"In my involvements I believe I have found the most stimulating public service to be in higher education and youth activities" (Cole and Rasmuson, Vol. 2, 102).
Born into a missionary family, Elmer Rasmuson grew up in an atmosphere where service to others was a major facet of life. He followed this family tradition not only through his political service but also through intellectual pursuits. This is evident in his nineteen years of dedicated service on the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska and in his support for the Anchorage Museum of History and Art.
"My most prized lifetime recognition is that my name is on the building which houses the main library at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks" (Cole and Rasmuson, Vol. 2, 105).
By far, Elmer Rasmuson's greatest contribution to education was his support for the University of Alaska. Rasmuson became a member of the Board of Regents in 1950. As regent, he enthusiastically supported the creation of a community college system that would serve all of Alaska's residents. When Rasmuson became president of the board in 1956, he helped spur university officials into creating a long range plan for the institution. In 1969, EER retired from the Board of Regents. In honor of his many achievements during his nineteen years of service, the Board named the university library after him.
Rasmuson dedicated much of his time to making the University of Alaska a premier research center. In the late 1970s, he purchased a exceptional collection of Alaskana for Rasmuson Library (Falk, 66). This gift formed the core of the Rare Book and Map collection. Over the next two decades, Rasmuson continued to provide funds to purchase items for the expansion of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections' book, map, and manuscript holdings.
Rasmuson firmly believed in fisheries research to stimulate better management of one of Alaska's greatest resources. In 1994, he created the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a million dollar endowment.
"Our involvement in the museum has been one of the most stimulating enterprises in which we have been privileged to participate" (Cole and Rasmuson, Vol. 2, 148).
Libraries and educational pursuits were important to Elmer Rasmuson, and he gave generously to these enterprises. The founding of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art was one of Rasmuson's greatest achievements during his term as mayor of Anchorage. Mary Louise and Elmer provided the bulk of the construction costs and encouraged other leading citizens to give as much as they could. The ground-breaking took place in 1967.
The Rasmusons remained very involved with the museum over the years. Mary Louise chaired the first advisory committee of the Historical and Fine Arts Commission. In 1989 she became the chair of the Museum Foundation Board. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, Elmer Rasmuson made the largest philanthropic gifts in Alaska history when he gave the Anchorage Museum Foundation fifty million dollars and the Rasmuson Foundation forty million dollars. In 2000, both EER and Mary Louise received the American Association of Museums Medal for Distinguished Philanthropy in appreciation of their dedicated service to the Anchorage Museum of History and Art.