Dr. Paul Lanning is a co-founder of Ascend Partners Group and served as Managing Partner from its inception in 2011 through May 2015, when he was named Vice President for University Advancement and CEO of the Tower Foundation at San José State University.
After four years at SJSU, where he established new levels of fundraising success (including more than $120 million raised in total and the greatest three-year sum in university history), earned a 2018 CASE Educational Fundraising Award, instigated award-winning marketing and branding efforts, and envisioned and led plans for nationally-newsworthy special events, Dr. Lanning has returned to the firm as one its lead consultants.
Prior to co-founding Ascend Partners Group, he served as President and CEO of the Foundation for California Community Colleges for more than four years from 2007 to 2011. Under his leadership, the Foundation entered a new era in which a number of groundbreaking initiatives were launched to benefit, support and enhance the California Community College system. Key successes include securing the largest gift to any two-year system of higher education in the nation’s history, raising national awareness of the need for greater private support to public two-year colleges, creating the organization’s resource development and marketing/communications departments to increase the Foundation’s capacity to attract support, and continuous growth and enhancement of numerous programs and services that impact California Community Colleges.
Lanning brought to that role nearly two decades of experience in management, marketing, and business development, with extensive background in education administration, fundraising, mass media, technology, entrepreneurship, and executive leadership. Immediately prior to assuming his role with the Foundation, he was Assistant Vice President for University Advancement and Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at the University of the Pacific, playing a major part in the University’s successful completion of a $200 million capital campaign in which $330 million was ultimately raised. Prior to that, as the founding CEO of Today’s Communications, Lanning was the recipient of the Entrepreneur Business of the Year Award from the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in 2000, and in 1998 was instrumental in the acquisition of a privately-held telecommunications firm by a publicly-traded cable provider in a $45 million deal.
Lanning began his career in marketing and public relations with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and spent several years working with professional and amateur sports organizations in corporate sponsorship, fundraising, media, and event management. He served as Associate Commissioner for the California Community Colleges Commission on Athletics in 1996-97, was a member of the Orange County Sports Association Steering Committee in 1995-96, and has consulted with organizations including the National Sports Collectors Convention, USA Badminton, Spalding Sports, and more.
Lanning holds a Doctorate in Education Administration & Leadership from the University of the Pacific, in addition to a Master’s Degree in Sport Management from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive and has taught numerous graduate-level courses in fundraising and non-profit management. He has also served as a keynote speaker at statewide and national conferences for numerous organizations, including the League for Innovation in the Community College, the Council for Resource Development, the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, the Network of California Community College Foundations, and the California Consortium of Education Foundations. He was named the Outstanding Professional in Higher Education by the Benerd School of Education at University of the Pacific in 2011.
Lanning has served on the boards of directors for the Silicon Valley Organization (formerly the San Jose-Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce), the Network of California Community College Foundations, the San Francisco 49ers Academy, and SPUR San Jose’s Urban Catalyst Team. He has also been a member of Rotary International’s Stockton and San Jose chapters during his career.