MARQUETTE - For her work as a role model and mentor to women and children, Nheena Weyer Ittner has been named the 2011 recipient of the Zonta Club of Marquette Area's Evergreen Award.
Honored at a luncheon at Northern Michigan University Monday, Weyer Ittner said she was surprised and proud of the recognition.
"It's amazing to be recognized," she said. "You don't do things to be recognized, but it's amazing when someone says thank you."
Executive director of the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum, and founding board member of the museum, Weyer Ittner has spent the past 20 years helping to support and advocate youth, particularly young women.
Thanks to her dedication, the museum has grown to welcome more than 40,000 visitors per year and operate on a budget of $400,000. She has also worked to chair the Skateboard Plaza Committee, with the park to be completed in 2012.
In addition to her work with the museum, Weyer Ittner has been involved with the Marquette Arts and Culture Center, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Marquette Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, the Marquette Economic club, the Iron Ore Heritage Trail Citizens' Advisory Group, the Student Leader Fellowship Program at NMU and MI Upper Hand.
"It's a difficult task to narrow it to one recipient. Evergreen is not about deciding whether inequities between the genders continue to exist in our society, rather Evergreen celebrates those that have built bridges across divides they encountered in their journey, and then they turned out and extended a hand to lead others across with them," said Evergreen Committee Chair Pam Stewart.
Each year, the Evergreen Award is given to a man or woman who excels in their chosen business, profession or volunteer work; devotes time and energy to improving the quality of life of their community; and, most importantly, acts as a mentor for women and girls in reaching their leadership potential.
"She has a positive, can-do spirit in everything she does," Stewart said of Weyer Ittner. "She transfers confidence to them (those she mentors)."
The award is open to men and women from around Marquette County. Nominations are viewed by a selection committee who evaluates nominees based on how they demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their professions or as volunteers.
In addition to the award, the Evergreen program also includes a $1,000 scholarship to a life-long learner or non-traditional student pursuing an educational program. This year, Cynthia Rankinen was presented with the scholarship at the luncheon. Applications for the scholarship are available by contacting the Marquette County Community Foundation.
Information about the Evergreen Award is available at www.zontamqt.org.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.