113 - The Malinda Jolley Mortin Woman of Achievement Award of Chi Omega

Since 1986, Chi Omega has honored women making strides in their fields with the Woman of Achievement Award at each Convention. This national award recognizes distinguished accomplishment in service to Chi Omega, an individual’s community, and the nation. Recipients have represented a wide variety of fields including literature, science, politics, and service.

Malinda Jolley Mortin Woman of Achievement Award winner Erin Hunter Sills, Pi Alpha/Cincinnati, was honored in 2018 for her work as a Facebook Executive, a professional landspeed motorcycle racer, and a 30-time world and national landspeed record holder with top speed to date of 219.3 miles per hour

In April 2006, then-Foundation President Jane Rogers, Psi/Arkansas, announced that, with the support of the Trustees and the Governing Council, Chi Omega would honor Malinda Jolley Mortin by naming the Woman of Achievement Award for her.

Malinda is an initiate of the Upsilon Delta Chapter at The University of Miami Florida, a charter member of the Chi Omega Foundation Advisors, and has a family full of Chi Omegas. Her commitment to the Fraternity and her generous giving inspires Sisters of all generations to invest in Chi Omega themselves. Along with her long-time generosity, she donated the beautiful owl benches in our Myth Garden, a custom design that was crafted in Memphis. As a result of her dedication and impact on Chi Omega, naming the Malinda Jolley Mortin Woman of Achievement Award of Chi Omega in her honor was fitting.

In 2012, she was the recipient of the Roselyn T. Dabbs Chi Omega Philanthropist Award in honor of her outstanding fraternal and charitable responsibility, encouraging others to take philanthropic leadership roles.

When asked about the award that year and how she felt being honored, she said, “I feel like I have to be tenacious like Roselyn… Her attitude toward life was an inspiration to all.”

At each Convention since 1986, the Woman of Achievement Award has been accompanied by a dinner or brunch to honor these special Sisters.

In 1986, the first honorees included author Evelyn Johnson Hawes, Alpha/Washington, Cleta Deatherage Mitchell, Epsilon Alpha/Oklahoma, for her work in law, public service, and politics, and Alma Bell Wilson, Epsilon Alpha/Oklahoma, for her impact on the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The first three recipients of the Woman of Achievement Award in 1986, Evelyn Johnson Hawes, Cleta Deatherage Mitchell, and Alma Bell Wilson pictured in the 1986 issue of The Eleusis

As stated in the 1986 issue of The Eleusis, “As each took her turn at the podium the evening of June 18, three remarkable women held the attention of the assembled delegates with their humor and sincerity. It only took a moment to know why they had been chosen to receive the first-ever Woman of Achievement Awards. Margaret Hyde, Kappa Beta/Rhodes, Foundation President served as Mistress of Ceremonies presenting a Baccarat crystal owl to each of the award winners… Sponsored by the Trustees of the Chi Omega Foundation, this award presentation is intended to become a Convention tradition.”

And a tradition it has become.

The National Achievement Award given by Chi Omega from 1931 to 1958, began because of a lack of national recognition honoring the work and accomplishments of women. Many years later the Chi Omega Foundation established the Woman of Achievement Award to continue this tradition. The biggest difference between the awards is that the former honored women who were not Chi Omegas, and today the Malinda Jolley Mortin Woman of Achievement Award honors Chi Omega Sisters and their many outstanding accomplishments.

In 1994, Dr. Mary Ann Carroll, Alpha Delta/Indiana State, was honored for her work in higher education and is the only former Governing Council member, former S.T.B., to receive this award.

In 2004, Harper Lee, Nu Beta/Alabama, a later a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, was awarded the Malinda Jolley Mortin Woman of Achievement Award. She was unable to attend Convention. The note she wrote the Fraternity in thanks is, “among our most precious possessions in the Chi Omega Archives” according to National Archivist Lyn Harris.

Harper Lee’s handwritten note thanking Chi Omega for her award

So you may be wondering: Who will be the Malinda Jolley Mortin Woman of Achievement Award recipient(s) this year? Well, you’ll have to wait until Convention June 25-28 this summer to find out. One thing is for sure: It will be a woman/women of great achievement!