One of the pillars of Alaska’s philanthropic community died yesterday at her home in Anchorage. Mary Louise Rasmuson was 101.
Along with her husband Elmer, she had been active in the work of the Rasmuson Foundation and was responsible for influencing the direction of community work withing Alaska, first, and also expanding the Foundation’s work throughout the nation. As Chair of the Anchorage Museum Foundation she was instrumental in creating the Anchorage Museum of Art and History in 1968 — later the Anchorage Museum at the Rasmuson Center.
Those who worked with her say she preferred to remain out of the public spotlight by working quietly. Steve Lindbeck is C-E-O and President of Alaska Public Telecommunications – the parent company of APRN. He says she was a major philanthropic and civic force in Alaska.
She had a great devotion to arts and culture, to health obviously, to community processes all over the place. It was remarkable the way she would send a note to someone who was doing something interesting. It would kind of come out of the blue, but it would make people realize that she was paying close attention and she was visible, supportive and able to make things happen in a quiet, gracious and classy way.
Prior to her marriage to the National Bank of Alaska’s Elmer Rasmuson and her move to Alaska, Mrs. Rasmuson had risen through the ranks to become the Commandant of the Women’s Army Corps in 1957 – the public face of military women. But Rasmuson Foundation President Diane Kaplan says that her role changed in the state – where she preferred to work from the “back of the room.”
It was a very different role for her when she came to Alaska. Before that she was always very front and center, and she assumed a very different role here. So, her influence was always very gentle and behind the scenes, and she gave director to a lot of people and influenced a lot of people but in a very quiet way.
Kaplan says she had remained engaged in the work and projects supported by the Foundation – dealing with grants and meeting personnel as recently as two weeks ago.
A funeral mass will be held September 10 at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Anchorage.