Every work day is a busy day for Gina F. Adams, which makes lunch on this particular Friday a welcomed diversion. It’s even more special because Adams is meeting for the first time with a first-year student at Howard University’s School of Law.
The aspiring lawyer is a recipient of a scholarship named in honor of Adams, who made a donation to establish the fund in 2016. Like Adams, the student attended Washington, D.C. public schools and then sought a law school education at Howard.
Adams’ career trajectory has taken her from lawyer to government official to corporate executive – now Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, the top lobbyist at FedEx Corporation. And she gives much of the credit for her success to the “fantastic” experience of Howard law school.
“To have a group of teachers and students who looked like me and shared the same kinds of experiences gave me a sense of confidence and support that was important as I moved through my legal career,” says Adams. “And so, Howard is a very special place for me. I had a rich experience, which is why I’m committed to supporting the students there and giving back.”
The Howard scholarship isn’t Adams’ only tie to helping students pay for higher education. The American Association of Airport Executives announced in May that it will expand its Women in Aviation Scholarship program next year by creating two permanently endowed scholarships in honor of Adams and Trish Gilbert, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Growing up as a native Washingtonian, Adams lived in various neighborhoods in the district before graduating from Ballou Senior High School. She was influenced and inspired by a mother who possessed a tireless work ethic, a father who taught her “confidence and perspective, graced with a sense of humor” and a grandmother who imparted faith and resilience.
Adams earned a bachelor’s degree from the School of Public Affairs at American University before going on to Howard for her juris doctor. She later earned an LL.M. degree in international and comparative law from Georgetown University Law Center.
Her next stop was the U.S Department of Transportation, where she began her law career as an attorney in the Attorney Honors Program. In 1992, she joined FedEx, working as managing attorney of the International Regulatory Affairs Office.
Adams served in other capacities before assuming her current position in 2001. Her job is to shape and promote the interests of FedEx operating companies – FedEx Express, FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight – in the political and policy arenas. That includes working with diplomats, government officials in the executive and legislative branches and industry associations on domestic and international transportation and commerce issues.
Adams also oversees one of the nation’s largest corporate PACs. She has been so effective in her roles that she has won the FedEx Five Star Award, the company’s highest employee achievement recognition, three times.
“It’s nice to be in the middle of public policy and working for a large company,” says Adams. “We’re engaged in every issue that you can imagine a large company like ours would be engaged in, from tax policy to international trade issues to local parking tickets that our drivers get.”
Despite work that often means long, hectic days, Adams carves out significant time for community service. Aside from sitting on the American University Board of Governors – where she chairs the audit committee – and on Howard law school’s Board of Visitors, Adams is vice chair of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, first vice chair of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and chair of the education committee of the Economic Club of Washington. She also volunteers with the Town Hall Education Arts & Recreational Campus and is a past chair of the DC Chamber of Commerce.
Howard law school dean Danielle Holley-Walker lauds Adams as a leader and team player, calling her “an outstanding and distinguished alumna” who commits with time, talent, and finances.
“I love working with Gina because she cares so much about Howard and works tremendously hard to support and nurture the next generation of lawyers,” says Holley-Walker. “I admire her brilliance, her integrity and leadership. She is a fantastic role model for young lawyers, especially women of color. I know her visionary leadership will continue to make a positive impact on the world.”
Adams’ efforts have not gone unnoticed, particularly in recent years. In 2016, she received Howard’s “Alumni Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement in the Field of Business,” the “Triumphant Woman of the Year” award from the National Action Network and the “Unsung Corporate Community Uplift Award” from the Greater Washington Urban League. The same year, Elle magazine named her to its “power list” of top 10 women in D.C.
Last year, Adams received the ICON award and an honorary doctorate of laws degree from Trinity University in Washington, D.C. and this year was inducted into the DC Hall of Fame.
Throughout her career, Adams has seen the critical importance of being able to manage expectations and work on a team – from the workplace and charitable endeavors to a familial team that includes a supportive husband and son.
“Our entire community at American University has benefited from Gina Adams – from her insight, her collaborative leadership, and the wealth of experience she brings,” says American president Sylvia Burwell. “She’s a leader who exemplifies the value of service and education, the importance of partnerships across government and the private sector, and a commitment to making a lasting impact on the world.”
This article appeared in the July 12, 2018 issue of Diverse.
LaMont Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrLaMontJones