September 25, 2006
theologian receive Emory's top alumni-only award
One is a librarian who has devoted her career to innovatively promoting libraries in her community. The other is a theologian who has criss-crossed his home state of Florida and the Caribbean tirelessly tending his congregations every step of the way.
Their vocations may be different, but the positive impact they have had on the people whose lives they have touched is equally undeniable. While Sarah Long’s and Eugene Zimmerman’s paths may have been quite far apart, they came together Thursday, Sept. 14 at the Miller-Ward Alumni House where they were presented with Emory Medals, the University’s highest honor exclusively for alumni.
A total of 180 people including family and friends of the medalists, Emory administrators, Association of Emory Alumni (AEA) staff and many Emory alumni attended the medal ceremony, which was emceed by Andrea Casson, the outgoing president of the Emory Alumni Board, which selects the recipients.
Following a reception, dinner and biographical video presentation, President Jim Wagner presented the Emory Medals to Long—who earned a master’s in librarianship from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in 1969—and Zimmerman—a 1954 graduate of the Candler School of Theology.
Long’s career spans more than 35 years, the last 17 of those as director of the North Suburban Library System (NSLS), an organization of 650 academic, public and special libraries in the Chicago suburbs.
She has spent her career staying on the edge of technology and communication so that she can best serve her constituents. In the early 1990s, she was a leader in providing Internet connectivity for NSLS branches. In 1999, searching for better ways to reach library users, Long and several of her staff began production of a monthly cable television show “What’s New in Libraries?”
Two years later, Long conquered another medium—the printed word. On April 14 of that year, the first of her weekly columns on libraries ran in the Daily Herald
, Illinois’ third-largest newspaper. Until very recently, she also wrote a bimonthly column for the British publication New Library World
“The Emory Medal makes me feel verified, confirmed, special and a whole range of adjectives,” Long said upon receiving her medal.
Zimmerman is known as the “Godfather of the Bahamas” because of his work in helping that country’s churches acquire such basic tools as pews and hymnals to serve their congregations. Zimmerman’s preaching work touched people all over the Caribbean, as well as in Florida, where he held pastoral appointments in every corner of the state.
He also kept close ties to his alma mater. His friendship with Frank and Helen Sherman of Jacksonville, Fla., led to the establishment of several endowments that are currently valued at $17 million. Nearly one in four Candler Theology School students receive a full-tuition scholarship through programs funded by these endowments.
“I came here [to Candler] with $300, a new wife and an old car. I left with a new car, an old wife and $300,” Zimmerman quipped upon receiving his medal.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the pair of biographical videos introducing the medalists to the audience. Often emotional, the videos provided a touching glimpse into Zimmerman’s and Long’s lives and said more about their qualifications for the medal than any paper nomination.
“It’s a powerful and humbling feeling to have a camera crew come to your home and say ‘we’re here to make a movie of your life,’” Long said.
The Emory Medal is awarded annually by the AEA and medalists are recognized for their accomplishments in at least one of the following areas: distinguished service to Emory, the AEA or a constituent alumni association; distinguished community or public service; or distinguished achievement in business, the arts, government or education.
The medal itself, designed in 1987, is attached to a blue and gold ribbon and emblazoned with the University’s seal. The award dates back to 1946 when it was known as the “Alumni Association Award of Honor.”