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Meritorious Service Award

The Centennial Anniversary Biennium has been a time to empower women in communities across the world. It has also been a time to reflect upon the work and service of Zonta’s leaders and honor the contributions that have been made. The Zonta International Board has chosen to recognize the service of two members who have exemplified the spirit of Zonta: Val Sarah, 1998-2000 International President, and Eva Nielsen, 2014-2016 District 13 Governor, both of whom are members of the Centennial Anniversary Committee.

For many years of leading and executing work through her ongoing international leadership roles, and for their extensive work and priceless contribution to the legacy of Zonta through the compilation of the Zonta International history, Val and Eva respectively, have been chosen for the Zonta International Meritorious Service Award.

The Meritorious Service Award is a prestigious award given in recognition of exceptional service performed at the international level, including outstanding Zonta leadership; remarkable, successful efforts in membership, service, PR or other Zonta activities; and activities which have created a legacy for the organization which has resulted in other unspecified areas.

Val and Eva’s outstanding contributions have given all members of Zonta International a legacy of leadership that will live on. Click here to watch and listen to the presentation of the Centennial Anniversary Biennium's Zonta International Meritorious Service Awards and a conversation with the recipients.

Watch Zonta Talk: Two Awards for Exceptional Service

Val Sarah

After joining Zonta as a charter president of the Zonta Club of Ballarat in 1978, Val has continued to hold leadership roles in Zonta at the international level in almost every biennium since 1982, while simultaneously holding club and district roles and maintaining active club membership.

Val's passion for Zonta and its history was exemplified when she commissioned and contributed to A History of Zonta International 1919-1999 published in 2000, the concluding year of her biennium as International President.

With a vision to produce a comprehensive history for the centennial anniversary, International President Dianne Curtis established the Centennial Anniversary Committee in 2010, appointing Val to lead this extensive decade-long project. Val involved clubs and districts, through their archivists and historians, in organizing their records and documenting or updating their histories for use in the production of 100 Years of Zonta International, authored by Eva Nielsen.

Its publication earlier this year has made this the perfect time to acknowledge and celebrate Val’s extensive contribution to our history.

"Those who have had the privilege of working with Val have also learnt much from her," writes Beryl McMillan who has worked alongside Val for many years. "She willingly shares her extensive knowledge and understanding of Zonta's history. She remembers details of people and conversations. In an exchange with Val, she concentrates solely on the person she is with. She gives advice and makes suggestions in a warm and respectful manner. She has the capacity to bring out the best in people."

Eva Nielsen

Eva studied at the Universities of Edinburgh and Copenhagen, and finished with a Master’s degree in History with a thesis on the early Danish Women’s Rights Movement. Her research was awarded with the Gold Medal of the University of Copenhagen in 1963. She taught history and was principal at Aabenraa Statsskole, an academic upper secondary school, from 1975-2001. In 1987, she received a royal decoration as Knight of Dannebrog (R) from HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

In 1996, Eva joined Zonta and, since 2009, has been writing Zonta’s history. She first wrote the history of the Danish Zonta clubs to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Zonta Club of Copenhagen and soon after finished the complete history of District 13.

In 2014, recognizing a need to record the history of Zonta’s first century not only to preserve the past, but serve the future, Eva set to work.

"Eva's work is unique in its attention to detail and accuracy, and it would be difficult if not impossible to find another member of Zonta who would have dedicated so much time and emotional effort to accomplish the task," wrote Val Sarah in regards to Eva's work on compiling the complete Zonta history. "She would be the first to admit that she has enjoyed support, but the sheer volume of work has been staggering and complex, involving communication with all Zonta's districts, old and new, all with different levels of archival collection and storage."

For the better part of a decade, Eva, worked alongside knowledgeable and dedicated Zontians around the world in researching and compiling complete histories of a district or a geographical region. This work was incorporated in the more than 80 chapters of complete Zonta history and appendices that are now free for all of Zonta and the rest of the world to read and use.

Beryl McMillan, Centennial Anniversary Committee chairman, contributed to this article.

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