Rasmuson Foundation

The Board and staff of Rasmuson Foundation were saddened to hear of the passing of two former board members. Judge James von der Heydt died Dec. 1 in Anchorage. He was 94. Jim Flood, 90, died Nov. 22 at his home on Mercer Island, Wash.

In this post, former Board Member Morgan Christen and Foundation President Diane Kaplan share memories of these two Alaska giants. And from our video archives, some clips of James and Jim reflecting on their early days with the Foundation.

Judge Morgan Christen: “Judge von der Heydt was a fixture and a legend in Alaska’s legal community. He was kind, distinguished, a dapper dresser, and a true gentleman. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a joke or pun to share,” she wrote. “We will miss Judge von der Heydt dearly and are indebted to him for his many years of public service, for his faith in Alaska, his warm smiles of encouragement and his service to the nonprofit sector.”

Judge von der Heydt was a founding member of the Anchorage Fine Arts Museum Association and served on the Anchorage Municipal Fine Arts Commission for 21 years. Read his obituary.

Diane Kaplan: “When I began working with Rasmuson Foundation in 1995, Jim Flood had been a board member for some 20 years. An elegant, impressive man, he had met Elmer Rasmuson many years before at Downtown Rotary Club in Anchorage. He was surprised to be asked to join the board, somewhat out of the blue. There are two things I remember most about my short time around Jim. The first involves telling a secret.

“Jim was 100 percent committed to the YMCA. It was his number one philanthropic interest, no questions asked. Back then, the Rasmuson Foundation Board met once annually, usually right after Thanksgiving. They would distribute around $300,000 in small capital grants, generally $5,000 or less. In preparing for my first board meeting, I followed previous practice and presented the 100 or so applications in alphabetical order. Jim was strangely quiet through most of the meeting. We did the A’s, the B’s, the C’s. Finally we reached Y, and the last application. YMCA. Jim had plenty to say and the grant was funded. When I put the list together the following year, right up there in the A’s was ANCHORAGE YMCA. After that application was funded, Jim participated fully in the rest of the back and forth. As suspected, the year before, he was so passionate about YMCA he held all his cards in place for that discussion.

“My second memory of Jim is from a board dinner at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. I believe it was Jim’s final event as a member of the Rasmuson board. He asked for a moment to speak. He explained that Elmer Rasmuson was responsible for turning him into a philanthropist. How? Jim had once visited Elmer at the bank to request funds for a local charity with which he was involved. Following the meeting, Elmer quickly responded by sending a generous check. Later, when Elmer was beginning a campaign for the Anchorage Museum, he invited friends and colleagues to a meal and described his interest. Then he asked them all to get out their checkbooks. Of course, Jim complied. He hadn’t realized until then that when Elmer wrote the check for his cause years earlier, it had generated an IOU. So that’s how this works!

“Jim said it was his entry into the philanthropic world and he would be ever grateful to Elmer for making the introduction.”

Jim Flood’s obituary is here.

One Response to “Past board members remembered”

Carla Beam says: December 28th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Thanks for sharing stories of these two great men. I was lucky to work for Mr. Flood (in all the years I knew him, he would always remain Mr. Flood to me) early in my career. As Diane has noted, he was passionate about the Anchorage YMCA and the opportunities it provided for families in our community, particularly those without the resources for recreation or a summer camp experience. Mr. Flood didn’t pay me much, but that didn’t stop him from asking me to contribute to the Y. I dug deep to make a $25 contribution. It seemed like an enormous amount back then…but that first contribution opened a door for me. Mr. Flood also enlisted me to join the YMCA board…my very first board. That also opened a door. I will be forever grateful for the many lessons I learned from Mr. Flood, not the least of which was how the richness of this community grows when we share of ourselves and our resources.

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