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Cathy Rasmuson’s impact as active Vice-Chair of the Rasmuson Foundation since 1997 is immeasurable. Her caring influence can be felt everywhere—from Alaska’s Native villages and urban cities to health care and the arts—with thousands of Alaskans every day benefitting from her passion to make Alaska a better place to live.
Rasmuson has been guided by a generous heart her entire life. She grew up in a modest household in Canada, but one rich in empathy and compassionate awareness for others. Her parents’ faith and their example as role models gave her a strong moral compass.
She believes everyone has strengths and gifts and it’s important to recognize who you are, what your gifts are, and make the most of them. As a young girl, she realized that she had a particular gift for organization and strategic thinking. These gifts have served her well in all her endeavors—from her service on the Rasmuson Foundation championing causes to hosting innumerable events, receptions, and dinners for a myriad of organizations from The Foraker Group to Sitka Fine Arts and many others.
One of the Rasmusons’ significant achievements has been to nourish the growth and expansion of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. Rasmuson has a particular love of the arts and museums. When she is traveling, she never misses a museum.
Some of Rasmuson’s personal commitments include being the co-chair of the successful capital campaign for the Providence Cancer Center and as a founder and long-time Board member of Covenant House. She has been instrumental in establishing the pediatric/newborn intensive care unit at Providence, as well as being involved in supporting Catholic Social Services and the McAuley Moms. Rasmuson has initiated and shepherded many Rasmuson Foundation programs, such as expanding dental services in rural Alaska. In the last thirty-five years, she has served on numerous boards, including Alaska Children’s Services and the Alaska Repertory Theatre, in addition to countless committees. Rasmuson commented that the board and committee experiences have taught her to listen and to be grateful.
It was her sense of adventure that brought her to Alaska, where she met her lifelong mentor and loving partner, Ed Rasmuson, appropriately enough at a Valentine party. It was also this sense of adventure that provided her with one of her most memorable experiences. One year, Joe Reddington, the father of the Iditarod, offered a trip to anyone who would like to actually do the Iditarod trail. Joe schooled them in the art of dog-mushing and gave them each their own team—and then they began the 1200 mile journey! This is not for the faint of heart—it is cold, hard work and dangerous. They were all novices making their way to Nome. Those who made this journey became lifelong friends—as you do when you go through adversity together. The compassion that each had as they helped each other through some very rough times has stayed with them. Accomplishing this goal required enormous mental strength and determination, lessons that were transferred to the rest of her life.
Rasmuson loves to dance and is usually game for when “volunteers” are called for, be it the hula, flamenco, Irish, or Native dancing. Of course, she does extensive community volunteering. For example, when in the desert, she makes weekly visits to an elementary school for underprivileged children in Indio.
Ironically, Rasmuson dislikes fundraising, though she knows it is essential to seek funds to support causes she cherishes. However, her passion for a cause and commitment transcends that challenge, which takes her out of her comfort zone.
It is her temperament to wake up every morning and want to make the best of each day. She greatly values her friends, particularly their loyalty. She also enjoys reading—and thus her support of statewide libraries is well-known. She does enjoy cooking and her favorite specialty cuisines are Moroccan, Indian, and Italian. Rasmuson loves to golf, but has yet to hit that elusive hole-in-one. In addition to golf, she loves hiking, which led her to another adventure of hiking the historic Chilkat Trail with friends.
Her travels have included nearly every region of Alaska. Through these onsite visits, she sees firsthand the needs of each of these communities by meeting with elders and community leaders and hosting town meetings to learn about their vision of how their villages and towns can move toward a brighter future.
Key to Rasmuson’s character is not to seek the spotlight or acclaim for her many achievements and spheres of influence. Rather, she always gives credit and recognition to her partners, collaborators, and teams for the successes that were achieved. She has been honored, though, with the Ed and Cathryn Rasmuson Hall at UAA, the Lizzie Award from Covenant House and has been recognized as a YWCA “Woman of Achievement”. Her bio on the Rasmuson Foundation website is modest and brief, simply stating her board service with the Rasmuson Foundation and that her family is important to her life. She has three children and eight grandchildren and devotes her time to being a friend, a grandmother, the Rasmuson Foundation, and travel.
Rasmuson has truly been the heart of the Rasmuson Foundation. Her generous spirit and heart have touched many. As Alison Kear of Covenant House Alaska states: “She tirelessly gives her time to her friends, to those in need, and to the community. She is a selfless and powerful role model.”
She has always been powered by a passionate commitment and she has done a great deal of good for the state of Alaska.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/uATsK33ib_I
Individual comments from Barbara Baugh, Pamela Brady, Alison Kear, Julie Fate Sullivan, Diane Kaplan and direct conversation with Cathryn Rasmuson
When Cathy Rasmuson moved to Alaska nearly 50 years ago to teach speed reading in Anchorage, she had no idea she would spend her life dedicated to the betterment of all Alaskans, especially its most vulnerable citizens. Cathy is best known as a loyal friend and mentor, an advocate for at-risk youth, and as a philanthropist. She has served on the Rasmuson Foundation Board of Directors since 1997, as well as the boards of Covenant House Alaska, Alaska Children’s Services, and McCauley Home, which is a safe place for pregnant and homeless teen girls to stay.
Through the Rasmuson Foundation work, Cathy has focused on bringing better access to healthcare to Alaska. She chaired the capital campaign for the Providence Hospital Cancer Center and was also instrumental in establishing the Pediatric Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Providence.
Rasmuson came from a Canadian family of modest means, who were her role models by example of being empathetic and caring. After earning a BA in English from the University of Alberta, she worked there in public relations before deciding to seek adventure in Alaska. Shortly after arriving, she attended a Valentine’s party where she fortuitously met Ed Rasmuson, who became her loving partner for the next 48 years.
One of her most memorable adventures has been dog-mushing the Iditarod Trail with Joe Reddington in 1993. She and her colleagues followed after the race had started and experienced the hospitality of Alaskans across the state. Her affection for rural Alaska was greatly influenced by that experience.
Cathy Rasmuson’s life reads like a fairy tale, where she has been fortunate enough to serve as actual fairy godmother as the Vice-Chair the Rasmuson Foundation. She is known as the heart of the Rasmuson Foundation.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/uATsK33ib_I