Thursday, August 24, 2017

Educator, Cultural Promoter, and Purple Heart Winner Sofia (Demos) Adamson [otd 8/24]

Youthful Sofia Adamson.
Educator and philanthropist Sofia (Demos) Adamson was born August 24, 1916 in Pocatello, Idaho. Her parents were Greek immigrants. The family later moved to Los Angeles, where Sofia’s mother reportedly “became the first Greek actress to perform in a Hollywood motion picture.”

After high school graduation, Sofia attended  the University of California at Los Angeles. She graduated from UCLA in 1937, with a B.A. in education. According to family tradition, she met her future husband on Saint Sofia’s Day, September 17, in 1938. She married George Athos Adamson the following year.

As it happened, George was then a professor at the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry, located in Manilla, the Philippines. He was also Dean of the school’s College of Engineering. George’s cousin had founded the institution in 1932. Soon, they expanded the curriculum, and the school was granted university status – as Adamson University – in 1941.

After Sofia married George, the couple returned to the Philippines. She is credited with founding the school’s College of Education. In 1941, war clouds loom in the Far East – Japanese troops were heavily engaged in China and had occupied parts of Indochina. Sofia was recruited as a clerk-typist in General Douglas MacArthur headquarters (thereby freeing up a soldier to fight).  Her main job was to type up the General’s orders, including a mimeograph stencil master, for distribution to the units he commanded.

When the Japanese occupied the Philippines, Sofia was not interred with the other Americans because she was married to George, a Greek. When Allied troops liberated Manila, friendly fire inflicted wounds that would require years of successive surgeries to alleviate. (Over fifty years later, she received a Purple Heart in recognition of her former service.)

After the war, Sofia and George moved to Pasadena, California. There George conducted a very successful engineering business, while Sofia began a lifetime of enthusiastic and effective volunteer work. That included much service for Greek Orthodox churches in the Los Angeles area, as well as the International Christian Scholarship Foundation.

Pacific Asian Museum. Museum photo.
Sofia worked hard to promote the arts, being co-founder of the Pacific Asian Museum in Pasadena. She also founded, in 1971, the Philippine Arts Council at the Museum. She contributed time and money to numerous civic betterment programs in Pasadena and around Los Angeles.

Her autobiography, Gods, Angels, Pearls & Roses, was published in the U. S., Greece, and the Philippines. It “remains a steady seller in the [Pacific Asian] Museum Store.”

She received awards too numerous to list in full: a Gold Award for Excellence in Community Service from UCLA, an honorary Doctorate of Education from Adamson University, a Gold Crown Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pasadena Arts Council, a Boy Scouts Distinguished Citizen Award, and more.

George’s death in 2003 did not lessen Sofia’s commitment to philanthropy and volunteerism. Recalling her involvement with the Pacific Asian Museum, her obituary noted, “She remained a Founding Trustee for life and made her last contribution in person just 5 days before she passed away.”

Sofia died in May 2007.
References: About Adamson University, History and News, Adamson University, Manilla, The Philippines (2010).
Sofia Adamson, Gods, Angels, Pearls & Roses, American International Publishing, El Monte, California (1985).
“In Memoriam: Sofia Adamson,” Museum News Archive, Pacific Asian Museum, Pasadena, California (Summer 2007).
“Obituary: Sofia Adamson,” Pasadena Star-News, Pasadena, California (May 22, 2007).

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