What road led you to Rome?
I came to Rome as a result of a professional assignment. In 2004, I was appointed as the first Director of the Resource Mobilization Division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations (UN) specialized agency headquartered in Rome. Prior to that assignment, I was the Director of IFAD ’s North American Liaison Office and managed two offices at once: one in Washington, DC, and the other in New York City at UN Headquarters.
In that role, and since 1987, I had regular opportunities to travel to Rome, at least four times a year, to attend IFAD Board and Governing Council meetings. As a frequent visitor to Rome, I came to enjoy its many wonders. In 2004, I readily accepted my new assignment and stayed in Rome until my retirement in September 2010. I had a chance to return to the US or choose another location in Europe to settle, but in the end, I knew I wanted to stay in Rome and make the Eternal City my new home. I was drawn to Rome by its many splendors of beauty, architecture, history, and art. But most especially, I was drawn to a wonderful network of friends, many of them AWAR members. I greatly appreciate the Italian way of life, and the Italian joie de vivre; so informal and welcoming. In 2021, I am making another decision; now that my beloved husband, Emmanuel, is no longer with me, I have decided to return permanently to the United States to spend more time in California and be closer to my son and my three beautiful grandchildren. However, I will still remain a member of AWAR and plan to come back to Rome on a regular basis as a visitor. This path will allow me to continue my love affair with the city and maintain my links with my friends.
Can you share with us a few highlights of being a member of AWAR?
As an AWAR member, I’ve gotten to meet many wonderful women and establish lasting friendships and relationships. In addition, as an AWAR member, I am also a member of the Federation of American Women ’s Clubs Overseas (FAWCO). This has furthered my connections with other FAWCO clubs and their members, enabled me to build and broaden my friendships, and to contribute internationally to the FAWCO ’s global agenda. I am especially proud of the years I served on AWAR ’s Board (2010 to 2014). In chronological order, I had the opportunity to serve in four Board positions: Sustaining Member Chair, Vice-President, FAWCO Representative, and President (2013-2014). I particularly enjoyed serving as AWAR ’s President and as FAWCO Representative. I very much enjoyed organizing special events for the organization, such as Gala Dinners, the FAWCO regional meeting in Rome, and other special outings; like wine tastings and winery excursion visits.
What word sums you up or your power and why?
Determined. I am a very focused and determined individual. Honesty and truth are my key barometers for measuring human relations. I consider these qualities essential for an enduring relationship. They have served me well with my friends and colleagues. People who know me well know that I am a very reliable person and will get the job done; no matter what obstacles might be placed in my way. I am a strategic thinker, a problem solver, and do not suffer fools easily. I consider myself a trusted friend.
Where do you find inspiration either personally or professionally?
My inspiration comes from many sources. On a personal front, I love to travel and explore new places and cultures. During my time in Italy, I visited so many beautiful places in Italy and other countries in Europe, as well as other regions of the world. Similarly, I love to read and write. I am currently in the midst of writing my first book. It will be dedicated to my loving husband, Emmanuel. On a professional front, I am very motivated by the desire to help others and am now devoting my time to advancing the work of women entrepreneurs. A few years ago, I co-founded a new organization, Brighter Ventures, and am working with my partners in supporting and promoting women entrepreneurs.
This is the start of my third career. I have learned so much in my previous two careers and now I want to give back and help others while also learning something new. My motto is: a day without learning something new is a day lost.
What is your favorite movie of all time and why?
My favorite movie is: Gone with the Wind, a true classic. I have seen the movie at least 5 times. I saw it, for the first time in the late 1950s in my birth county: the former Yugoslavia and now Croatia. I was deeply moved by the story of the civil war in the United States. The movie made a great impression on me - and it stayed with me throughout my life. In addition, I loved the main actors in the movies, played by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. I found Vivien ’s characters (Scarlett) full of strength and determination. Her will to fight and struggle to rebuild after the war was impressive and endearing. At the end of the movie, Scarlett stands on her land, having lost everything except her now-devastated plantation Tara, and exclaims, “tomorrow is another day.” She leaves the viewers believing that neither her spirit nor her will was broken. She promises to return and rebuild her life. I love this message of optimism and hope, expressed even in the time of adversity.
What is the best advice you ever received and what advice would you offer to future generations?
The best professional advice I received was to always be true to myself and to my value system. This advice has allowed me to keep my integrity in place. Early on in my relations with others, it helped me establish clear expectations and set boundaries. I have employed this lesson in both my personal and professional lives and it has served me well. This is still valid advice to pass on. However, I would add two more points: 1) Never stop learning and acquiring new skill sets; this will help you prepare for the future and its changing demands and requirements, and 2) Be ready with a quick and honest response if your superiors ask you to do something, which you believe, is not in the organization ’s best interest. Before responding, ask them if they would like you to give them your best advice or any advice. This allows you to set parameters. If they choose the “best advice” option, you will prevent potential mistakes to be made and they will thank you for it later. If they choose the “any advice” option, have them own that choice and explain the consequences. Even if you have to carry out that directive, your integrity will be intact.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about learning. I continue to stay active both physically and mentally. I am interested in world affairs, and I follow domestic and international politics as well as business affairs. I love discussing these issues with friends, and to work to find solutions.
As I've mentioned, I am presently spending my time building Brighter Ventures, a new organization devoted to advancing women-led entrepreneurship. I wish to support and give opportunities to women as they develop and flourish with their business ideas and enterprises. I like how entrepreneurial spirit creates innovation and spurs economic growth in communities. I am determined to support women entrepreneurs and help them identify opportunities to operate in this space, while also supporting them with advice, coaching, and financing to succeed in their business ventures.
What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for my wonderful family and friends. I consider them to be the most precious gifts of life. My son and his family, especially my beautiful three grandsons: Hayes, Reeve, and Keane are now my joy and inspiration. They are my hope for the future. It is through them that I hope to leave a legacy and imprint those values that are so dear to me; I have great hopes and aspirations for them.
My friends are my rock, and I deeply cherish their friendship. Without them, I could not have made it through 2020. They were my support and lifted my spirits up and showed me incredible love and attention during a very difficult period in my life. While 2020 was a difficult year for all of us, it was especially hard for me. While we all went through a global pandemic, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and while I was in California getting cancer treatment, my beloved husband, Emmanuel, passed away in Rome on June 29. Through it all, I still remained grateful to God for all the gifts he bestowed on me; large and small. I will continue to rebuild and refocus my energy and give my attention to building Brighter Ventures and pursuing some of my other interests.
What's your all-time favorite memory living in Rome?
I have so many wonderful memories. But I will only highlight a few: 1) The time I spent (7 years) living in a beautiful apartment facing the Colosseum, in the Piazza del Colosseo. I never tired of that view and loved the many celebrations and parties we had in the apartment: we saw beautiful New Year ’s fireworks, World Cup and other national parades, all watched from our balcony. 2) The time I represented IFAD at the inauguration of the new Pope, Benedict XVI. I was seated with the full diplomatic corps on the Vatican steps and watched the inauguration ceremony. It was a magical moment. 3) While I remember many AWAR events, the Gala Dinner of 2011, held at the VOI Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli, was the most memorable event. The venue was gorgeous, and the Association successfully raised substantial funds in support of AWAR selected charities.
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