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Donor Profile: Ann Adams

Donor Profile: Ann Adams

Q: What was your major?

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism degree, with a focus on advertising, in 1970. I wanted to be the next Mary Wells Lawrence. She founded a highly successful advertising agency and served as the first female CEO of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

No sooner had I graduated than I launched into graduate school and in 1971 gained a Master of Arts degree, focusing on advertising, marketing and public relations.

In 1985, I earned a juris doctorate from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. I attended classes at night while working for Kerr-McGee Corp., a Fortune 500 independent energy company. Let’s just say I had no social life for a few years! But a law degree served me well in analyzing and managing issues, working on cross- functional corporate teams and strengthening credibility with senior leaders.

Q: What have you been up to since graduation?

My career path has zigged and zagged over the years, encompassing leadership roles in the energy, consumer products, services, high-tech and advertising industries.                          

With my new MA degree in those pre-Internet days, I mailed some 70 letters and resumes to potential employers. I launched my career at the ABC-affiliate TV station in Oklahoma City, managing an advertising program and writing ad copy. At last, I purchased my first car, an orange Volkswagen Beetle.

Moving on, I enjoyed almost 10 years at Kerr-McGee Corp. I progressed from writer/editor to manager of corporate communications and experienced my first international travel – to an oil production platform in the North Sea.

Next, I worked for a regional advertising and public relations agency, Jordan Associates in Oklahoma City, as director of the public relations division.

In 1993, I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, as director of public relations for The Dial Corp., a Fortune 500 consumer products and services company headquartered in Phoenix.              

Subsequently, I joined Motorola’s Semiconductor Products Sector, then headquartered in Phoenix, and worked as director of employee communications and communication services for the global business. A promotion in 2001 to vice president of communications and public affairs for the parent company took me to the corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago. I led a global team for the $26 billion company that operated in 70+ countries. And I always carried the newest Motorola mobile phone!

After retiring from Motorola, I moved back to Scottsdale and undertook communications consulting for high-tech companies. Now, both my husband, Peter McHugh, and I are retired and loving it.

Q: What has been your favorite point in your career?

I have a LOT of favorite points. Working for Motorola, however, was the pinnacle. Thanks to leadership from the top, the company embraced strong values, hired and developed some great talent and was incredibly innovative. International travel, leading a diverse global team and gaining an understanding of global business practices (and challenges) proved comparable to another graduate degree.

Q: What's something that you would do differently? In school or in your career.

I probably should have gone to law school right out of undergraduate school. My early corporate experience showed me that to achieve success in the business world, it would prove wise to earn a law degree or an MBA. One of my mentors at Kerr-McGee encouraged me to earn a law degree. I sighed, “But I’ll be 35 when I graduate.” He responded, “Would you rather be 35 with a law degree or 35 without one?”

Q: What advice would you give college students today?

  • Build your network. Many of my job connections stemmed from people I knew from graduate school, non-profit boards or former employers. Help others whenever you can. The good folks will always remember.                                                                               
  • Keep growing. Take on “stretch” projects, peruse The Wall Street Journal, volunteer for non-profit boards, read the business books CEOs are quoting, embrace changing technology.               
  • Do the right thing. Core values – especially integrity – count. Embrace facts (not “alternative facts” or conspiracy theories). Do not view the world as black and white but often as multiple shades of gray. Dip into varying sides of an issue. Pose questions. Listen a lot. Exercise common sense.                                                                                   
  • Take business courses – marketing, business law, management, economics. Surprisingly, one of my favorite classes at OU was the Economic History of the United States, which provided terrific perspective on the role of business and innovation in building our country.
  • Learn how to assess people and surround yourself with talent. My favorite billionaire, Warren Buffet, says he hires employees based on three qualities: integrity, intelligence and work ethic. He adds: If they don’t have the first quality, the other two will kill you. I agree with him. As you strive to reach management level, think about what kind of people you want to work with, how you will lead a team, how you will set goals and how you will measure and reward success. I favor the servant-leadership model – everyone benefits.
  • Take your job seriously. But don’t take yourself too seriously.

Q: Why have you chosen to give?

I loved my time in the H.H. Herbert School of Journalism and Mass Communication, now the Gaylord College. I was fortunate to know some exceptional professors who took the time to know and encourage me, such as Robert Peterson, Robert Bryson, Mack Palmer and Louise Moore.

After graduating from Norman High School, I lived at home while attending OU and walked to class. That was about all my mother and I could afford at the time. I have always appreciated receiving one of the J-School’s McMahon Scholarships. I learned first-hand what a real difference generous donors can make in the lives of students.                     

That’s why I contribute annually to the college via the OU Foundation and served as president of the college’s alumni association and as a member of the Dean’s Board of Visitors.                                                          

We face challenging times in our profession today, and we require journalism and mass communications graduates who demonstrate exceptional professional skills, solid judgment and high ethical standards. I’m counting on the graduates of the Gaylord College to lead the way.

Ann Adams.

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