I am happy to have been invited for a number of years to interview our current presidents at the end of their terms in office as a special feature for the Rotary Club newsletter. Once again, I was given that opportunity and had a delightful conversation recently with President Wes Milbourn. It was interesting to learn of his long-time connection with Rotary and his thoughts about his presidential year. Enjoy his comments below.
What was your first memory of Rotary?
Growing up in Manhattan, Kansas, I had a lot of Rotary memories. As a little kid, I played Little League Baseball and one team on the diamond was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Manhattan. Later, I was one of six high school students sponsored by Rotary that had the opportunity to attend Boys State in Lawrence. Afterwards, we presented a program to the Rotary Club, talking about Boys State, and I served as emcee! I have great memories of Rotary my whole life as my dad was a very active member. He served as club president, then District Governor, when I had the opportunity to travel with him throughout the state as he made the rounds to visit all the different clubs. Later he became the International Chairman of Rotary’s Public Relations Committee. Also, my mother was a member of Rotary Ann! And my brother Tom has been a long-time member and past president of the Rotary Club of Green Bay, Wisconsin. So, Rotary has been a part of my whole life. I was thrilled to be asked to join the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City 20 years ago and was sponsored by Mick Cornett.
Looking back over your year, do you have a favorite Rotary memory?
It would have to be Rotary After Hours! It gives us the opportunity to meet and get to know other Rotarians in an informal setting. I want to give a special “shout out” to Ashley Smith for her outstanding job over the past four years chairing the Rotary After Hours committee. We met at a variety of new and different venues and had fun at all of them!!!
What about your favorite Rotary moment?
It would be the fun time I had one year at our Salvation Army Bell Ringing. When I was chairperson that year, I went to every location and took Murphy, my German Shepherd dog, all dressed up with a holiday bandana around her neck. Tom Phillips gave me this idea. Bringing babies, dogs, etc., to our sites encourages people to put more money in the kettles! And it worked!!! Our Salvation Army activity is one of my favorite service projects!
What was the hardest thing in adjusting to being president?
Definitely, time management! Because of my busy job, I spend my evenings at home preparing for our meetings and activities. We are blessed to have such a great staff who assist so much in making our presidents successful. Enormous thank you to Megan and Cheryl!
What surprised you the most about being president?
How lightning-fast the year has passed. I am now down to just two final meetings!!
From your involvement in earlier Rotary activities/committee positions or community activities, what do you think prepared you the most for your year as president?
Without a doubt, it was my growing up in a Rotary family because of the involvement of my parents.
Tell me about attending Rotary’s International Convention. Where did you go and when? How did it affect you?
My International Convention was not in Melbourne or in Singapore!! It was in Houston, Texas!!!…so not one of the world locations!!! However, the convention opened my eyes to the international scope that Rotary does worldwide!!
Did you learn something about Rotary this year that you did not know?
I think the full impact of what our club has the capability of doing!
Why do you see it is important for us to continue to strive to be one of the largest Rotary Clubs in the world?
“We are the best Rotary Club in the World!!!” I have used that statement throughout my term…it is a positive mindset! If we have that mindset, it helps all of us serve our community better—like no other service club!
How did Club 29’s fundraising do this year compared to past years?
Our fundraising was fantastic! We had a record breaking $116,000 for our One Pledge Project!!!
If you were encouraging someone to join Club 29, what would you tell them is the value of membership?
It would be serving the great community we live in, doing the best we can for those in need through our committee work.
What do you appreciate or enjoy the most about our weekly meetings?
Our speakers have been fabulous. I want to credit Blair Naifeh for coordinating our speakers. Such influential, impactful programs all year long!
As we know, the programs are all very good. Is there a Rotary program that really stood out to you, made an impact, influenced you?
Several impactful programs for me were the Ogles; Lee Allen Smith; Flashpoint with Mike Turpin, Todd Lamb, and Kevin Ogle; Russell Perry; Brent Venables; and Mike Hoskins on Fentanyl—to name a few.
Do you enjoy coming up with a quote at the end of the meeting?
I want my quotes meaningful to the speaker’s topic. So, I research appropriate quotes for that topic. I want the quotes to have depth and meaning. It takes time to do it right, so I do it well in advance! For example, there is no better way to end our meeting at the National Cowboy Museum than with a quote from John Wayne!!!
When you look back at your Rotary year—say 10 years from now—what do you think you will remember the most?
The outstanding programs and membership engagement in all our Rotary projects…and all the good we do with “Service Above Self” in our community.
Do you have any special advice for Lesli as she starts her year as president?
Yes! Just be yourself!
Is there anything I have not asked that you would like to add?
Yes, I appreciate how Megan puts together the “bones” of the meetings. I go over the script to stylize for myself. It is enjoyable for me to roll with the punches and ad lib. I hope we have had fun, had some laughs, and had enjoyable meetings that the membership looks forward to attending. When we had extremely high winds on one of our meeting days, I missed an opportunity to say to Jeff Simpson: “Hold on to your hair, Jeff!” and to Clayton Taylor: “Just hold on!”
It has been an honor and privilege to be president of the “Best Rotary Club in the World!!!”
Our compliments and congratulations to President Wes for his outstanding year! We have all enjoyed Wes’s personality at the microphone and thank him for the effort he has put into being our president. We will all remember
K-State as special to Wes and think of him when the Wildcats are playing an Oklahoma team!! Thank you, Wes, for a fun and great year!!