Lisa Marsh Ryerson is president of AARP Foundation, AARP’s affiliated charity. At the helm since the fall of 2013, she sets the Foundation’s strategic direction and leads its social impact initiatives. Collaboration is the hallmark of Ms. Ryerson’s approach to AARP Foundation’s mission. Under her leadership, the Foundation has embarked on relationships with high-profile organizations to create and advance effective solutions to help vulnerable older adults meet their basic needs.
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. The Foundation’s newest collaborative effort, Connect2Affect, brings together aging, academic, volunteer and health care organizations to help end isolation and build the social connections older adults need to thrive.
Ms. Ryerson joined AARP Foundation after 18 years as the president and CEO of Wells College in Aurora, N.Y. Her many accomplishments there include increasing enrollment by 45 percent — thus revitalizing the economy of the surrounding community — and launching an endowed Center for Business and Entrepreneurship.
Reflecting her expertise in higher education, Ms. Ryerson has built new links between AARP Foundation and community colleges to increase employment opportunities for older adults. During her first year at the Foundation, she helped procure a $3 million federal grant from the Social Innovation Fund to expand the Back to Work 50+ retraining program for the long-term unemployed. Other achievements include the release of a groundbreaking 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 seniors.
Throughout her career, Ms. Ryerson has served on the boards of numerous higher education and nonprofit organizations, including the Council of Independent Colleges, Southern New Hampshire University, the Congressional Hunger Center, and L.A. Kitchen, of which AARP Foundation is a founding partner.
Ms. Ryerson holds a Bachelor of Arts 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 degree from Southern New Hampshire University in 2015 and 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.”
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