Sylvia Whitlock

Sylvia Whitlock
RC of Duarte, 1987-88 - D5300 California, USA
In 1988 I attended my first International Convention, and discovered, for the first time, the breadth and depth of Rotary in the world. I have made up in several different countries and have always been warmly received. When I made up in London, I was the first female Rotarian the club had ever hosted. They saluted my health and the Queen’s on the same glass!

I have never ceased to marvel at the vast membership group that is Rotary! I have attended about 11 International Conventions, and served my second year as President on this year of our fiftieth anniversary. I have served the district as Chair of the Four Way Test Speech Competition for six years and Chair of the Ambassadorial Scholarship Committee for as many years. Both of these positions have allowed me to see, firsthand, the best there is among our youth and to crystallize the purposes behind our service. Now, as an Assistant Governor, I continue to be involved at district level.

I am proud to be a member of Rotary. I have met several International Presidents and had the chance to talk with them about our club. I do not know of a better vehicle through which to serve mankind.

Yours in Rotary Service,
Thoughts on Rotary and the Duarte club from Sylvia Whitlock, the first woman club president in Rotary International 1987-88.

August 17, 2002


In 1982, at the invitation of one of the women whose admission had caused the ouster of the Rotary Club of Duarte, I joined the Ex-Rotary Club of Duarte. Mary Lou Elliott was an elementary school principal, as was I.

Service clubs were not familiar to me. I had heard of Kiwanis and Elks and even Soroptimists but I had never heard of Rotary. It was described as a group of people whose watchword was “service” - to the community, and to the world. I was excited at the prospect of service to a community in which I did not live, but whose children and parents had become very special. Joining Rotary afforded me the opportunity to meet people who had other professions and who took service seriously.

Our club then provided assistance to all the schools, to senior citizens in the community and to various charitable organizations. We gave blood regularly to the City of Hope. We participated with the city in their annual community picnic and Route 66 parade. Our snowcone booth is still a hit at the all day picnic and celebration.

In 1987 when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in our favor, we removed the “Ex” from our title and once again began paying dues to Rotary International. I attended the PETS meeting with almost 300 men and no other women. I did not feel other than welcome, even as our incoming governor opined that this was just a transitory situation. We were going to do the best we could as Rotarians. The ensuing coverage by the media was overwhelming. It was clear we had a responsible job.

We co-sponsored an orphanage in Tecate, Mexico, and continued for over ten years.

We participated fully in the PolioPlus Campaign and now have 100 percent of our members as Paul Harris or sustaining members, and several benefactors.

DG 12/13 Sylvia Whitlock, at the 2012 International Assembly, with RGHF member PDG George Camp.

Whitlock's DG speaks On June 23, 1987, District Governor Elect Dr. Tim K. Siu installed the first woman President of the Rotary Club of Duarte, Dr. Sylvia Whitlock. She received her B.A. Hunter College of the City University of New York, Masters of Arts from Cal Poly Pomona, Ph.D. in Education at Claremont Graduate School.
District Governor Nominee 2012-2013, Sylvia Whitlock
Sylvia Whitlock was born in New York City but was educated, through high school, in Kingston, Jamaica. After returning to New York City she earned a B.A. in Psychology from Hunter College. Sylvia worked for the United Nations, as a Statistical Clerk, at the Secretariat Building in New York, before moving to California to start a career in Education. In California she went on to earn a Masters Degree, cum laude, in Education from Cal Poly, Pomona, and a Ph.D., cum laude, in Education, from Claremont Graduate School. Subsequently, she earned another Masters Degree, in Marriage and Family Therapy, from Azusa Pacific University, and began a second career as a therapist. She is licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences in California.

In 1982, while an Elementary School Principal in Duarte, CA., she was invited to join the history-making Ex-Rotary Club of Duarte. Sylvia became President of that club in 1987, the year the United States Supreme Court ruled that the club be reinstated, thus making her the first woman in the Rotary World to head a club as President. She has served as President twice, Secretary, Treasurer, and Foundation Representative. At district level, she chaired the Four Way Test Speech committee for six years, the Ambassadorial Scholarship Committee for six years, receiving a Service Award from DG Don Aikin, and Simplified Grants for two years. She has been an assistant governor, presenter in Governors Institutes, and speaker in Rotary Clubs conventions and meetings, here and overseas, including South Africa, Jamaica, Washington and Texas.

Other community activities have included being a member of the Board of the Spanish Trails Girl Scout Council, volunteer at Pomona Valley Hospital, Recorder for the Blind and Dyslexic, and Commissioner at TriCity Mental Health Agency. In 2000 she was named Woman of the Year by NAACP and in 1998 she was named Distinguished Alumna by Cal Poly, Pomona. She also chairs Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation teams and has been, for eight years, a member of the Committee on Credentialing for California State Department of Education. She attends Trinity United Methodist Church where she is often a lay reader.

Sylvia considers Rotary to be the best vehicle she knows for humanitarian ventures in service to mankind. Some favorite club projects, while in Duarte, have included sinking water wells in Nigeria, setting up an AIDS Center in Jamaica and supporting an orphanage in Mexico. She continues to be inspired by the many Rotarians who have taken the organization to the edge of tomorrow and is committed to using the opportunity she has been given to further the cause of Rotary, in her community, in her country, and in the world.

Sylvia is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow and benefactor. She has three adult children - Meredith - a Paul Harris Fellow, BG is a deputy county counsel in San Mateo County, and Arlan. She considers raising her children the most satisfying and enjoyable job she has ever had.

WOMEN ALSO SERVE, PDG Sylvia Whitlock, USA. 9 March 2015. ISBN 978-1-4917-6059. iUniverse Publishing
The Rotary Club of Duarte, California, was chartered in District 530 in 1952. But just before its twenty-fifth birthday in 1976, the Duarte club violated Rotary's bylaws by inviting women to join, ultimately causing its charter to be unceremoniously revoked by Rotary International. Undeterred, the club renamed itself the Ex-Rotary Club of Duarte and its members continued on their quest not to be outcasts of one of the greatest humanitarian organizations in the world.

Filled with facts and personal anecdotes, the first woman president in Rotary International shares a fascinating glimpse into the journey of the Duarte club. Sylvia Whitlock, who was present as the club enlisted help from the American Civil Liberties Union and took the case through the California court system until a landmark decision in May 1987, details the circumstances of the case as women struggled to attain equal rights, her role in the process, conversations with participants and onlookers, and the benefits she has gained personally through her own membership.

Women Also Serve shares a compelling history of the Duarte Rotary Club

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