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From Power to Impact

Published by Aubrey Hicks on

by Justine Dodgen

Sherry Lansing – Translating a high-power career into impact on education

Did you ever think that your high school math teacher might one day be one of Hollywood’s leading executives? For Sherry Lansing’s students, this idea may have been no surprise. Starting her career as a high school teacher, Lansing went on to spend over 30 years in the film industry and became the first female President of a major film studio.

Sherry Lansing

Now the founder and CEO of The Sherry Lansing Foundation, which provides funds to cancer research, public education, and secondary career opportunities, Lansing will join the Bedrosian Center on April 21 for a Lunch with a Leader event to discuss her passion for education and her experiences as a woman in leadership.

During her entertainment career, Lansing was involved in the production, marketing, and distribution of more than 200 films, including Academy Award winners Forrest Gump, Braveheart, and Titanic. At age 35, she became the first woman to lead a major film studio when she became President of 20th Century Fox. She then spent several years as CEO of Paramount Pictures, overseeing six of Paramount’s ten highest-grossing films.

Though best known for her career as a studio executive, Lansing also spent four years after college teaching high school English and math at public schools in the Los Angeles area. This experience, along with Lansing’s belief in the power of education to effect social change, inspired her foundation’s focus on public education, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM.)

In 2007, Lansing helped found the EnCorps STEM Teachers Program, founded to retrain mid-career professionals from STEM fields to be math and science teachers in high-needs California public schools. EnCorps, developed as a public-private partnership in partnership with Governor Schwarzenegger, works to address the shortage of math and science teachers that have been documented since 2010.

In doing so, the program hopes to break the cycle of underrepresentation in STEM fields, from improving low high school proficiency in math and sciences to increasing the number of college students with STEM majors to meet the increasing demand for STEM professionals. EnCorps currently has participants in service in more than 250 schools, with the average participant having 17 years of STEM experience and most (71%) having a Masters or Ph.D. in a STEM subject.

STEM logo

STEM logo

Another program sponsored by Lansing’s foundation is PrimeTime LAUSD, a partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District that engages retirees in public education. The program recognizes that the Baby Boomer generation comprises millions of retirees who are a largely untapped resource. Through PrimeTime, these retirees can volunteer in public schools in their area of experience or expertise, for example as a creative arts volunteer or computer expert, or even by offering executive-level expertise to the school’s administration.

In addition to her foundation work, Lansing sits on the boards of The Carter Center, Teach for America, and The American Association for Cancer Research, and she is also a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer, an initiative which funds multi-institutional cancer research “dream teams.” Lansing is also a Regent of the University of California and co-founded the Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles Future Fund, which provides college scholarships to Little Sisters. Lansing also served on Governor Schwarzenegger’s Committee on Education Excellence as well as the California State Superintendent of Education’s P-16 Advisory Council.

Join us April 21 for this event, which will be our last Lunch with a Leader of the academic year. To reserve a seat, please email Donnajean Ward or call (213) 740-0155.



Bedrosian Center