PALS namesake reflects on 10 years

On the day before the highest profile speakers in The Patricia Adams Lecture Series are set to visit Heidelberg, Patricia Adams is like a doting grandmother about her namesake series. The campus community shares her excitement as we get ready to host former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter, Barbara Pierce Bush, on Wednesday.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of PALS, Pat reflected with a heart full of gratitude about everything the series has accomplished. 

Beyond the influential and successful women who have been guests of PALS, beyond its remarkable impact on students, and beyond the many friendships made, Pat is, simply put, very proud. 

“When I think back to that little girl in Dover, if my mother were alive, she’d say, ‘Oh Patty Lou, you did so well.’” 

Pat accurately believed the series would be of value to the Heidelberg community and especially to students. It has surpassed her expectations. “I thought it would work, but never to the point that it has,” she says. 

Indeed, when Pat and her husband, Trustee Emeritus and Heidelberg alumnus John Q. Adams, ’58, conceived of and funded PALS back in 2009, the impetus was to bring to campus exceptional female leaders from a broad spectrum of professional backgrounds. These talented women would interact with students, share advice and experiences, and provide wisdom for career and personal success. Secondarily, Pat wanted to leave a legacy to the university that has meant so much to her and John throughout their lives. 

Today, it gives her a great deal of satisfaction to know that Heidelberg students have gained inspiration and motivation from PALS speakers, and have really absorbed what they had to say. That has been the ultimate goal. “Our speakers have all been outstanding women,” she says. “I’m just pleased with how well it’s gone.” 

Greatest impact: students

In addition to soaking up the wisdom of some extraordinary speakers, students have had a major role in the planning and execution of PALS. Their takeaways from those experiences have been unparalleled.

Samantha Dorgan, ’16, served on the PALS Selection Committee. “As a young alum and small business owner, I am better for having known Pat as a friend, mentor and inspiration. … She is a champion for empowerment and knowledge, for making the workplace better and more inclusive, and for opening doors and providing opportunities for others to succeed,” said Sam, who is the co-owner of Attelé Bridal Boutique in Columbus.

Another Selection Committee member, Gabrielle Poliseno, ’17, had a similar experience. “PALS shaped my mind so I see myself as a woman of value, virtue, and vision,” says Gaby, a graduate student at Northwestern University.

This year, two students – senior Maddy Crawford and junior Alyssa Edmond – have key roles on the PALS Selection Committee and at the sessions and dinner on Wednesday.

Current senior Hannah Petitti recognized the value of PALS early on. “Being able to interact with the PALS speakers who have led such exemplary lives not only demonstrates the capabilities of women but also provides students like me with role models, advisor and professional connections that I otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to make myself,” Hannah says.

One of those role models was Brandi Powell, an anchor/reporter with KSTP-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul, who was the PALS keynote speaker in October 2017. Brandi offered students a wealth of career advice but also walked away feeling energized by her experience.

“Wow! The Patricia Adams Lecture Series allowed me to connect with bright, young people in a meaningful way,” Brandi said. “During each session, the Heidelberg students brought an energy and curiosity that facilitated growth in their lives, and mine. What more can you ask for! Being a PALS speaker was one of the highlights of my professional and personal life.” 

Brandi has been one of 18 phenomenal women who’ve graced the PALS stage. They represent that broad spectrum of professional fields that Pat sought:

  • Sherron Watkins, author and Enron whistleblower
  • Betsy Bernard, former president of AT&T
  • Carol-Lynn Parente, executive director of Sesame Street
  • Ann Fudge, former chair and CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands
  • Donna VanLiere, New York Times best-selling author
  • Jerilyn Medrea, head of Talent Engagement at Liquidnet, ’77 ’Berg alumna and Trustee
  • Deborah Mielewski, technical leader of the Plastics Research Group at Ford Motor Co.
  • Cheryl Krueger, entrepreneur and founder of Cheryl & Co.
  • Jackie MacMullan, sports journalist, ESPN analyst and author
  • Carla Harris, Wall Street banker, gospel singer and author
  • Sheila Heen, best-selling author, attorney and negotiation expert
  • Bridgette Heller, former senior executive, Merck Consumer Care
  • Gale Pollock, former acting Surgeon General of the U.S. Army
  • The Hon. Susan Graber, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
  • Monica Lozano, president and CEO of the College Futures Foundation
  • Kelli Masters, attorney and founder/president of KMM Sports
  • Beth Shissler, president and CEO of Sea Bags, LLC and a ’90 ‘Berg alumna

For Pat personally, it’s been rewarding to experience students’ reception and reaction to the speakers. She has especially enjoyed their personal messages of appreciation for PALS.

“I feel so much gratitude when I see the students, all dressed up for the dinners, and when I see their faces in the theatre, listening so intently,” Pat says. “I just hope they gain a flicker of something that could help them in the future … something that can make a difference for their careers. That’s my hope and dream.” 

PALS also has been a conduit to draw Pat closer to Heidelberg and to forge some wonderful friendships with past speakers that she holds in her heart, and with Dr. Susan McCafferty and Ashley Helmstetter. The trio has collaborated closely on speaker selection and logistics throughout all of the PALS events.

“Heidelberg has really supported PALS and supported me as well. I’m very grateful for that.”

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