Philanthropist, banker Edward Rasmuson succumbs to cancer

Third generation banker and philanthropist Edward Bernard Rasmuson, whose family foundation has donated millions of dollars in efforts to improve life for Alaskans, died at home on Tuesday, Jan. 4, of brain cancer. He was 81.

The son of Elmer E. Rasmuson and Lile Vivian Bernard Rasmuson, his interest in fisheries led to him serve as chair of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council in the early 2000s and to endow the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In addition to the foundation, he was also involved in community service on the University of Alaska Board of Regents, the Anchorage Museum Foundation board, Atwood Foundation board, Rotary Club of Anchorage, Elks Club, Pioneers of Alaska, Explorer’s Club, UAF Fisheries Research Center advisory board, United Way of Anchorage and The Foraker Group.

Born in Houston, Texas on Aug. 27, 1940, he was reared in Alaska during its territorial days. Over the course of 30 years, he moved through the ranks of the family’s banking business, starting out as a teller, then a branch manager in Southeast Alaska and ultimately as chairman of the board. Along the way he earned a degree from Harvard College.

In 2000, he orchestrated the sale of the National Bank of Alaska to Wells Fargo. When his father died in December 2000, the bulk of the estate was given to the Rasmuson Foundation, which was created by his father and grandmother in 1955. For the next 20 years, he served as chairman of that foundation, which since 1955 has given over $475 million in charitable donations to benefit Alaska.

Among the dozens of beneficiaries have been the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Dental Health Aide Therapist Program.

He is survived by his wife, Cathy, and daughters Laura Emerson and Natasha von Imhof.