Dame of Distinction: Toria Emas

By Sharon Olson

It is my honor and pleasure to share some thoughts about our newest Dame of Distinction, Toria Emas. This is a lifetime achievement award given to a long time member who has achieved excellence in her career and has made outstanding contributions to our chapter, and Toria is richly deserving of this honor. 

I think you are all familiar with Toria’s experience as president of our chapter and as an international president. I takes a lot of work and dedication to become the president, she served as secretary and treasurer for our chapter and chapter board liaison and first vice president on the international board.

She has worked tirelessly to give back to future generations through her work on numerous scholarship committees and as a founding member of the Legacy Awards program.  She played a crucial role in mentoring our new Ann Arbor chapter and supporting Alma Lach’s daughter (Alma was another Dame of Distinction), Sandy, in building awareness of Alma’s vast professional contributions.

There is no question that Toria has been recognized for excellence in her career.  Since she officially retired from the bar association, she has redefined modern retirement by using her talent and energy to give back to our chapter as well as the many charities that benefit from her leadership, passion and hard work.  She has committed herself to the American Foundation of the Blind for 9 years and then served 6 years with Second Sense. The Three Arts Club in Chicago has benefited from her love of art and culture.

It is so characteristic of Toria to work behind the scenes helping others grow and achieve recognition. She even makes sure we all look fabulous in the many pictures she takes at our chapter events to build awareness of Les Dames Chicago.  If you look at Toria’s bio on the LDEI website it is modest, yet her accomplishments are far beyond modest.  Toria’s Facebook page offers great insight into a dame who is enthusiastically involved in so many of our chapter events and initiatives and LDEI programs.

Toria has been a colleague, mentor and beloved friend to so many of our members, I thought it would be appropriate to reach out to some of our members to share a thought about Toria.

Our incoming president Veronica Hastings recalls that Toria has always spoken of Les Dames and her involvement with passion and enthusiasm. Particularly meaningful was her role in developing and sustaining the Legacy Awards program. Scholarship and education have always been a priority for Toria, she was a scholarship judge for the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association for 16 years.

Years ago at one of the Second Sense events Veronica asked her what inspired her to become involved with this organization and she said it came from her experience with one of her professors in college who was blind. This is one of the key qualities of Toria, how she becomes inspired by something and commits to it.

Diane Sokolofski says Toria is always willing to help, interested in promoting Les Dames locally and internationally. She is intelligent and thoughtful and sincerely interested and concerned about her friends and Les Dames sisters. Like so many, Diane expresses gratitude for her friendship with Toria.

One of our newest members, nominated by Toria and inducted this evening, Stacey Ballis says Toria was one of the first Dames she met when attending her first book club meeting. She says, “It was impossible to miss the elegant woman with the impeccable fashion sense, wearing a sweater I immediately coveted and eyewear I will never be cool enough to pull off.  I was lucky enough to be seated next to her at dinner, and was struck not only by her innate intelligence and humor, but how effortlessly she made me feel so welcome.”

Stacey says, when Toria speaks with you, you feel like the only person in the room.  When she listens to you, she makes you feel truly heard.  Her wit is in her conversation and her writing in equal measure, and even after such a brief time knowing her, it was clear to Stacey that Toria is a natural connector of people. When Toria introduces you to someone, you immediately want to know them better, on the wings of her good opinion.

Patty Erd shared a few thoughts on what we may NOT know about Toria and how much FUN she is! From dancing at the conference’s After, After party in Boston to climbing down a large hill in her evening gown in Austin to watch the bats emerge at sunset, to the skinny dipping after party in Kansas City, you can count on finding Toria involved. And to be clear, she was not actually one of the skinny dipping dames! She always has good taste!

I am sure there will be many more stories of warmth, affection and admiration for Toria we will share this evening, but for now let us raise our glasses in a toast to or new Dame of Distinction, Toria Emas.

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