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Emerson Appoints Allison Sampson Vice President, Executive Director of ELA

Emerson College President Lee Pelton announced today the appointment of Allison Sampson as vice president and executive director of Emerson College Los Angeles, effective July 1. She succeeds Vice President and Founding Director Kevin Bright ’76.

“I am enormously grateful for Kevin’s leadership over the past three years in launching the new campus, now established and thriving,” Pelton wrote in a community message. “He has developed new programs, overseen the development of the undergraduate and post-graduate curriculum, and put into place the administrative structure needed to bring ELA to life. Kevin has graciously agreed to support Allison’s transition and serve as founding director and senior advisor to ELA,” Pelton wrote.

Pelton noted that Sampson was the unanimous choice of the search committee.  

Chair of the Board of Trustees Jeff Greenhawt ’68, who served on the search committee, said, “The Board of Trustees looks forward to working with Allison as she begins to lead Emerson’s campus in Los Angeles. Given her broad experience and success in so many areas of education, nonprofit management, and development, Allison is well positioned to continue and expand on the wonderful accomplishments of ELA’s Founding Director, Kevin Bright.”

Sampson is a senior nonprofit executive with deep experience in fundraising, communications, community relations, and governance. She is currently senior vice president of advancement and external affairs for the Colburn School in Los Angeles, a position she has held since 2010. The Colburn School is a premier, national performing arts school and post-secondary, degree-granting music conservatory. While there, she launched the school’s first $50 million endowment campaign and planned giving program; increased annual fundraising fivefold; and won new, large, multi-year commitments from national funders.

She led her own consulting firm—Allison Sampson Management Consultants—for nearly 20 years between 1992 and 2010, specializing in advising nonprofits on board development, mergers, fundraising, crisis communication, strategic planning, and more. During that time, Sampson completed more than 150 major projects for her clients, which included the Getty Trust, the City of Los Angeles, Deaf West Theatre, the State of California Library System, CalArts, and the Colburn School.

Simultaneously, from 1999 until 2008, she served as the founding executive director of the Colburn Foundation, leading the transition from the first-generation founder to the next generation of leadership, creating a grant agreement system, and establishing best practices for the Board of Directors. She served as the Foundation’s general manager and was responsible for program development and implementation, community outreach, finance, and special projects, such as challenge grants.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Sampson held leadership positions with the Los Angeles Festival, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Bank of America, and Union Financial Corporation.

Sampson earned a bachelor of arts in liberal arts from Mount St. Mary’s, graduating summa cum laude, and a master’s in organizational development (also summa cum laude) from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

In his community message, Pelton thanked the search committee for their dedication, time, and commitment, which in addition to himself, included: Jeff Greenhawt ’68, chair, Board of Trustees; Vin Di Bona ’66, co-vice chair, Board of Trustees; Al Jaffe ’68, co-vice chair, Board of Trustees; Gary Grossman ’70, member, Board of Trustees; Michaele Whelan, chief academic officer; Brooke Knight, chair, Visual and Media Arts; Brenda Wrigley, chair, Marketing Communications; and Anne Shaughnessy, director, Office of the President, and executive assistant to the Board of Trustees.

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