(from the April 2019 issue of "Rotary Canada")

Dean Rohrs calls her term as 2017-18 vice president of Rotary International the "greatest adventure" she’s ever had — and that’s coming from a woman who was an operating room nurse for the first human heart transplant, and who fulfilled a lifelong dream to get a degree in wildlife management as her 60th birthday gift to herself."During my time as vice president, I saw things and had opportunities come my way that I never could have done otherwise," says Rohrs, a member of the Rotary Club of Langley Central, British Columbia. She talked to Rotary Canada about how Rotary can change for the better and about the role Canadian Rotarians play in the world.

 

ROTARY CANADA: What would you like to see change in Rotary?

ROHRS: I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunities I’ve had within Rotary, but it happens to too few of us. The women in Rotary I’ve talked to are despondent. They tell me they’re tired of not being able to get to the leadership levels where we think we should be.

Rotary is looking at all the sacred cows at the moment. I sit on the Shaping Rotary’s Future Committee, which has been mandated by the RI Board to look at the structure of Rotary from the Board down. The Operations Review Committee is looking at the power of the RI president, and the Executive Committee is looking at the Board. In two years’ time we might see a proposal for a whole new way of how Rotary should be.

My huge disappointment is what I call the "frozen middle ground." You have this innovative Board. You have the clubs saying we need it. But in the middle of this is quicksand, where everything innovative disappears.

RC: How could a woman president benefit Rotary?

ROHRS: Rotary is the hope for humanity in the world. We deliver service in our communities and around the world without fanfare and without wanting anything in return. But I think a woman can carry that message in a way a man can’t. It would be a huge rallying cry for women in the world. We need the women in poor countries. We need the women in areas where women are disadvantaged. We owe it to those women.

RC: What issues do Rotarians in Canada need to focus on?

ROHRS: Membership. We’re complacent. Our clubs do a lot of international work, and they’re good at doing that. They sometimes feel we don’t need to do anything other than that. But they have to understand that we need members, and we need them from every walk of life. We have to develop as a Canadian Rotary, not a U.S. Rotary. Yes, we are both in North America, but we have differences that we can use to inspire membership.

RC: How should Rotary look in Canada?

ROHRS: We need to integrate our clubs and our organization totally, in the same way that our society is integrated. If you go into any community in Vancouver, it is completely multinational. Our clubs don’t reflect that.

Rotary is unique in that we are so embracing of every single culture. That’s what we need to highlight. When people immigrate, they should be able to walk into a Rotary club and find a home.

RC: What unique perspective do Canadian Rotarians bring to projects?

ROHRS: We’re great at delivering programs, not just one-time projects.

We’re great at mobilizing. And we’re very good at bringing together groups of clubs, getting them to work together.

Canadians come in and make a relationship. We write, we correspond, we keep the connection. That is how Canadian Rotarians do business. We befriend the community, and we respect the community. In my travels, I’ve noticed that if people see the Canadian flag or if I say I’m from Canada, the first reaction is a smile. It really says huge things. — DIANA SCHOBERG