By Tiffany Kjos
Tireless Women’s Advocate to be Feted
A Tucson native whose life’s work is to give women a boost is being honored with a prestigious award she’ll receive at a popular annual luncheon.
At 70, awardee Pam Grissom isn’t slowing down. She helped girls and women gain confidence and poise at her successful talent agency in the 1970s, gives scholarships to young women so they can go to college, and continues to work tirelessly at Arizona List, which provides financial means for women seeking political office. The list of her nonprofit affiliations may be longer than her arm.
Grissom will be honored April 28 at the 27th annual Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona luncheon, an event that draws 1,000-plus attendees every year.
Of all the women she’s influenced, perhaps the luckiest is her daughter, Jessica Brandt.
“As a kid, I always admired her and looked up to her and wanted to be like her,” said Brandt, who is on the board of directors for Arizona List, which Grissom co-founded.
When she was growing up, her mom would make breakfast and they’d eat together, Brandt recalled, then her mom would “put on clothes and her perfume and go to work. I thought that was so glamorous.”
Grissom counts among her blessings Brandt’s three children – 16-year-old Shelby, 13-year-old Luke, and 10-year-old Jake – as well as son-in-law Martin.
“Her energy is amazing. She’s just got this fire inside that keeps her always thinking forward and moving forward and doing things toward her goals,” Brandt said. “She has an effect on women at the state level and also on the one-on-one level.”
Grissom, who said she “luckily made some good decisions” financially, has used her wealth and influence to propel individual girls and groups of women toward better lives.
Personally, Grissom provides scholarships to young women so they can attend college. Professionally, she’s worked to bolster the self-esteem and confidence of young women.
Grissom founded the Grissom Talent Agency in the 1970s. After several successful years in business, the modeling industry started to trend toward super-skinny models, and Grissom decided to head in a new direction.
“I had a midlife correction,” she said. She became more involved in politics and, with a friend, she decided to help get more women elected in Arizona. So, in 1993, Arizona List was founded.
“As a product of the ’60s, this really tapped into me feeling nothing is going to change in our country unless we have women creating policy,” Grissom said of her desire to help women achieve elected office.
“I had experience in Emily’s List, a national organization, and I saw that if you put the right kind of training and the right kind of money behind women candidates, they could win. Women were traditionally still not viewed as serious and they were not able to raise money the way men could,” she said.
Today Arizona List has 1,000 members.
Grissom fits the type of woman that the women’s foundation wants to recognize at its annual luncheon. “We honor a local champion that has demonstrated leadership and has advocated for women and girls in our community,” said foundation CEO Amalia Luxardo.
“We are specifically honoring Pam this year because of her lifelong commitment to amplifying our voice as women. Pam is a true treasure for women and girls in Southern Arizona.”
Grissom’s support affects a wide range of charitable groups, including Junior Achievement, the Women’s Foundation, Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson.
She also supports Planned Parenthood, YWCA, KORE Press and a handful of national organizations.
While Brandt grew up listening to Grissom talk about teaching girls how to make themselves feel good about themselves, she finally was struck by her mom’s impact on women when she was in college.
“She started taking me to the Emily’s List annual convention in Washington, then she started taking other women,” said Brandt, 46. “She is always thinking about what was happening nationally and then bringing it back to Tucson.”
“It’s nice that she’s getting recognized. She doesn’t do any of this work to be recognized,” Brandt said. “I think she never thought she’d be recognized and she kind of finds it embarrassing to be recognized, but she’s put a lot of effort and time into this community in so many different areas.”