ALICIA DOYLE
BUSINESS 02.21.2020

FLYING HIGH

California ad agency CEO soars to new heights after getting involved locally
Pat Amsbry Flying A guitars
Pat Amsbry at Flying A Media offices
We met at a local coffee place. “Please, no Starbucks,” he emailed when I suggested a meeting place. It had to be a place that was locally owned. He offered a few suggestions, seemingly not wanting to choose “which” local spot. When I met Pat Amsbry, it became clear why. He is intensely passionate about Pasadena, California, the community where lives and works – and he always supports local business owners.
I sat down with Pat, a second-generation owner of a 42-year-old media company to learn how his efforts to make a positive impact for his business and clients are making a difference in his community and beyond.
“My wife Kate and I are deeply committed to the Pasadena community,” Pat said.
The couple, married for nearly 25 years, are both local business owners: Kate is a realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty, and Pat is the owner of Flying A Media, a media-buying agency. They both work behind-the-scenes on numerous philanthropic endeavors, including volunteering with local public-school campuses, volunteering as reading tutors, and training to serve as volunteer officers with the Pasadena Police Department. Kate also mentors local high school students with their college preparation and applications, and Pat serves on non-profit boards and chairs the board of directors of a non-profit aquatics facility that serves the Pasadena community.
While Pat has remained quiet for many years about the ways he and his wife give back to the community they love, he hopes by sharing their story, others will be inspired to make a difference.
“We’ve been encouraged to speak up because it might inspire others to get involved,” Pat said. But at the end of the day, “we do the things we do because we know it’s the right thing to do.”
Amsbry's group shot with police officers in Pasadena
Pat Amsbry and his wife, Kate accepting certificates from the City of pasadena

