Lisa Marsh Ryerson is president of AARP Foundation, AARP’s affiliated charity. At the helm of the charity since the fall of 2013, she sets the Foundation’s strategic direction and leads its social impact initiatives. She is also a member of AARP’s Executive Leadership Team, which directs the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working on behalf of the 50+ population.
Ms. Ryerson joined the Foundation after 18 years as the president and CEO of Wells College in Aurora, New York. Her many accomplishments there include increasing enrollment by 45 percent – revitalizing the economy of the surrounding community – and launching an endowed Center for Business and Entrepreneurship.
She has brought that same innovative flair to her work at the Foundation, whose mission is to create and advance effective solutions to help vulnerable older adults meet their basic needs. Under her leadership, the Foundation has embarked on new relationships with high-profile organizations to serve older adults struggling with poverty and the related issues of unemployment, insufficient food, inadequate housing and social isolation.
A multiyear collaboration with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, announced in 2014, shines a national spotlight on the plight of older Americans while enlisting thousands of volunteers – including Dolphins players, coaches and fans – to deliver services and opportunities to the South Florida community, where one in seven seniors lives in poverty. Such collaborative efforts are the hallmark of Ms. Ryerson’s approach to the Foundation’s mission.
Reflecting her expertise in higher education, Ms. Ryerson has built new links between the Foundation and community colleges to increase employment opportunities for older adults. In support of that effort, during her first year at AARP Foundation she helped procure a $3 million federal grant from the Social Innovation Fund to expand the Foundation’s “Back to Work 50+” re-training program for the long-term unemployed. Other achievements include the release of a ground-breaking report on the state of housing for America’s older adults, and implementing an “innovation pipeline” to generate, test and analyze new ideas to help low-income 50+ Americans.
Ms. Ryerson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wells College and a Master of Science from the State University of New York College at Cortland. Lauded for her leadership, she has received numerous awards and honors including an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the State University of New York at Albany for having “met and exceeded each of John Quincy Adams’ standards for leadership.”