For Immediate Release
Dec. 5, 2018
Contact: Lisa Demer, 907-334-0529

Anchorage, Alaska — Time to think. Time to reconnect with friends and family. Time to let your organization grow — without you.

Leaders of five Alaska nonprofit organizations will get that treasured time through a 2019 Rasmuson Foundation Sabbatical Award. They come from a variety of fields: public radio and performing arts, social services and tribal administration, marine research and education. They will have three to six months in the coming year to unplug from demanding jobs to rest, reflect and rejuvenate. The awards, for $40,000 each, help cover the leader’s salary and costs of travel and other experiences during the time away.

Each of those selected brings a long history of community service. They all demonstrated a pressing need for time away.

In their applications, these leaders spoke of their love for their work but also how all-consuming it can be. Applicants are encouraged to think big and most plan vacations-of-a-lifetime to New York, Europe, New Zealand and more. Some also have low-key driving trips and relaxing with family and friends on their list. One mentioned developing an exercise regimen.

Each must commit to returning to their job for at least a year. Research shows that sabbaticals usually lead to much longer commitments to nonprofit work. Of those who have participated in Rasmuson Foundation sabbaticals, a 2016 survey found that most still worked for their same nonprofit organization five years later, and 70 percent still were working in the nonprofit sector, even if they changed jobs.

The Rasmuson Foundation Sabbatical Committee, which includes prior recipients and is led by Cathy Rasmuson, board vice chair, met recently to select the 2019 awardees.

During the leader’s time away, the organization and its staff gain perspective and new ways to manage, said Michelle DeWitt, a committee member and executive director of Bethel Community Services Foundation. She received a Sabbatical Award in 2005 when she led Tundra Women’s Coalition. She said: “Everyone becomes stronger for the experience, which is a beautiful outcome of the sabbatical.”

The new awardees are:

  • Alicia Andrew, president and tribal administrator, Karluk IRA Tribal Council. She has worked for the tribal council more than 30 years, a demanding position that allows for little personal time. She still is refining her sabbatical plan but wants to spend time with family, travel to a ministry in California, see plays in New York, and think about how to shape her life when she finally is ready to retire.


  • Kay Clements

     Kay Clements, general manager, Lynn Canal Broadcasting–KHNS in Haines. She helped found a community radio station in Marin County, Calif., back in 1995 and has worked in community radio ever since. She’s been in Haines since 2011 and is looking to recharge. She plans to travel in the Lower 48 visiting friends and family, as well as museums in Washington, D.C.


  • Lainie Dreas

    Lainie Dreas, executive director, Alaska Junior Theater. She has worked 22 years for performing arts organizations including 12 as head of Alaska Junior Theater. She plans a road trip in the Seattle area, a cruise to Italy, and travel to London, Edinburgh and New York enjoying theater as a patron. In between trips, she hopes to read and garden.


  • Mary Middleton

    Mary Middleton, executive director, Stone Soup Group, which provides support and resources for families caring for children with special needs. She has worked 25 years for nonprofits while raising children including a son with autism. She plans to drive the Alaska Highway for the first time and on the trip will get to spend time with her daughter. For most of her sabbatical, she plans to live with host families in other countries and immerse in new cultures, including in Turkey, South Africa and Ecuador.


  • Tara Riemer

    Tara Riemer, president and CEO of the Alaska SeaLife Center. She has worked 15 years for the center including six as CEO. She plans to go on guided Appalachian Trail hikes, visit with her family in Texas, and take at least one big trip, perhaps to the Galapagos Islands or New Zealand.

Applications for 2020 sabbaticals can be submitted through Sept. 15, 2019. Learn more here:


About the Foundation
Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband “E.A.” Rasmuson. Through grantmaking and initiatives, the Foundation aims to promote a better life for all Alaskans.