Prolific fundraiser known for “gentle persistence” retires

Published July 31, 2023

Thanks to the work of Maryanne Horton, future educators can receive scholarships that make it affordable to student teach. Children in foster care or experiencing homelessness can attend summer science camps. First- and second-year STEM students can participate in research that prepares them for upper-division coursework and ultimately a good-paying career.

Those are among the many, many programs Horton raised money for during her 17 years as chief fundraiser for the Cal State Long Beach College of Education and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She raised an astonishing $68 million — some 10 percent of the university’s total fundraising — during her tenure, which ended in retirement June 29.

Horton is proud of the work, and of the people with whom she’s done it.

“At some places, you raise a ton of money, but what’s it really doing? A $25,000 gift doesn’t go very far when tuition is $66,000,” she said.

“Here, we are scrappy. We stretch the dollars. We make the most that we can with the dollars that come in and the impact is huge, especially for the kids who might not have ever gone to college if they didn’t have the support to come here. That feels good.”

Just as notable as the amount Horton raised are the ways she raised it, colleagues and donors say. She was tenacious without being pushy, expressed genuine passion for the programs she sought funding for, and developed warm, long-lasting relationships with donors.

“There’s an art and a grace to development work, and I don’t think I fully understood that until I started working closely with Maryanne,” College of Education Dean Anna Ortiz said at Horton’s retirement party at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden on campus.

“This work is about so many things. It is friend making, it is finding that thing that someone is passionate about and connecting that to the vision of the college or the hopes and dreams of faculty members and students. And Maryanne makes it look so easy. That’s something that has been a model for me throughout this year.”

Anna Ortiz and Maryanne Horton pose for a photo under a tree.
College of Education Dean Anna Ortiz and Horton pose at Horton's retirement celebration.


Horton joined Cal State Long Beach in 2006 as a director of development for the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics after many years raising money for arts organizations including the Los Angeles Opera. She increased support for the college seven-fold to more than $4 million a year by creating a major gifts program, graduate fellowship and professorship endowments, and collaborations with faculty to fund research.

A year and a half ago, for example, the College received a $2.5 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to create authentic research experiences for all first- and second-year students. Getting them involved in research is one of the most effective ways to retain STEM students and prepare them for upper-division classes, Horton said.

“What excites people, why people become scientists, is this idea of discovery, that you pose a question and then do the research or your experiments to find out what the answer is or to see if your idea is correct,” she said.

A $15,000-a-year graduate fellowship Horton helped establish in Geology enables graduate students to be in school full-time and to mentor undergraduates. She also helped fund the campus’ first endowed dean chair, which provides an annual distribution to the dean so he or she can provide funding to the college’s needs and priorities.

Horton has been so successful because she has a talent for connecting and listening to donors, and for matching the donor’s philanthropic interests to the university’s philanthropic priorities, said Kevin Crowe, associate vice president of development at CSULB, who has worked with Horton since they both started there in 2006.

“Maryanne knows how to sophisticatedly and compassionately make that ask, and people have a hard time saying no,” Crowe said.

Three people pose together at an event
Horton poses with CNSM donor and emeriti professor Dr. Keung Luke (left) and Dean Curt Bennett.

Crowe said Cal State Long Beach has raised more than $500 million in the last 17 years and Horton’s work accounts for a significant part of that fundraising total.

“So, I will miss her as a friend, but also as a fundraiser,” he quipped.

PHOTO GALLERY: Images from Horton’s retirement celebration

Horton added the College of Education to her portfolio in 2013 and increased support 40 percent to more than $1 million a year. Her most high-profile accomplishment was securing the $1.6 million bequest from Bob and Barbara Ellis that will fund a large scholarship endowment.

Bob was a principal at just about every high school in Long Beach; Barbara is a retired teacher who remains very involved with the college, from which she earned her bachelor’s degree and teaching credential in 1964. The College of Education’s main building is named after them.

Barbara Ellis said Horton “made the difficult easy” for donors, from answering lots of questions to cutting through red tape to helping at philanthropic events.

“If you’re a supporter of Cal State, you’re their friend,” Ellis said of Horton and College of Education Assistant Director of Development Hayley Miller. “It doesn’t matter how big or small. Everyone gets great treatment.”

Horton also secured $500,000 over five years from SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union to fund the Urban Teaching Academy, or UTEACH, a year-long residency program that prepares future teachers through hands-on experience in real classrooms and personalized attention from school and university personnel. The credit union followed up that gift with another nearly $500,000 one for clinical practice infrastructure such as trainings for master teachers and student teaching orientations for credential students.

Horton also helped establish the Mary Jane Patterson/Teachers for Urban Schools Scholarship, which seeks to recruit, retain and prepare more teachers of color to teach in urban schools.

Group photo of College of Education students, faculty and staff
Horton, third from left in front row, poses with students, faculty, staff and donors involved with the Teachers for Urban Schools program.

“One of her greatest strengths is what we call her ‘gentle persistence.’ She is very persistent, but she doesn't come across as pushy or aggressive,” Miller said. “She also has a good balance of being very professional but also very personable and almost vulnerable in a way. … She comes across as someone you can instantly relate to and have a connection with personally.”

Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, the College of Education’s dean from 2008 to 2016, said she didn’t know a lot about development work when she first got the job. Horton taught her how to craft a development plan, steward individuals and foundations, and present compelling cases for support. They even practiced pitches to donors together.

“I’ve worked with some other development officers, and they just don’t have that combination of skills and grace and experience,” Grenot-Scheyer said. “The other thing about Maryanne is she truly believed in the work that we were doing. She herself was a learner. She came to understand what we did in the College of Education, the importance of teacher preparation, and so she spoke with a very authentic voice.”

When Grenot-Scheyer went to work for the California State University Chancellor’s Office, Horton helped her teach other deans and associate deans how to work with development officers, extending her impact system-wide.

The biggest gifts haven’t necessarily meant the most to Horton. She’s really loved, for example, raising money for children in foster care or experiencing homelessness to attend a hands-on summer science camp at Cal State Long Beach. It’s a partnership with the Long Beach Unified School District.

“It’s hugely impactful for those students,” Horton said. “Because when you’re transient, you’re moving from school to school sometimes and you don’t get the same benefit as a more stable student.

“And not all elementary school students get a lot of science because it really depends on the teacher and their comfort level and the time that their principal allows them to spend on it. But we know that STEM careers are important and pay well. That’s a way to create social mobility for people.”

Miller makes the same point when talking about Horton’s career. While $68 million raised is a big number and something to be proud of, the real story is the impact it has made.

“I know we could say in numbers 10 percent or $68 million, but it’s really about the impact those numbers have had on the university and on students,” Miller said. “And that’s really what she will be going out feeling good about.”