UA Journey

1950-1969 Elmer Edwin Rasmuson

Anchorage

Elmer Edwin Rasmuson was born in Yakutat, Alaska, on Feburary 15, 1909 to Swedish missionary teachers, Edward Anton (1882-1949) and Jenny (Olson) Rasmuson (1880-1966). While serving as a missionary, Edward Anton studied law by correspondence, and was admitted to the Alaska bar. He was appointed U.S. commissioner for Skagway in 1915 and became the corporate counsel for the Bank of Alaska at Skagway in 1916. He was later named president of the bank until 1943.

Elmer and his older sister, Maud Evangeline, were raised in Skagway and Elmer remembers his first job as a janitor at the bank his father worked at. After he graduated from Queen Anne High School in Seattle in 1925, he worked at his father's bank for a year before leaving Alaska to attend the University of Washington in 1926 before transferring to Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with a bachelors of science in Economics in 1930. Rasmuson went on to spend his summers working in various Alaskan banks in Anchorage and Ketchikan. After completing his undergraduate degree, Rasmuson came back to Alaska due to problems in the Cordova branch of Bank of Alaska, and took over the branch for a year.

He went back to Harvard, where he completed his master's degree in 1935. He had completed everything for his Ph.D., except write his thesis, but decided to seek employment in New York City. He became chief accounting for National Investors Corp. After two years, he became an accountant for Arthur Andersen and Co. in 1935, working in the tax department in New Jersey, Houston, and back to the New York office, until 1943.

On October 27, 1939, Elmer Rasmuson married Lile Vivian Bernard. Lile and Elmer had three children: Edward Bernard, Lile Muchmore, and Judy Ann

Edward Anton Rasmuson's health was failing in 1943, so he asked his son to return to Alaska to help run the bank. He returned to Alaska to become president of the banks his father had run for 24 years. The new bank president felt that there needed to be a change, so he moved the headquarters operations from Skagway to Anchorage. Edward Anton Rasmuson died in 1949.

Settling in Anchorage, Rasmuson served as the director for the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce from 1944-1946, served as an Anchorage city councilman in 1945, and Chairman for the Anchorage City Planning Commission from 1950-1953.

In 1955 Rasmuson served as Counsul of Sweden, which duties included settling estates of Swedish nationals who died in Alaska, handling absentee ballots, and processing visas. He was knighted to First Class, Royal Order of Vasa by the King of Sweden in 1966. Later he was awarded the Royal Order of the Northern Star in 1977, he resigned that same year.

A year after statehood, Rasmuson merged five other Alaskan banks -- Miners and Merchants Bank of Ketchikan, Bank of Wrangell, First Bank of Sitka, Bank of Homer and Bank of Kodiak -- with Bank of Alaska to form the National Bank of Alaska. The merger gave NBA 16 offices around Alaska and total assets of about $60 million, making it it the largest bank in the state.

In 1950 Rasmuson was appointed to the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska to succeed Austin "Cap" Lathrop after his death, and becoming president in 1956. He extended his generosity to many institutions,

Elmer Edwin Rasmuson was born in Yakutat, Alaska, on Feburary 15, 1909 to Swedish missionary teachers, Edward Anton (1882-1949) and Jenny (Olson) Rasmuson (1880-1966). While serving as a missionary, Edward Anton studied law by correspondence, and was admitted to the Alaska bar. He was appointed U.S. commissioner for Skagway in 1915 and became the corporate counsel for the Bank of Alaska at Skagway in 1916. He was later named president of the bank until 1943.

Elmer and his older sister, Maud Evangeline, were raised in Skagway and Elmer remembers his first job as a janitor at the bank his father worked at. After he graduated from Queen Anne High School in Seattle in 1925, he worked at his father's bank  for a year before leaving Alaska to attend the University of Washington in 1926 before transferring to Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with a bachelors of science in Economics in 1930. Rasmuson went on to spend his summers working in various Alaskan banks in Anchorage and Ketchikan. After completing his undergraduate degree, Rasmuson came back to Alaska due to problems in the Cordova banch of Bank of Alaska, and took over the branch for a year.

He went back to Harvard, where he completed his master's degree in 1935. He had completed everything for his Ph.D, except write his thesis, but decided to seek employment in New York City. He became chief accounting for National Investors Corp. After two years, he became an accountant for Arthur Andersen and Co. in 1935, working in the tax department in New Jersey, Houston, and back to the New York office, until 1943.

