Zontian of the Year, FRANCINE FIEL

When Fran Fiel's name was suggested to the Zontian of the Year Committee, a committee made up of the recipients of the award for the previous three years, she was the hands down winner. During the year, it seemed that Fran was everywhere: helping the Foundation, serving on numerous committees and the board, providing her home for meetings and events, and perhaps greatest of all, Fran happily took on the herculean effort of cleanup, inventory and maintenance of the storage shed. A dirty and thankless job.

Judy Penman, one of the committee members, said of Fran, "She was always there to help with everything". Barbara Meyer, another one of the committee members, said "As club President, I could always count on Fran to assist me with everything that came up. Our last in-person meeting prior to Covid-19 was in March. Fran made my first 10 months so much smoother than I could have anticipated; her help was indispensable to me. She is truly deserving of the award!" While the award may have been a surprise to Fran, neither the award nor the accompanying accolades came as a surprise to club members. In plain view of the members, Fran has embodied the ideal of Zonta service.

Fran was raised in the Pacific Beach community of San Diego. Her family put great emphasis on the importance of education. Fran attended UCLA and graduated with a major in psychology, but upon graduation she was excited to make her way in the world and joined the management training opportunity at Crocker Bank in Los Angeles, where she worked for a few years. During that time, she married.

After a few years she realized that she wanted to do more, so she returned to academia by attending Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. When she passed the Bar, she joined a law firm in the Mid-Wilshire area of L.A. that specialized in personal injury, product liability, business litigation and the like. She also became a mother during that period. (She has a son and a daughter.) She worked as an attorney for six years while her husband was building a family business in the beauty industry.

The family moved to Santa Clarita in 1982. The business struggled through a recession, and Fran's abilities were needed to strengthen the business. She left her law firm and became the financial support for the business having responsibility for bookkeeping, payroll and the like. These are definitely skills that have assisted our Zonta club as Fran has added her legal and financial strengths to our governance, particularly in the work of the Foundation.

In the early 90s when Fran and her husband divorced, she gained sole proprietorship of the beauty supply side of the family business. She believes that owning a small family business taught her a kind of "objectiveness" that has served her in leadership. For over 20 years, she grew the business to have a number of retail sites in the Santa Clarita area. That is actually how she became interested in Zonta. She donated gift baskets to Zonta's fundraisers for a number of years until she became intrigued with the work of the organization and sought membership in 2016.

Fran recalls that growing up home values stressed were the importance of education, fiscal responsibility, and charitable participation. Throughout her life she has been involved in charitable causes starting with the Jewish Community Center, then Girl Scouts, a variety of charity walks, and much more. During her college years, she led the charitable efforts of her sorority, and as a lawyer, she participated for 20 years for a pro bono legal clinic working primarily in family law with custody battles, paternity support, and the like.

It is that heart for service that ignites her work for Zonta. She loves the mission and is inspired to help women through Zonta. She also loves working with her Zonta sisters who she characterizes as a "pleasure to work with"; she enjoys the give and take of the Zonta process and the sharing of opinions that leads to substantive outcomes. In the future, she would like us to work on seeing that all members are engaged and active in service.

She describes herself as an adventurous "outdoor girl", and her favorite activities are hiking, travel and outdoor camping. Although she has sold her business and is officially "retired", she stays busy, not just for Zonta. She has taken part time work for a local company doing financial services, and she also supports her daughter's business selling items through the digital marketplace.

Zonta SCV is grateful to Fran Fiel and her service to the mission, and we hope she continues to be a member of Zonta for many years to come.