By Greg Hardesty
USC Price School alumna Renata Simril has had a few transformative moments in her life.
One was joining the military after the third-generation Angeleno graduated from Carson High School.
Stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army as a police officer, Simril had, by age 19, been to seven countries in Europe – an experience she calls “multi-faceted on many levels” – and not just as a Black American woman living and working abroad mostly with men.
“The military is where I began to develop real racial and ethnic consciousness,” Simril says. “It’s where I learned the difference between coexistence and brotherhood. It also taught me that I had no real limits other than those I imposed on myself.”
Another moment came in 1994 when she’d finished her urban studies undergraduate program at Loyola Marymount University and went to work for L.A. city government. Her focus: rebuilding communities in South Los Angeles that had been devastated by the 1992 civil unrest.
“I love this city,” Simril says. “I saw it burning during my senior year of college and I wanted to do something about it.”
In a career that has spanned politics, real estate, sports, newspaper publishing and philanthropy, Simril has done plenty. The lifelong learner who craves challenges continues to make a difference, and she gives a lot of credit for that to her time at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, where she earned a master’s degree in real estate development in 1998.
“I have carried Price’s core values throughout my career,” says Simril, who since 2016 has been president and CEO of the LA84 Foundation. The nonprofit, which supports youth sports programs and public education about the importance of sports in positive youth development, was created from surplus monies from the 1984 Summer Olympics in L.A.
A competitive tennis player in high school who also played basketball, Simril is passionate about her work at LA84, which continues her track record of investing money in the best way to serve the community.
Her earlier work in city government, followed by 12 years in real estate after she earned her master’s degree, was focused on community building.
“I’m a restless soul,” she says. “I always have to be challenged in my work to feel I’m contributing.”
Simril continued that philosophy at the Los Angeles Dodgers, where she served for three seasons (2011-2014) as senior vice president of external affairs during the team’s ownership transition from Frank McCourt to Guggenheim Baseball Management.
There, she worked on reestablishing connections with the community, including helping to roll out Vision to Learn, a mobile eye clinic that served youth in low-income communities.
“Renata tackles the world with a fierce determination that inspires all who are lucky to witness her professionalism in action,” said Nichol Whiteman, CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. “Her dedication to sports-based youth development and uplifting the next generation of women leaders exemplifies the profound impact that a single person can have in the lives of so many.”
Next, Simril spent 10 months as senior vice president and chief of staff to Austin Beutner, who was publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times, before she was recruited to lead the LA84 Foundation.
Simril is most proud of establishing the LA84 Foundation’s charitable partner, the Play Equity Fund.
“It’s an incredibly bold vision to awaken not just the citizens of L.A. but the citizens of the world to the crisis hiding in plain sight: that not all kids have access to sport, play, and movement as a fundamental human right,” she says.
Youngsters and teens should not be limited in their ability to participate in sports because of their gender, economic situation, ability, sexual orientation or zip code, Simril says.
“We created an organization that is a convener/collaborator to shine a light on that inequity and create partnerships with our sport-based youth development ecosystem,” she explains. “Our sports teams, brands and funders are all centered around providing more access and opportunity and removing barriers that prevent kids from playing sports.”
Simril also formed at LA84 a partnership with the 12 professional sports teams in Los Angeles and Orange County called The ALLIANCE: Los Angeles. The initiative, which was formed in response to the murder of George Floyd and which runs through July 2025, aims to drive investment and improve social justice through sports. Among other things, the collaborative is helping hundreds of high school students develop leadership skills and creating pathways to careers in the sports industry.
“I love this city, warts and all,” Simril says. “We’re plagued with the greatest number of crises and challenges that make your head spin – homelessness, housing affordability, the play-equity-gap in youth sports. But I also believe that this region is rich with boundless possibilities.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed to touch every iconic civic organization in L.A.,” Simril continues. “I pinch myself thinking about the opportunities that I’ve been afforded.”
During March, as Women’s History Month is celebrated, Simril reflects on the importance of being a trailblazer in more than one field.
“Being a woman leader is still hard,” she says. “Representation in leadership matters, because people, especially young girls, need to see a physical manifestation of their dreams. They need to see someone who looks like them, who had similar experiences like them, similar challenges, similar barriers and overcame them.
“This gives them hope and inspiration of what is possible – to look through your imagination and redefine yourself.”