As hundreds of Quad-City civic and business leaders celebrated her accomplishments at the 2013 Athena Awards luncheon Thursday, Sarah Lande was away doing what she does best – representing her corner of the world and forging friendships in a foreign land.

The Muscatine woman was named as the 2013 Athena Award recipient during a luncheon at Jumer’s Casino and Hotel, Rock Island. Lande is the retired executive director of Iowa Sister States.

Lande was unable to attend because she is in China for a trade mission and for Iowa Day in Hebei Province. The trip marks the 30th anniversary of Iowa's relationship with the Hebei Province.

Accepting the award on her behalf was Joni Axel of Muscatine, a longtime friend and colleague with Iowa Sister States. Axel, who nominated her "pal" − the term of endearment Lande regularly uses− said Lande would not have missed the event "for any reason in the world, except an invitation to China."

But in a pre-taped video message, Lande said "Part of my mission today is to inspire those others traveling with me to be leaders" in foreign diplomacy.

"You have to strike when the iron is hot," Axel said of the potential impact of the China trip.

The event also recognized the leadership contributions of three other Quad-City women. The 2013 Athena Honorees were: Joy Boruff, executive director of The Moline Foundation; Angela Moody, chief executive officer of Arrowhead Ranch; and Heidi Parkhurst, first vice president and resident director of Merrill Lynch. Moody also was unable to attend because she was delayed on a business trip.

In videos presented during the luncheon program, the women all offered their ideas on leadership, motivation, giving back and inspiration. 

The annual event was hosted by the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce and Women’s Connection. Missman, Inc. was the presenting sponsor for the seventh consecutive year.

Lande, who also was represented by her husband Roger and daughter Meg Dietz, has a long history as a citizen diplomat and world friendship leader. Her leadership is credited with helping advance Iowa’s world citizenship around the globe. Iowa has eight Sister States, four of which were established under her directorship through considerable business negotiating, sensitive communications, travel stamina and heart.

Her gift of diplomacy was most recently recognized with the People’s Republic of China. She has traveled to China with four Iowa governors, including Gov. Terry Branstad − on a trip last June as well as the present trip.

Lande was the planner and coordinator for the 2012 visit to Muscatine of Vice President Xi Jinping, the now newly-elected Party Secretary and Head of State-elect of the People’s Republic of China. It was his second visit to Iowa and Muscatine, having first been here in 1985.

"This is her passion, it is what puts a smile on her face every day," Dietz said of her mother's diplomatic work. Lande also has a son, Christopher.

In addition to her extensive work with Iowa Sister States Friendship committee, Lande’s other community activities have included: Friends of Iowa Public Broadcasting; Musser Public Library Board of Trustees; Citizens Advisory Committee for Improvement of Muscatine; League of Women Voters of Muscatine; Muscatine County Board; Rotary Club of Muscatine; and Congressman Jim Leach Campaign. She also has served on the boards of the YMCA, Muscatine Blue Zone Committee, Muscatine Community Y Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, Drake University, Council of Friends of University of Iowa Library, Iowa Peace Institute, River Action Board Director and many others.

The local Athena Award program is affiliated with Athena International, a worldwide program with the mission to “support, develop and honor women leaders; to inspire women to achieve their full potential; and to create balance in leadership worldwide.”

In addition to Missman, Inc., other sponsors of the Quad-City Athena Awards are: Integrity Integrated, Ruhl & Ruhl REALTORS, Quad-City Times, MediaWork Productions. Supporting sponsors are Ascentra Credit Union, Farm Bureau Financial Services, IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union, John Taylor Salon and Day Spa, KWQC-TV 6, KMXG - Mix 96, Mediacom Communication and Quad-City Bank & Trust.