Entrepreneur and philanthropist Zelma “Zee” Allred, who served on Chapman University’s Board of Trustees for more than 30 years, passed away Jan. 30. She was 94.
Allred grew her business, Pool Water Products, from a $500 starter loan to the largest woman-owned business in Orange County. She was generous in her support of Chapman, including by funding the Olympic-quality Allred Aquatics Center. In 2009, Chapman awarded an honorary doctorate to Allred, who had left college to raise her two sons.
“Zee exemplified leadership in all its forms and undeniably saw everyone at Chapman as family,” said Chapman President Daniele C. Struppa.
Pool Water Products, headquartered in Irvine, expanded into four other states. The Orange County Business Journal, when awarding Allred its Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, said she grew the company “while nurturing a family, thereby raising the glass ceiling for women in all workplaces and setting a meaningful example for those who face difficult decisions regarding the balance between family responsibilities and professional life.”
Zee was also an equal partner in two companies, Pentagon A Investments and Aqua Tri.
Her community involvement was just as impactful as her professional life. Allred was appointed to Chapman’s Board of Trustees in 1989, and was active in Women of Chapman and Town & Gown. In addition to athletics, she supported Fish Interfaith Center, Leatherby Libraries. Chapman Celebrates and Economic Forecast.
“Zee’s amazing entrepreneurial ability built a business powerhouse,” said Chapman President Emeritus Jim Doti. “More importantly, she used that success to transform our university and community.”
Allred served on other boards, including Segerstrom Center for the Arts. She supported the Assessment and Treatment Services Center, UCI Medical Research and Education Society, Bowers Museum, Pacific Symphony, South Coast Repertory, Orange County Trauma Society, Orange County Philharmonic Society and other community organizations.
“I’ve made a good living in Orange County,” she told Pool and Spa News. “It’s important to me to give back to the community that’s given me so much.”
Allred is survived by her children Vern, Dean and Carol Ann, 16 grandchildren – who include Chapman alumni – and her companion, Drago Gligic.