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  • Brendan Birth

Honoring Longtime Board Member Frances Zainoeddin

In the coming weeks, Frances Zainoeddin, one of our longtime board members, will be departing from the Board, albeit staying with us as an advisor. As she gets ready to depart, I’m going to allow myself the liberty to say some personal words about her and honor her, even though I imagine that she would blush at the thought of being honored.

The first thing I will remember about her is her attention to detail and good organizational

governance—or, as Frances herself may put it, “we don’t want too much ad hocery.” That may sound boring to some, but those attributes are critical to making sure that we stay on track in being the sort of organization we want to be, and achieving the goals we want to achieve when it comes to advocating for the rights of older persons. Realistically, no organization can do everything, but her attributes have helped us focus enough to make our mark.

I will also remember her as being the “United Nations person,” even though it is not just Frances who is involved with Gray Panther affairs at the United Nations. Perhaps a part of that is because she spent so much of her career working at the United Nations, and perhaps a part of that is because she has been instrumental in helping Gray Panthers advocate for the rights of older persons at the UN post-her retirement from professional duties. But I think most of it is because she (along with Jack Kupferman, the President of Gray Panthers NYC) explained to me what on earth Sustainable Development Goals are and why I should care about them when I first started with the organization as an intern many moons ago. While I know far from everything about the global scene on the rights of older persons, so much of what I (and many others) know is thanks to Frances.

There are other sides to Frances—while she is very serious about the work she does, she can have a sharp sense of humor, with quips that result in all around her breaking into uproarious laughter. She also has a very caring heart, one that I have seen during difficult times that both I and other Board members have gone through both personally and professionally. That caring heart, of course, is also a humble heart, as I saw when she was honored alongside the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Dolly Parton for HelpAge USA’s 60 Over 60—her reaction could be best described as an “aw shucks.”

Frances has been an immense asset to the Gray Panthers NYC Board, and I think I’m speaking for the entire Board in saying that we will miss her immensely. She is a person of many talents and gifts, and I think it is fair to say that any organization that looks to make a positive impact on the world needs a Frances.


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