Elmer Rasmuson was born in Yakutat, Alaska in 1909 and moved with his family to Skagway during the post-Gold Rush bust. There his father, E.A., entered the banking business, which sealed the fate of the next three generations of the Rasmuson family.
Elmer studied at the University of Washington, later transferring to Harvard University, from which he received an undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, and later a graduate degree. After completing his graduate studies, Elmer worked for the accounting firm Arthur Andersen & Co. In later years, Elmer listed Andersen and his father as the two most influential people in his life.
In 1939, Elmer married Lile Bernard. In 1943, Elmer's father, suffering from heart disease, asked him to return to Alaska. E.A. died six years later, leaving the bank to Elmer. The couple had three children: Edward, Lile and Judy. Elmer's wife Lile died in 1960.
In 1961, Elmer married Mary Louise Milligan, national director of the Women's Army Corps. The following year, Mary Louise Rasmuson, now a colonel, retired from the U.S. Army after 20 years of service, five as Director. Col. Rasmuson received a Legion of Merit award with two oak leaf clusters, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Service Medal and a World War II Victory Medal.
Mary Louise had previously received an undergraduate degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and a Master of Education from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1959, she, along with Helen Hayes, was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology.
In Alaska, Mary Louise served with the American Cancer Society, the Anchorage Museum Foundation and the Anchorage Historical and Fine Arts Commission.
Elmer served as Mayor of Anchorage from 1964 to 1967. During his tenure he gathered a group of local citizens to match private funds with government funds to build Anchorage's first permanent museum- now the Anchorage Museum.
For the Alaska Purchase Centennial in 1967, the federal government created a fund to build museums in Alaska communities. Anchorage's share of the fund was $135,000.Through the efforts of Elmer and Mary Louise Rasmuson, individuals and businesses donated $354,000 for a museum and fine arts building. Mary Louise Rasmuson led a successful campaign to encourage Anchorage voters to approve a $400,000 bond issue for the museum. Kenneth Maynard, architect with Schultz and Maynard, designed the 10,000 square foot building. Howard S. Lease Company constructed the building for $520,000.
To advise the mayor and city council on museum policy and to provide community input for them and the museum's director, the City established a 9-member Historical and Fine Arts Commission. Mary Louise Rasmuson served as its chair for the subsequent 21 years.
Elmer's political career continued when he ran in the 1968 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Elmer was the first chairman of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, a founder of the Anchorage Museum and the first Chairman of the Alaska Permanent Fund. The Rasmuson Foundation, created by Elmer and his mother Jenny in 1955, remains today a major philanthropic presence in Alaska.
The Anchorage Museum Foundation (AMF), founded in 1989 is a 501(c)(3) non- profit corporation that raises funds and manages an endowment to support the long-term financial needs of the Museum. Distributions are made annually from endowment earnings by the board of directors to help build the Museum's collections, underwrite conservation projects, finance capital expenditures and assist in mounting temporary exhibits.
The AMF welcomes contributions to its endowment. Such gifts can be made in a variety of ways including: cash or gifts of securities, life insurance or appreciated real estate. The AMF is the vehicle for planned gifts and bequests to the Museum. Donors can make provision for a named fund that has a designated purpose (currently, AMF is administering named funds that support children's programs, conservation and temporary exhibits).
For information regarding the Foundation, contact:
Anchorage Museum Association
625 C Street
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 929-9200
The Cook Inlet Historical Society is one of Alaska's oldest regional historical organizations. Founded March 30, 1955, at the Z.J. Loussac Library in Anchorage, it soon acquired collections through donations of artifacts and art by several long-time Alaskans. Using these collections as a nucleus, the Society opened a museum in the library on September 11, 1955. The collections grew. In the early 1960s, the Society museum moved to the City Hall Annex. In 1968, the Cook Inlet Historical Society cooperated with the City of Anchorage to found the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. Since that time, the Society has headquartered in the Museum. Monthly programs on the third Thursday of each month from September through May are a highlight of Society activities. The Society also supports publication of books on Alaskan history, which are available in the Museum Shop.
The Smithsonian Institution is a museum and research complex of 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park, as well as research facilities. The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, established in 1988, is a federal research and education program focusing on peoples, history, archaeology and cultures across the circumpolar North. The center is part of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. In 1994, the center partnered with the Anchorage Museum to open an Anchorage location.