Pat and Kate’s volunteerism, which began when their two sons, Jack and Tom, were young, initially revolved around fundraising for the boys’ school activities – helping out with Boy Scouts, and coaching their kids’ sports teams, including soccer, baseball, flag football and basketball.
“For a long time, I was only focused on organizations that were directly related to my family,” recalled Pat.
Their focus soon expanded when sons Jack and Tom entered high school.
“Our oldest son Jack was a Boy Scout and to achieve his Eagle Scout rank he needed to complete a pretty involved community project. He selected an organization called Reading Partners and then designed and built custom bookshelves, established a reading desk and held a book drive and fundraiser for the organization. It was an amazing project and it opened up our eyes to the many organizations that were doing so much good in our community,” Pat reflected.
“Jack is now a senior at Tufts University, studying mechanical engineering, designing and building bigger and better things and still inspiring us,” Kate added.
Pat remembered, “we started to reflect on how grateful we are, and how fortunate we’ve been to raise our children in such a wonderfully diverse community.” Through this paradigm of gratitude, “it became important to us that we find a way to get involved and contribute to the Pasadena community.”
The couple’s expanded mindset led them to discover other organizations within the city, notably the unique inequities in public education in Pasadena. “This became a really big interest for us – helping to create access to educational opportunities for kids both in and outside the classroom,” he said.
“Our eyes opened to all that was going on in this wonderful city. A place that provided such an amazing upbringing for our kids and so many great friendships. So we began this journey of connecting with other communities, people and nonprofit organizations.”
One of their first independent philanthropic endeavors was partnering with James Madison Elementary School.
“Madison Elementary is a beautiful school, built in 1926. It looks like it could be a movie location.” Pat noted. “For many years we drove by the school and never paid it much attention unfortunately and then three years ago we thought maybe there’s something we can do to get involved.”
Their first initiatives were built around the classroom including providing classroom supplies, developing a school-wide attendance incentive program, supporting a teacher recognition program, and launching an annual book drive that has reaped thousands of books for the school’s library and the Reading Partners Resource Center on campus. The attendance incentive program now delivers outsized results for student attendance and has inspired a similar program launched across the district. Their efforts have evolved into an organization they founded called Friends of Madison Elementary, a nonprofit organization. What began three years ago has grown into a community organization, with a neighborhood advisory board, with the capacity to raise funds through tax deductible donations. One hundred percent of the proceeds go towards creating more equity, greater access and opportunity at Madison Elementary School.
“With Friends of Madison, we have set out not just to support our friends at our local school, but to create a new, community-based funding model to try and bridge the gap between other sources of funds for local public schools. Our goal is to take this model to other communities so they can replicate it within their own neighborhoods and their own schools,” Pat said.
“We hope our concept proves that with some care and a little bit of effort, and support from the community, you can create a lot of good without a lot of red tape,” Pat noted.
Today, Pat and Kate’s primary philanthropic focus is all about equity, access, and opportunity and it is the main reason why The Amsbrys decided to get involved with another valued Pasadena, California organization: the
Pat Amsbry with local Pasadena student shaking hands
Rose Bowl Aquatics Center – an independent non-profit facility in partnership with the City of Pasadena, where Pat is now Chair of the Board of Directors.
The Amsbrys were introduced to the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center through their son Tom. When only eight years old, Tom discovered the sport of diving – watching countries compete during the 2008 Olympic Games. It wasn’t long after that Pat and Kate enrolled him in a diving class at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center. Well, Tom rarely missed a day in the pool and eleven years later, was recruited as an athlete by Amherst College in Massachusetts.
“My wife and I didn’t know anything about diving when Tom started, but we learned a lot about the sport and became very involved, as we wanted to support his enthusiasm for this activity,” Pat recalled.
Through his son’s involvement at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, Pat discovered the rich history of the center, a history as rich as the property it sits next to – the 100-year-old Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. Pat ended up joining the Board of Directors before being elected Chair and his wife Kate would go on to serve for several years on the Dive Team Booster Board.
The modern-era Rose Bowl Aquatics Center will celebrate its 30th year in 2020, and when Pat and Kate produced the 25th anniversary celebration in 2015, they were given the latitude to create the theme. They chose “triumph over adversity” and invited 94-year-old diver Dr. Sammy Lee as one the guests of honor. A resident of Pasadena in the 1940s, Sammy Lee, who was a Japanese American, practiced at the old Brookside Plunge (since demolished, the plunge was located in the approximate location of the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center). In that era, Sammy Lee had to abide by the “plunge rules” at the time, which meant he could only use the pool one day at the end of the week.
“Only white people could swim the other six days,” Pat said. “At the end of the week, on International Day, people of color were allowed to use the pool.”
Sammy Lee was the first Asian American to win a Gold Medal for the United States in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics.
“He didn’t let those very unfair rules hold him back,” Pat continued. “Sammy was a warrior; he would practice his diving into a sand pit.”
Sammy Lee passed away in 2016.
“It was really important for us to find Sammy Lee and honor him at the same place where he was treated horribly so many years ago,” Pat said. “We wanted to treat him wonderfully and honor how he triumphed over adversity. Sammy was a true champion and hero.”
Pat and Kate have continued to work with the management, coaches, staff and board to advance the mission of the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, so that, as they say, more can have these “Gold Medal Moments.”
Today, these moments are reflected in the center’s programming for children and young adults with special needs. The center is also home to a warm water therapy pool that helps people of all ages recover after an injury.
“The Gold Medal Moments mean a lot of things,” Pat said. “It could be a young woman on our nationally ranked youth water polo team having the best game of her young career, or it could be a woman like Maureen Kornfield, a world champion swimmer who is 97 years old and drives from Hollywood to swim on our team.”
Kate and Pat are especially proud of the center’s Water Safety & Learn to Swim program for children. This program, in partnership with the Pasadena Unified School District, provides critical water safety training for every third-grade student at no cost.
“They are given professional swim lessons and we pay for chaperones, transportation and swim suits for the kids, because we know it’s the most important thing we can do to prevent accidental drowning in our community,” Pat emphasized.
He and his wife are also working towards eliminating accidental drowning incidents across the country.
Pat explained “the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center has developed a powerful water safety curriculum; we provide this programming to all the kids in our community at no cost. Our vision is to syndicate this so it can be implemented in more communities and help more children and adults become water safe. We work hard at fund raising so we can provide access to our pools, our programming and to our competitive teams to everyone in our community, regardless of their ability to pay. Along with water safety education, access to a pool for everyone in our community is a big priority.”
Pat’s enthusiasm for the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center is boundless: “It’s such a great honor to volunteer for an organization that impacts so many Pasadena residents. We serve the community with a robust variety of aquatics programming for every age and ability level – from toddler programs, competitive programs, water aerobics, our Rays program to Olympic qualifiers. With 500,000 people through our door each year, we work hard every day to maintain the highest safety standards and provide access to everyone in our community.”
Needless to say, Pat Amsbry spends a lot of time outside his office’s four walls. But this professional entrepreneur, when he is sitting at his desk, is piloting Flying A Media, an advertising agency based in Pasadena, California, an agency founded by his father in 1978. Pat joined his dad as a partner, and they worked together up until his father’s retirement in 2019.
Today, as a second-generation owner of the company, “my vision is to grow the company in a novel way, to create amazing results for our clients and use the business as a force for good – to provide opportunities for everyone on the team in a way that we believe is different than most companies,” Pat noted.
Flying A Media is now a “conscious company” and is working towards becoming a Certified B-Corporation.
“As the company grows, the financial and outreach opportunities for all those on the team will grow as well. We already match employee charitable contributions and offer our employees the opportunity to give back through paid volunteer time. Whether it’s the Pasadena Humane Society or The Meow Meow Foundation, we want everybody on the team to find what they’re passionate about…there are so many wonderful nonprofit organizations in our community.”
Flying A plans to make significant community impact by sharing a percentage of their profits through a donor advised fund that is specifically designated for nonprofit organizations in Pasadena.
“I am choosing to run a ‘conscious company’ because I care about my community and my team, and, it’s just the right thing to do,” Pat said. “If there isn’t a benefit to our business, I’m still going invest in my team and my community as long as I can do it.”
As Pat finished his second cappuccino, he said he couldn’t let me go without pitching me on Civitas Pasadena. He is a founding board member of this new organization of diverse and dynamic business leaders who want to make a positive difference in the community. “It’s a fascinating group of people” Pat excitedly explained, “you have to join me at a meeting.”
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Alicia Doyle is an award-winning freelance journalist whose articles have appeared in The LA Times, San Diego Tribune and The Ventura County Star. With an affinity for human interest stories, Alicia has taken a special interest in those people, places, events and organizations that have positively impacted the world around them. Alicia lives in Ventura, CA.