Alaska banker and longtime philanthropist Edward Rasmuson dies at 81

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 6:58 PM AKST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2022 at 10:59 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Edward B. Rasmuson, the chairman emeritus of the Alaskan foundation of the same name and an engaged philanthropist who served on myriad boards, has died at the age of 81.

Rasmuson died on Tuesday at his home in Anchorage, according to a press release from the Rasmuson Foundation, following a year of treatment for brain cancer. His daughter, Alaska Sen. Natasha von Imhof, said he was surrounded by his family when he died.

Rasmuson was born in Texas in 1940. His grandmother established the Rasmuson Foundation in 1955, and in 2000, Rasmuson orchestrated the sale of the National Bank of Alaska to Wells Fargo. The bulk of his father’s estate was given to the foundation when he died which, according to the press release, “fueled the Foundation’s dramatic growth in assets.”

Serving as chairman for the following 20 years, Rasmuson steered the foundation into becoming the largest private funder in Alaska, the release states. Since its establishment in 1955, the foundation has given more than $475 million in donations that benefit Alaska.

“One of Alaska’s tallest trees has fallen,” said Rasmuson Foundation President and CEO Diane Kaplan in the press release. “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.”

Von Imhof, reached Tuesday evening, said her father was many things — a banker and a philanthropist to name a few.

“But to me, he was my dad,” she said. “He taught me how to fillet a fish, he taught me how to drive a car.”

Among the many things Rasmuson taught her, von Imof highlighted three that stood out above the rest. First, he taught her that one always tells the truth. Second, one should always think long-term, von Imhof said.

“You think about the future,” she said.

Third, Rasmuson taught her that one always makes decisions with what’s best for Alaska in mind.

Beyond his work with the foundation, Rasmuson served the community through myriad boards for other organizations. According to Tuesday’s press release, Rasmuson’s service included the Anchorage Museum Foundation Board, The Foraker Group, the Atwood Foundation board, the Rotary Club of Anchorage and more.

Von Imhof noted this deep commitment to serving the greater community that was solidified by her father.

“You always serve your community, you always give back in some way,” she said, whether through the giving of time or money. “You always participate in your community in some meaningful way.”

Von Imhof said the family will likely hold a memorial for Rasmuson this summer.

Rasmuson is survived by von Imhof, his wife Cathy and daughter Laura Emerson.

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