Giving back as part of her legacy

Pamela Adams would like to think that being part of society isn't just about taking for oneself.

It's why she gives back, she said. Her contribution and spirit earned her this year's Women in Business Award from the Orange County Business Journal.

"What other legacy do we have? We're born, we die," Adams said.

Adams was among five women honored with the award in May during the journal's awards luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Irvine.

Adams' passion is education. For the woman who grew up knowing that her great-grandfather went to Ohio State University in 1902, there is no question about the importance of education.

"If you're educated, you have a better opportunity for a much more productive career and for being a productive member of society," she said.

It's why she gives of her time and efforts to the Girls Inc., in Costa Mesa. Adams is a board member of the Girls Inc. Guild, which focuses on raising funds for the nonprofit that teaches girls to become "Smart, Strong and Bold."

"She is someone who is actually rising through the whole organization to become extremely supportive of Girls Inc. She has contributed not only her time, but also her resources," said Erica Reiter, the Girls Inc. director of development. "She understands the mission of Girls Inc. and is really one of our star supporters on all levels."

It costs Girls Inc. about $2,500 a year to serve each student. With Adams' help, Girls Inc. served about 4,500 girls last year.

Adams was also the founding chair of the Dean's Leadership Circle at the Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine, where she received her graduate degree 12 years ago.

Organized in 2005, the Dean's circle now has 400 members and has raised almost $2 million to further the school's mission.

The 54-year-old, who will do what she sets her mind on because she thinks she can, left an executive job with Lancaster, Pa.-based Armstrong World Industries to settle in Orange County. She now runs a financial services practice in Irvine for a large national brokerage firm.

"I started over and I'm in a better place than I've ever been," Adams said.

Adams wants to instill in young girls and women a sense of financial independence.

"Women will have to manage their own money either because they are going to stay single, they will go through a divorce or become widowed," she said. " It's about women owning businesses and becoming key forces. It gives you choices and freedom. You can be in a loving relationship and married and not be dependent. You don't want to be dependent, although we are all interdependent."

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