Lisa Paulsen is stepping down as president and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation after 27 years running the charity. She will continue to work full time for the organization, but is shifting her focus to bolstering development initiatives and strengthening ties to the creative community.
“I’m going to be laser focused,” Paulsen said in an interview with Variety on Wednesday, shortly after telling her staff. “I’m not stepping back. I’m just devoting all my energy and all my attention to fund development.”
The Entertainment Industry Foundation has a rich legacy in Hollywood. It traces its origins back to 1942 and its list of founders include Samuel Goldwyn Jr., Gene Kelly, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Jack Warner. However, the non-profit had entered a sleepy phase when Paulsen joined. The group was a $1 million effort, but Paulsen was able to bolster its fundraising. During her tenure, the group raised over $1 billion to support educational programs and public health initiatives. It has been particularly involved in cancer research, supporting medical efforts to develop better treatments for cancer patients and using its connections in the media business to dissuade people from taking up smoking.
“Just look at what the organization was and where it is today,” said Chris Silbermann, board chair and founding partner of ICM. “Lisa did such an incredible job.”
Silbermann said the board had not started interviewing candidates to replace Paulsen. He said they hope to have a new CEO at some point this summer.
Paulsen will also remain an executive producer on future telecasts that the group does to raise awareness and money. Among Paulsen’s accomplishments was the founding of Stand Up to Cancer, a program that was run under the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s auspices. Nine years ago, she helped gather together a group of industry heavyweights that included Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Lobb, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, and Ellen Ziffren, as well as the late Laura Ziskin and the late Noreen Fraser, to help form the advocacy organization.