On October 27, 1939, Elmer Rasmuson married Lile Vivian Bernard. Lile and Elmer had three children: Edward Bernard, Lile Muchmore, and Judy Ann

Edward Anton Rasmuson's health was failing in 1943, so he asked his son to return to Alaska to help run the bank. He returned to Alaska to become president of the banks his father had run for 24 years. The new bank president felt that there needed to be a change, so he moved the headquarters operations from Skagway to Anchorage. Edward Anton Rasmuson died in 1949.

Settling in Anchorage, Rasmuson served as the director for the Anchroage Chamber of Commerce from 1944-1946, served as an Anchorage city councilman in 1945, and Chairman for the Anchroage City Planning Commission from 1950-1953.

In 1955 Rasmuson served as Counsul of Sweden, which duties included settling estates of Swedish nationals who died in Alaska, handling absentee ballots, and processing visas. He was knighted to First Class, Royal Order of Vasa by the King of Sweden in 1966. Later he was awarded the Royal Order of the Northern Star in 1977, he resigned that same year.

A year after statehood, Rasmuson merged five other Alaskan banks -- Miners and Merchants Bank of Ketchikan, Bank of Wrangell, First Bank of Sitka, Bank of Homer, and Bank of Kodiak -- with Bank of Alaska to form the National Bank of Alaska. The merger gave NBA 16 offices around Alaska and total assets of about $60 million, makit it the largest bank in the state.

In 1950 Rasmuson was appointed to the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska to succeed Austin "Cap" Lathrop after his death, and becoming president in 1956. He extended his generosity to many institutions, particularly to the University. His involvement mostly included libraries such as the Heritage Library in Anchorage, libraries in the bush areas of Alaska, and the Elmer Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks that opened in 1970. He retired from the board in 1967. Brian Brundin was appointed to take his place on the Board.

Rasmuson was appointed to civilian aid to the Secretary of the Army in 1959 until 1967 served with five Secretaries.

On April 30, 1960 Lile Bernard died after a long battle with cancer at the Memorial Hospital in New York City. She was active in community affairs such as the Boy and Girl Scouts. She was 48 years old.

Late in 1960, Rasmuson met Col. Mary Louise Milligan, Director of the Women's Army Corps, at a conference for Civilian Aides. Elmer, still upset by Lile's death, probably didn't expect to marry again. Romance blossomed, however, and Mary Louise and Elmer were married on November 4, 1961. Mary Louise retired from the military in July 1962 after twenty years of service.

On March 27, 1964, The Good Friday earthquake leveled the city of Anchorage. There was serious discussion of abandoning Anchorage altogether. Dismayed by what he considered a disorganized response to the great earthquake, Rasmuson ran and was elected mayor of Anchorage.  Rasmuson served until 1967, overseeing much of the reconstruction of the city. By 1965, Anchorage was recovering and slowly returning to normal.

In 1968, Rasmuson ran in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and beat his competition, Ted Stevens, but then lost in the general election to Democrat Mike Gravel. That same year, Bob Bartlett, the other Alaska senator, died and it was assumed that Governor Wally Hickel would appoint Rasmuson to the seat. Instead, Hickel gave the job to Stevens, who had the position until 2009.

On October 30, 1969, President Nixon appointed Rasmuson to the International North Pacific Fisheries Commission. He served until 1979. He remained active in his civil affairs until his death.

Rasmuson's generosity reflects his commitment to the university. With funds made available by him and his Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska and Polar Regions collection expanded in the early 1970s. In addition, he has contributed to documenting and preserving hundreds of movies about Alaska and funded the creation of the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center, to help guide the state's fishing industry.

Elmer Rasmuson died on December 1, 2000, but his support of intellectual life in Alaska continues through endowments from the foundation.


UA Site named after Elmer Rasmuson

Rasmuson Library

Elmer Rasmuson is also mentioned in these articles

Public Service: An Added Dimension, Fairbanks Flood 1967, Part 2

UA President's Medal of Excellence

UAF Power Plant named for Ben Atkinson

UA Honorary Degree Recipient (1970)

Links

90 Years, $90 Million: Rasmuson donates stock, Anchorage Daily News, February 16, 1999

Dedication of Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, May 3, 1970

Elmer Rasmuson A Life of Service: The Papers of Elmer E. Rasmuson (1909-2000)

Elmper Rasmuson speaks to school children about that it means to be an Alaskan, click here.

Patriarch Passes, Anchorage Daily News, December 3, 2000

Rasmuson Foundation

University of Alaska, Alaska Seas and Coasts Volume 7, Number 1, February - March 1979 Bullish for Fish

Sources:

Alaska Business, January 1984

BOR file