaking, Philanthropy Northwest, ZipRecruiter and Diversity Network job boards.
I want to give a special shout out to our Manager of HR and Risk Management Carmen Goodwin for her great work reaching out to various groups to expand our reach. The current openings are listed here.
At last an Alaskan
For the first time in the 55-year history of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, an Alaskan is poised to serve on its board. President Biden nominated me in July. It was quite the process. Neighbors were interviewed by the FBI. International travel itineraries for the past 20 years were dissected. I thought I was in line to be secretary of defense! The Senate still must confirm my nomination. There are currently seven other board members. CPB, a private corporation that distributes public dollars, frames its funding investments around “three Ds:” diversity, digital and dialogue. A little known bit of CPB history: When Congress first created what would become CPB, they planned to call it the Corporation for Public Television, following the recommendation of the Carnegie Commission Report on Public Television.
But Alaska only had public radio. Alaska U.S. Sen. Bob Bartlett insisted the name be changed to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting if they wanted his vote. That worked out well for Alaska! CPB has become ever-more important as state funding has been squeezed to elimination. (Gov. Mike Dunleavy recently vetoed state grants for public broadcasting for the fourth time.) For Alaska Public Media, federal support through CPB is the second largest funding source, after the local community of individuals, corporations and foundations.
Celebration in Juneau
After three long years without gathering, joy was in abundance at Celebration in Juneau. Celebration is the biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures that was postponed because of COVID-19.
I spoke at the opening ceremony of Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus, which the Foundation helped fund with a $750,000 grant in 2021. The 6,000-square-foot campus will house indoor and outdoor space for artists to make monumental Northwest Coast art pieces such as totem poles and canoes; classrooms for art programming and instruction in areas such as basketry, textile weaving and print making; and space for performances and gatherings, Native art markets, an art library, artists-in-residence and faculty.
Say hello to Judilee!
At Celebration, we welcomed the new president and CEO of United States Artists, Judilee Reed. We hosted a reception for her to meet with local artists, past United States Artists fellows and leaders of local arts and cultural institutions. VP Angela Cox took part along with program officers Deborah Vo and Monica Garcia-Itchoak. Sydney Copley helped organize the event.
United States Artists is a national organization that supports artists. As of 2022, US Artists has recognized 18 Alaska artists as fellows with $50,000 awards. Rasmuson Foundation is one of the founding funders.
Much-improved hospital for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
Board member Marilyn Romano and I attended the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. ribbon-cutting for its expanded and remodeled regional hospital. We were also able to visit the new aviation mechanic school and Bethel Winter House and connect with community partners. The Paul John Calricaraq Project was named for the late cultural leader from Toksook Bay with a built-in reference to the Yup’ik word for healthy living. The project completely remade the hospital, added a new primary care clinic and on-site childcare, and consolidated health care services. We ended with a Kuskokwim River boat ride hosted by Michelle DeWitt of the Bethel Community Services Foundation and Eileen Arnold of the Tundra Women’s Coalition. Eileen is a current sabbatical recipient and Michelle received hers the first year, back in 2005.
In Gustavus, a community gathers
Board member Angela Salazar and I traveled to Gustavus to celebrate a new community center. In 2007, they began raising money. In early June, the ribbon was cut. The Foundation was happy to support this community’s effort and vision with a $400,000 Tier 2 awarded in 2017. We also visited Tidelines Institute facilities on the Inian Islands and in Gustavus.
A new trail into Chugach State Park
Switchbacks now provide a way up the steepest part of a hike that is fast becoming a Chugach State Park favorite. We supported the reworked section of the Little O’Malley Peak Trail with an $11,000 grant. Board Chair Adam Gibbons and Senior Program Officer Tanya King joined me in representing the Foundation at the ceremonial opening of the trail, which rewards hikers with phenomenal views.
With Tanana Chiefs Conference, a river trip
Roy Agloinga, program officer for external affairs, joined other funding partners in June on a Tanana Chiefs-led trip to five villages along the Yukon River. He is setting up a follow-up meeting with Brian Ridley, interim TCC president, VP Alexandra McKay and me on possible projects. A highlight for Roy was meeting with so many Alaskans from the Interior, including legislators, law enforcement members, and local leaders and people — even sharing sleeping quarters in a school gym with the entire group!
Chilkat Valley plans for the future
The Chilkat Valley Community Foundation, one of 11 local funds that we are supporting, is building its operating endowment fund to become self-sustaining. The Haines-based community foundation has set a goal of $600,000 by 2029 to help pay for day-to-day expenses such as a part-time program manager, training programs, database subscriptions and office supplies. The affiliate is halfway there. To get to the finish, Rasmuson Foundation and The Alaska Community Foundation will match every donation, up to $25,000 contributed by locals. Thanks to this, it expects donations to total $75,000 this year. Since 2008, the Chilkat Valley Community Foundation has granted $365,486 to local nonprofits and $16,000 in scholarships from the Art Jess Scholarship fund. It has raised $2.69 million for both operations and grantmaking through the Chilkat Valley Community Foundation Fund. Its work focuses on the Haines Borough and Klukwan.
Talking with HSS about behavioral health
In early June, we hosted a behavioral health roundtable for Ingrid Ulrey, Region X director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as a welcome to Alaska. The curated conversation focused on the current state of behavioral health and services, Alaska-specific needs, and the long-lasting effects of the pandemic on Alaskans and our health providers. Leaders from across the state joined VP Alexandra McKay and me: Steve Williams, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority; Elizabeth Ripley, Mat-Su Health Foundation; Clark Halvorson, United Way of Anchorage; Lisa Aquino, Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center; Melanie Bahnke, Kawerak, Inc.; Preston Simmons, Providence Alaska; Tiffany Hall, Recover Alaska; Brian Green, Christian Health Associates; Dustin Morris, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Alaska Chapter; Carmen Wenger, All Alaska Pediatric Partnership; Charles Clement, SEARHC; Shenee Williams, Shiloh Community Housing; Michelle Baker, Southcentral Foundation; and David Dickinson, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Rasmuson staff members Tanya King, Deborah Vo and Samona Norombaba also attended.
Celebrating Juneteenth in Anchorage
Foundation staff members Emily Kwon, Sydney Copley, Christina Gheen and Kris Palmatier connected with the public and shared the Foundation’s story during the citywide Juneteenth celebration on the Park Strip. At the Foundation table, they answered questions about our work, grant applications and mission. This was the first time Rasmuson Foundation was officially represented at this event commemorating freedom for enslaved African Americans across the entire United States. One of the projects featured was the multimedia storytelling project, Black in Alaska. Staff encouraged individuals to follow along on blackinalaska.org and on Facebook and Instagram. They also spread the word about the physical exhibit inside the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.
Earlier in June, I spoke at a health fair put on by the Alaska Black Caucus. I talked about the Foundation’s support for civility on public discourse and inclusion for all Alaskans.
And the 2022 Honorary Old Crab is …
I was happy to join the community of Seldovia’s July 4 celebration as the 2022 Honorary Old Crab. I dressed in theme with a crustacean patterned dress, made by Angel Oliveira, Silver Salmon Camp director. While in Seldovia, I visited the community cemetery to see progress made on upgrades with Foundation support. Every year, the Seldovia Chamber of Commerce chooses one influential Alaskan as its Honorary Old Crab. Past Old Crabs include U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Ted Stevens, Congressman Don Young, Gov. Jay Hammond, political leader and fish czar Clem Tillion and KTUU anchor Maria Downey.