“Action for Service…Friendship for Peace”
This was Past International President Cornelia Hodge’s theme for the 1982-1984 Biennium. On Friday, 22 November, at age 95, Cornelia passed away in Zellwood, Florida.
The approval for the establishment of the Zonta International Foundation was probably the most significant project Cornelia oversaw during her tenure as president. Zonta is honoring this legacy, in particular this biennium, through the Centennial Anniversary Endowment Campaign. The Foundation was started after more than US$500,000 had been raised to build 4,000 wells in Sri Lanka as part of the Sri Lanka Well-Water project with UNICEF.
Cornelia was also a respected business and financial consultant and the only woman who was appointed by the governor of Illinois to the State of Illinois Building Authority. She co-owned a business management services firm and was also very active in her community.
She joined the Zonta Club of Springfield, Illinois, in 1957 and remained a member of Zonta International until her death 62 years later. She served as the club’s treasurer, vice president and president before she took on leadership functions at the district level, including governor of District 6. At the international level, she was second and first vice president as well as chairman of the international public affairs and organization and extension committees before her election as International President.
After her husband became blind, Cornelia devoted much of her time and energy to the Mary Bryant Home for the Blind, giving advice on the Home’s management and serving as its financial adviser for 14 years. In 1982, she was honored for her professional and volunteer work by the city of Springfield during National Women’s History Week.
For Cornelia, making every member feel valued and important was essential to the work of Zonta and its mission. “I want to emphasize,” she said in the program issue of The Zontian magazine for the 1982-1984 Biennium, “that Zonta International is for all members. One of the things that has bothered me is that some club members refer to Zonta International as something apart from them. I hope that we will be able to make them feel that they are Zonta International.” She, herself, definitely worked on making this a reality. Past International President Margit Webjörn fondly remembers Cornelia’s travels to at least seven clubs in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, that culminated in presenting the charter to the Zonta Club of Trosa, during her term as First Vice President.
With Cornelia’s passing, the entire Zonta International community lost an influential and dedicated leader who contributed greatly to Zonta International and the early years of the Zonta International Foundation. She truly made a difference for women and girls, including the members of Zonta International, and will be remembered fondly by all those who had the privilege to know her.
From left to right: Luella Hoffman, past Zonta International Foundation president, and Cornelia display the United Nations—United States of America plaque awarded to Zonta International in 1977; Cornelia at the site of the most recent Mary Bryant Home for the Blind, which was built in 1983; Cornelia with one of the Home's residents.