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United Way executive with stellar success record to lead United Way of Greater Knoxville

October 29, 2019

Matthew Ryerson, an experienced United Way executive who raised a record funding amount, increased the donor base and met pressing community needs in his current Southeast Tennessee position, has been named president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Knoxville.

Matthew Ryerson

Ryerson currently is president and CEO of United Way of the Ocoee Region covering Bradley and Polk counties. Ryerson, who was selected after a four-month search, succeeds Ben Landers, who is retiring after 26 years as leader of the United Way of Greater Knoxville.

“I want to congratulate the United Way of Greater Knoxville for selecting Matthew as president and CEO,” said Suzanne McCormick, U.S. president for United Way Worldwide. “Matthew is one of the most talented executives in the United Way system, and he will be a catalyst for addressing community needs in Knoxville and moving United Way forward.”

Cynthia Gibson, United Way of Greater Knoxville board chair and co-chair of the search committee, said Ryerson impressed committee members with his accomplishments while in Cleveland, Tennessee, as well as his recognition nationally as a transformative United Way leader.

Ryerson raised a record $9.2 million in 2017 and increased the donor base by 11 percent. He launched community initiatives to build a dental clinic, a neighborhood revitalization that brought in an additional $5 million in investment and donations, and an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) community member project that provided the equivalent of $1 million in full-time professional individuals to the non-profit community.

“Matthew’s track record speaks for itself,” Gibson said. “He energized the Ocoee Region, and we know his vision and leadership will do the same for Greater Knoxville. The Knoxville position drew excellent candidates, and the committee has full confidence in its decision to select Matthew to lead the organization.”

Ryerson will start his new position in Knoxville on Dec. 2.

“I am excited about the opportunity to lead the United Way of Greater Knoxville as we start the next 100 years of service to the Knoxville area,” Ryerson said. “I have already learned that the Knoxville area is a very giving and generous community. My goal is to help people, create lasting change, innovate and deliver tangible impact.”

As soon as he gets on board, Ryerson will assist 2019 Campaign Chair Andy Shafer in the current annual giving campaign.

“I am looking forward to working with Matthew,” Shafer said. “He is clearly committed to the mission of United Way. He is a great match for us because he has the energy and vision to address modern philanthropic needs and help people.”

Ryerson graduated from Bowling Green State University in Ohio with a degree in education. He earned his executive juris doctor (EJD) degree from Concord Law School at Purdue University Global in Indianapolis.

He has 26 years of nonprofit experience, including eight years as president and CEO of the United Way of the Ocoee Region. He is on the adjunct faculty at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, in both the Child and Family Studies Graduate Program and Humanities and Legal Studies.

Ryerson currently is a member of the United Way National Presidents Roundtable and has held several other United Way leadership positions.

Ryerson and his wife Heather have been married for 15 years and have four children, Jackson, 13, Chloe, 11, Gabi Rae, 7, and Elsie Caroline, 5. A dedicated runner, Ryerson has run in eight marathons, including Boston and New York City, and dozens of half-marathons, including the half-marathon held during the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.