A life of service
She has been a judge, a police officer, a Trustee and the name behind Westminster’s alumni house. The title Kim T. Adamson is most proud of, however, is U.S. Marine.
Adamson has led a life of service.
“I’ll volunteer, I’ll go to combat,” she said. “Everything I do is for public service – it just makes me feel good.”
Westminster’s vice president of institutional advancement, Steve Morgan, said that “she’s the type Barbara Walters should interview.” Morgan and Adamson have been friends for nearly 30 years.
She is independently wealthy and doesn’t need to work, let alone risk her life for people she’s never met.
“She’s been blessed with resources in her life and she’s chosen to do good things with them, “ Morgan said. “She chooses to serve.”
Service to her country
Adamson is among the first women in history to live, work and fight alongside men, doing so in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. These wars without front lines have changed the way American military women participate.
“Women were everywhere,” Adamson said. “There are no front lines in an insurgency; everywhere is a front line. So, we’ve been in places women never were in the past. We’re proving that we can do the job just as good or better than a man. Probably because you have to overcompensate for your gender.”
Adamson is a chief warrant officer-5 in the U.S. Marine Corps who has served a total of four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“She doesn’t just do little things, she does profound things,” said Morgan. “She didn’t go to Iraq once, she went twice; she didn’t go to Afghanistan once, she went twice because they asked her to come back.”
Adamson said she always wanted to be in the military, but it wasn’t easy getting where she is today.
“Women were not in any of the combat arms in the Marine Corps. Period. End of discussion. Don’t even bring it up,” she said.
For this reason, Adamson decided to study nursing in the early 70s in hopes of joining a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit in the Vietnam War. However, by the time she’d finished her third year, the Vietnam War had ended. She left nursing school and enlisted in the Marine Corps.
“I walked into the recruitment office and enlisted, and it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me,” she said.
Many people admire her courageous efforts.
“She’s really a hero,” Morgan said. “We all marvel at what she has done.”
Adamson is proud to be a Marine.
“The Marine Corps made me who I am today,” Adamson said. “I live the Corps values: honor, courage and commitment. And it’s not like courage on the battlefield. It’s the courage to do the right thing to do because it’s the right thing to do.”
Sue Bailess, who has been best friends with Adamson since they were in the police force together in the 1970s, said Adamson is “the nicest lady you’d ever want to meet.” Bailess said she has always admired what Adamson has done because of her unique set of accomplishments.
“She’ll tell you that the Marines made her who she is,” Bailess said. “But I almost want to call BS; she was a good person before. “
Bailess and Morgan said Adamson is humble about the things she has done.
“She’s helped so many people, she’s done so many things,” said Bailess. “There’s just not enough nice things to say, and I wish I could say some bad things, but there aren’t any.”
Bailess said Adamson “knocks your socks off” with the things she says sometimes, but Bailess sees her directness as refreshing.
“She’ll call you on it if you need to be called on it,” Bailess said. “She’ll kick you in the butt if you need to be kicked in the butt.”
Service to her alma mater
Adamson received her Bachelor of Science in behavioral science from Westminster College in 1979. Since then, she has given much back to the college community. She served on the alumni board from 2001 to 2004 and currently serves on the college’s Board of Trustees.
“She’s touched so many things at Westminster in her experience here,” Morgan said. “She’s a marvelous example of somebody who graduated and then returned to do good things.”
She funded the Kim T. Adamson Chair on International Studies, the Anne Newman Sutton Weeks Reading Room in the Giovale Library (in honor of her grandmother), the Kim T. Adamson Alumni House and the Sheryl A. Horak Law Enforcement Explorer Memorial Endowment, which funds scholarships for a son or daughter of an active military or police officer.
“Kim has always given her time, talent and treasure to causes she believes in,” said Annalisa Holcombe, the director of alumni, community and board relations. “She believes in what we are doing at Westminster now and the difference our current students will make in the world.”
Adamson’s many ambitious roles have kept her busy over the years.
“I’ve pretty much been non-stop balls-to-the-wall for a long time,” she said.
On April 24, she is being honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the college.
Adamson returned from her fourth and final tour in October 2012. After more than 36 years of service in the military, she is preparing to retire in May. She is hosting a retirement party in the Adamson Alumni House, and a large number of people are expected to honor her.
Adamson’s “next big thing” is completing her final project for her Masters of Professional Communication at Westminster, which will be a veteran history project.
Adamson is also looking forward to enjoying parties.
“This is kind of funny,” she said. “One of the reasons I got into philanthropy early in life is I want to go to all the great parties while I’m still young enough to enjoy them, not to be in a walker or having to use an oxygen bottle.” She said it’s not an ego thing; she just wants to be able to have fun and enjoy it.
Kim said she urges students to be their best and not take anything for granted.
“Don’t take yourself too seriously,” she said. “Always do the best you can do with whatever you choose to do. Treat other the way you want to be treated yourself. Be a decent human being, and a person who gives back.”
Bailess and Morgan both said her contributions in all areas have made the world a better place but Adamson said that “I’m just doing my part.”