On Sunday the Women’s Foodservice Forum awarded its prestigious 2014 Trailblazer Award to the late Fritzi Pikes Woods, who died unexpectedly last September after serving for three years as president and chief executive of the group.

WFF, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, also renamed the honor in Woods’ memory, calling it henceforth the Fritzi Pikes Woods Trailblazer Award, said Laurie Woods, WFF chair and chief development officer at Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc., in opening the group’s Annual Leadership Development Conference, which runs through Wednesday in Dallas.

“To be a trailblazer, it requires authenticity, individuality and the power of nonconformity,” Burns said. “Trailblazers don’t follow the established way of doing things; they create significant new pathways. They spearhead new approaches and new solutions, and they inspire others to follow their lead.”

Woods, who died in September after a fall at her home, possessed those qualities, Burns noted. “Trailblazing takes courage, the relentless pursuit of a passion and the character to withstand adversity,” she said. “Fritzi Woods soared through her career the way she soared through life: aspiring higher.”

Laurie BurnsSince 1996, the WFF’s Trailblazer award has honored 18 leaders in the foodservice industry. The honor goes to individuals dedicated to improving the foodservice industry through the support of gender diversity.

Woods served in various roles in various industries by the age of 53, including certified public accountant, vice president of finance, a chief financial officer, president, chief executive, board member and entrepreneur, Burns added. She joined the WFF board in 2007 when she was president and chief executive of Prime Source and served on the board until 2010.

“She was next in line to become WFF chair,” Burns noted, “but instead, at a time when their was a leadership void, she accepted enthusiastically the role as president and CEO of the Women’s Foodservice Forum. That marked a new chapter of her trailblazing, this time for us.”

Woods provided strategic vision for the WFF and elevated the organization as a resource for the Obama administration’s efforts to attain gender balance in executive ranks, Burns added.

Burns quoted from a letter sent to Woods’ family by first lady Michelle Obama after the death in September: “Throughout her life, Fritzi was a leader, an innovator and role model for women across the country, and her impact will live on for years to come.”

Burns added that shortly before her death, Woods had finished her participation in a documentary called “One Billion Entrepreneurs,” a project in which she had become an unintended star.

“I wanted to tell the world that you have more control than you think you do,” Woods said in a clip of the documentary played at WFF. “You have more power than you think you do. You have more options than you think you do.”