Once you meet Dorothy Zehnder, it’s hard to forget her. She may be a tad diminutive in stature, but she’s definitely not short on kindness, charm or energy. In fact, the 98-year young matriarch of the Zehnder family still works full time six days a week! She is the co-founder and co-owner of the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, one of the top independent restaurants in the country, and now she’s also one of the latest inductees into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
Dorothy started working at what would become the Bavarian Inn Restaurant before World War II when she was just 18. She founded the eatery with her late husband, William “Tiny” Zehnder, after Tiny’s family purchased the former Fischer’s Hotel in 1950. At that time the modest restaurant employed twelve people, serving around fifty customers a day. Today, there are 450 employees taking care of 840,00 guests a year. Dorothy is in charge of the operations of the many businesses under the umbrella of the Bavarian Inn Corporation, including the restaurant, Castle Shops, River Place Shops, Covered Bridge & Leather Gift Shop, Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, Bavarian Inn Lodge, a specialty line of food products, and online merchandising. She also found time to author three popular cookbooks over the years. Perhaps her greatest accomplishment has been nurturing both a family and a company into that rare space where the 4th generation actually works in the family business. Dorothy Zehnder has become as legendary as the chicken they serve.
She is joined in her induction by five other remarkable women: Najah Bazzy, Glenda Price, Martha Teichner, Elizabeth Jackson, and Atlas Ruth Westbrook.
Najah Bazzy, RN, was working as a nurse when she encountered an experience that would change her life. On a visit to an Iraqi refugee family to care for their dying infant, she was shocked to discover the extreme poverty the family face. She took it upon herself to get them basic household items and furniture, and a new passion was born. Today, she is the founder of Zaman International, a nonprofit that supports impoverished women and children of all backgrounds in the Detroit area. Her organization has helped more than 2.1 million people in 20 countries since 2010. In 2019, she was also recognized as a Top Ten CNN Hero.
Dr. Glenda Price broke ground as the first African American president of Marygrove College. Prior to that, she served as Provost of Spelman College where she participated in a program that raised over $100 million for the institution. She has held positions as dean of the School of Allied Health Professions at the University of Connecticut, and professor and assistant dean at Temple University. She is the only African American that has served as the national president of the American Society for Medical Technology.
Traverse City native, Martha Teichner, joined CBS News in 1977. Throughout her career she has covered several national and international stories, among which was the Newtown elementary school shooting. She and her colleagues earned a 2014 duPont-Columbia Award for their work on that story. It is just one of many national journalism honors Martha has garnered including 10 Emmy Awards and five James Beard Foundation Awards. She has served as a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning since 1993.
Those four women represent the contemporary inductees into the Hall of Fame, while Liz Jackson and Ruth Westbrook are historic honorees. Liz passed away earlier this year at the age of 102. She was a founding member and officer of the Trade Union Leadership Council, a nationally recognized organization credited with advancing black political development within the UAW. In 1966, she made history when she became the first African American woman to serve as a UAW International representative, and she became the first woman to sit on the national negotiation team during UAW and Ford contract talks.
Ruth Westbrook’s was a middle and high school math teacher and counselor in Southeast Michigan. Notably, as part of NASA’s Apollo 11 project, she wrote a program for all the steps used to get a man to the moon and back and to see how long it took in real time to be completed. Ruth’s remarkable NASA experience would later be immortalized in the book and popular movie, Hidden Figures.
Congratulations to all of these worthy women. They will be honored via a virtual ceremony on October 15, 2020.