Missy Ryan Penland named among top 50 women leaders in education nationwide


Melissa “Missy” Ryan Penland, MPA, senior associate vice president for Development in Clemson University’s Division of Advancement, has been awarded The Top 50 Women Leaders in Education of 2023.

The Top 50 Women Leaders in Education of 2023 award highlights the accomplishments of women at the helm of diverse educational institutions nationwide. Penland is recognized alongside women serving organizations from small liberal arts colleges to our nation’s largest public universities, including Ivy League institutions. The collective efforts of Penland and her fellow top women leaders are instrumental in guaranteeing that educational establishments maintain their adaptability and responsiveness to the ever-changing demands of society.

In her leadership role in the Division of Advancement at Clemson, Penland is known for motivating staff and volunteers to reach ambitious philanthropic goals with passion and commitment to the University’s mission. She leads a dynamic team of development and donor relations professionals to inspire philanthropic giving throughout the University community, including alumni, parents and friends. She excels in operations of all sizes as a seasoned strategist with executive oversight responsibilities in major and principal gifts, prospect management, talent and financial management, donor relations and board governance. Her leadership and contributions have gained meaningful engagement and strategic investments in Clemson’s educational objectives, strengthening the University’s reputation and securing Clemson’s future.

 Missy is an integral part of the Division of Advancement. She is a valued member of my leadership team and manages a dynamic team of development officers and our donor relations program. Missy is a strategic thinker, and that mindset benefits our division and Clemson University. She is passionate about philanthropy for Clemson and aligning our University’s mission with the donor’s intent. Within the Clemson community and across fundraising and higher education, Missy is admired and respected as a leader.”

Brian O’Rourke, Vice President of Advancement

Throughout her career, Penland has established herself as a leader in driving a culture of fundraising in complex organizations. She is a nationally recognized philanthropic leader within higher education and community-based organizations. She was recently named the chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) U.S. Foundation for Philanthropy, whose mission is to advance philanthropic investment and impact. She has been a member of AFP since 1999, serving in various roles at the local and global levels, and she is the former president of the AFP Greater Atlanta Chapter.

Penland has over 20 years of development experience with large universities, colleges, hospitals, private schools and social service organizations. Since joining Clemson in 2007, Penland has elevated the University through her passion for philanthropy while always supporting the donor’s intent. As a direct result of her fundraising efforts, Clemson is impacting the future of our students through scholarships, state-of-the-art facilities and its support of exceptional faculty and graduate education.

Penland was also recognized by Women We Admire in The Top 50 Women Leaders of South Carolina for 2023. Penland’s other recognitions include being named one of six “Fundraising Stars” nationally by Fundraising Success Magazine and AFP’s Fundraising Executive of the Year for the Upstate of South Carolina. She has been nationally recognized for her work and success in gift officer productivity through her D.A.D. fundraising program by such groups as the Education Advisory Board and the Major Gifts Report. Penland was also awarded Greenville Business Magazine’s Best & Brightest 35 and Under.

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