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Financial Women's scholarship lunch draws plenty of cash, star power

Mark Calvey, Senior Reporter, San Francisco Business Times

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The Financial Women of San Francisco said it raised a record amount for scholarships at its annual Financial Woman of the Year lunch that recognized KPMG's Debbie Messemer.

The event raised $337,500 for the organization's scholarship fund that has provided more than $2 million in educational assistance over the past 30 years.

This year's event drew 700 supporters, prompting the group to find a bigger venue for the lunch.

Some unexpected star power was on stage when Messemer, managing partner of KPMG's Bay Area market, was introduced by one of her long-time clients – bank investor Gerald Ford.

Ford's no stranger in Bay Area financial circles. The Ford Financial Fund, led by co-managing members Carl Webb and Ford, bought a majority stake in Walnut Creek-based Mechanics Bank (OTC: MCHB) last year, marking the latest chapter in the fund's successful deal-making in California banking.

The Financial Women's lunch also included the debut of the Lela Jahn Make a Difference Challenge Grant, which provides $10,000 annually for the next five years to one scholarship recipient to direct in some way to support women's issues. This year's recipient, Vineetha Mummadi, said she plans to
use the grant to help women in her native India.

Jahn, who was the 2000 Financial Woman of the Year, lost her battle with pancreatic cancer last December. (The organization also lost Rhoda Singer in August. She was the friendly face at the registration desk for many of the Financial Women's events for more than two decades.)

At the Sept. 21 luncheon, Messemer, who began working with Ford in her home state of Texas, shared lessons for success that she discussed in a 2008 Executive Profile in the San Francisco Business Times.

"I have to give credit to Gerald Ford," Messemer said in that interview, echoing Ford's career advice to her: "Dream the dream, surround yourself with good people, take bad news well, and don't believe your own press releases."

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