Interview with Rotary President Ann Ackerman
July 2019 – June 2020
by Emily Stratton
Each year, I enjoy the opportunity of interviewing our outgoing president for our weekly newsletter. It is always a pleasure to learn more about them as well as visiting with them in their office. However, this year, with our social distancing, Ann Ackerman and I had a lengthy telephone conversation. I hope you enjoy her comments as much as I did.
Ann, you may have had the most unusual year of any president in Club 29’s history. Was it difficult to adapt to online Rotary meetings, and what was the hardest thing about it?
One of the biggest things about Rotary is interacting and networking with people. So our meetings, shifting to online, have been an adjustment for everyone. We didn’t have the opportunity for any advanced planning, but Megan figured out pretty quickly the logistics to make it work.
Had you used Zoom before and was it easy to adapt to its use?
I had never heard of Zoom, so I had to learn first how to use it. Also, choosing a place in my home that worked well for my presiding took a bit of experimenting—no noise, good lighting, no shadows, all took trial and error and fine tuning.
However, at least two positives came from our having online meetings. We had Rotarians on Zoom who hadn’t been to a Rotary meeting in a long time. Also, we were able to have a speaker from Washington D.C., whom we would never have been able to bring in because of the cost!
Any lessons you learned from such a major change in our Rotary meetings?
Yes, always be flexible—and have a staff person who keeps up with technology. We are fortunate to have Megan!
Looking back over your year as president, do you have a favorite Rotary activity?
Probably my inauguration. I thought the zoo was great fun! One thing I had decided in choosing a location, I wanted to have it at a nonprofit. And the zoo is a premier entertainment place in Oklahoma City. Looking back over my year, it is fun to say, “We started at the Zoo, and we ended with Zoom!
How about a favorite Rotary moment? Funny, crazy, especially touching, etc.?
My first Rotary Tuesday back after donating one of my kidneys to my brother was especially meaningful! I received so many hugs and well wishes—and also personal notes! I am so appreciative!
Do you have a favorite Rotary service project?
Absolutely. I enjoy so much ringing Christmas bells for the Salvation Army. It’s always interesting to see who donates!
What was the hardest thing in adjusting to being president?
Having a new executive director, whom I didn’t know, and my being new was big for both of us. Our goal was to have a smooth transition for both positions.
What surprised you the most about being president?
I thought I knew lots of people in our club, but the number of friends I‘ve made this year has been amazing – and I love it!
From your past Rotary involvement, what prepared you the most about being president?
Being on lots of committees in the past is very helpful, but my year as president-elect prepared me the most. I really concentrated on what I needed to learn.
Tell me about your Rotary International experience. Where, when, positives about attending? Any major surprise?
I attended the 2018 International Conference in Toronto. I had never been there but had attended many different types of conferences through the years. However, I had never seen anything like the international flavor of 30,000 – 40,000 Rotarians attending from all over the world. Translations into all the multitude of languages were taking place all the time. The impact was something else. Amazing! It was very inspirational. I came back so motivated!
Did you learn something about Rotary this year that you didn’t know before?
Yes, the depth and breadth of all the things our club does is amazing. I have followed many things we do but did not quite know the magnitude. So very impressive.
In telling someone else about the value of joining Rotary, what would it be?
A big part would be the enormous value of all that we do, how Rotarians give back. But also, all the many people who are Rotarians, with the opportunity to connect, network and become friends.
When you look back at your Rotary year—say 10 years from now—what do you think you’ll remember the most?
The pandemic! Some may remember me as the “pink pandemic president”!! But also, what an honor and privilege it is to be president. It has truly been a humbling experience.
Any advice for David Walters as he starts his year as president?
Be flexible, don’t stress and listen to Megan! I’ve learned a lot from Megan. She has had so much Rotary experience—from the district level as a District Governor, starting a mid-town club, involved in Rotary for years and even working for Meg Salyer when she was Club 29’s president.
Anything that I didn’t ask that you would like to add?
Yes! It has been such an honor and privilege serving as president. It is hard work, but I have enjoyed it so much and enjoyed working with Megan and Cheryl. I thank everyone for giving me this wonderful opportunity.
We thank you, Ann, for the amazing job you have done this year. We will always remember you for Rotary Zoom and the smooth way you handled our meetings. I especially loved these two quotes from our conversation: Describing your year, from “Zoo to Zoom,” and knowing that pink is your favorite color, describing yourself as “The Pink Pandemic President!” Very clever! A big salute to you, Ann, for a remarkable year!