Every year, the San Diego Business Journal (SDBJ) recognizes women business leaders and role models who have contributed significantly to San Diego’s businesses. This year, the Chairman of Susan G. Komen San Diego’s Board, Irene Oberbauer, is honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at SDBJ’s Women Who Mean Business luncheon. Due to her lifetime commitment to philanthropy and awareness efforts for Komen San Diego along with many other charities, Oberbauer is very deserving of this award.
Over the years, Oberbauer has created incredible results for a variety of companies and non-profits. Working for Human Resource departments in the public and corporate sectors, she was able to help people advance their careers and guide them through workplace challenges. While Oberbauer was the CEO of the San Diego Credit Union, she established a community relations plan where she was able to assist nonprofits in achieving their mission. Through this role, she was truly able to understand the meaning of volunteering and giving back. Oberbauer has worked closely with March of Dimes, United Way, sat on the Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish and is currently the Chairman of the Board at Susan G. Komen San Diego.
“You can choose to make your job your career or just a job, but it shouldn’t end with just receiving that paycheck,” said Oberbauer. “It should end with reflecting on your volunteerism and your desire to want to be part of giving in any capacity.”
In 2009 Oberbauer was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time her father and sister were also diagnosed with cancer. She was fortunate enough to have insurance during her fight, but she realized just how hard it must be for those who don’t have insurance. Through her work with Komen San Diego, Oberbauer identifies opportunities to fund grants to reach her goal of finding a cure and to help those less fortunate than her. In 2015, Oberbauer’s breast cancer came back in her gall bladder. She takes an oral chemo pill and gets injections monthly. “Every time I visit Moore’s Cancer Center, I’m reminded what I have been through, but more importantly what so many people go through when they walk through those doors. It give me even more strength to want to help and volunteer in any way that I can.”
Over the years, Oberbauer has raised over $187,000 for Komen San Diego. This amount of money is equivalent to funding 1,500 lifesaving mammograms, 15 complete courses of chemotherapy or over 3,700 days of meals for women struggling to put food on the table during treatment. Oberbauer believes that everyone should be active participants within the organizations they support so they can see first-hand how the funding is allocated and see the impact that can be made from a donation.
“A lot of people have apprehension about asking for support or donations—but I know Komen San Diego’s mission is too important and I never hesitate. If someone says no, that’s okay, I’m not working to change their mind, and I turn it into an opportunity to educate them,” said Oberbauer. “Getting the word out about Komen and all we do is almost as valuable as getting donations. It is important for people to know what we do so in the future if they find themselves in need, they have a place to turn to.”
We are so thankful for having an advocate like Irene in Komen San Diego’s corner—this organization would not be where it is today without her. Congratulations Irene!