Reba Lovrien

Reba Lovrien

Governor District 5520 - 1995-1996
Trying to put the experience of being District Governor into words is a challenge. Past District Governor, Henry Pick, of District 5520 told me, on more than one occasion, that this job would change my life. Several of the PDG's told me this would be a fun year. Having been the spouse of a district governor had prepared me, to some extent, for the experience. Neither the words of the PDG's nor the experience of living with a district governor had prepared me for the absolute joy I found in this experience. I'm not even sure that I can explain the emotions I felt during the year, but I'll try and that's what this "essay" is about. I've told many Rotarians in this district that they should jump at the chance to be district Governor. It's a privilege and an honor, of course, but it's more than that. It is a life-changing experience and compares to nothing else I've ever done.
District 5520 is the largest geographical district in the lower 48 states. It is 400 miles wide by 700 miles long (about 280,000 square miles). It consists of the state of New Mexico (with the exception of the Rotary Club of Raton in Colfax County) and ten clubs in extreme West Texas. The West Texas portion extends from El Paso down to Alpine in the Big Bend Country. The total number of clubs is 59.
One of my major goals was to charter another club in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, with a population of about 500,000, and it has only two clubs. The Rotary Club of Albuquerque was chartered in 1916 and has a membership of about 320. I am a member of the Rotary Club of Albuquerque Del Norte, which has about 110 members and was chartered in 1988. The Board of Directors of the Albuquerque club voted to bring the matter to a vote in the early spring of 1996. When the vote was announced, opposition came out in force and the board voted to cancel the club vote. They did agree to do a straw vote to get a feel of what the club members wanted. The straw vote was in favor of the sponsorship of a new club by a 2:I ratio. Unfortunately, this didn't happen until June and it was too late to accomplish anything during my year. The 1996-97 administration has scheduled a vote of the club on September 30, 1996, and I'm confident it will pass. As my husband told me, in my disappointment, Id gotten it farther than any other governor and that I should be proud of that accomplishment.
One more club, in El Paso, began its formation during the last days of my term as governor and I am proud of the fact that those seeds were planted and began to sprout during my year.
In spite of the fact that my husband had been a district governor (and I had done a11 of his typing and a lot of his clerical work), I don't think I was fully prepared for the job. I am of the opinion that the training in Anaheim is too late. I understand all of the reasons for doing it when it's done, but I still believe it should happen sooner. And, if that is not feasible, there should be a longer training period at the zone level and Anaheim could be shorter with more of an international focus. My preparation consisted of my husband's term good, close and frequent communication with my predecessor the Zone institute and Anaheim. Anaheim was helpful, but I repeat, I think it's way too late.
It was while reading the Governor's Manual that I really realized how little I knew. The training at Zone institute really enforced what a lot I had to learn. Anaheim really brought out how huge this job is. I don't know if there is any way a person can ever be completely prepared for the year as governor.
One of my goals, prior to taking the office, was to develop a better administration system for this district. I feel that this is one of the things I accomplished. We are well on our way to learning to make this large district more manageable. I set up a long-range planning committee, which consists of the two immediate past district governors, the sitting governor, the governor nominee and governor nominee designate, and three past club presidents. We met three times during the year (which may not seem like a lot, but remember the district covers 280,000 square miles) and we felt like we accomplished a lot toward preparing the district to better serve the clubs. I'm really pleased that my two successors are continuing with the committee. We also feel that some of the actions planned will get more people involved at the district level, make the governor's job a bit easier and, even possibly, inspire more people to seek the governor's position.
My travels around this huge district put a lot of miles on my car. As I was traveling from Albuquerque to Carlsbad, New Mexico, I thought I heard a wrong noise and by the time I got to Roswell, I was sure of it. I proceeded to Carlsbad, roaring like a hot rod. I grew up in Carlsbad and my parents live there. I know lots of people in Carlsbad. While I was doing my "official" business with the Carlsbad club, I had a high school friend take my car to get it fixed. When I went to pick it up, nothing had been done. It was not the muffler, as I supposed, but a hole in the manifold and they needed more time to do the repair. I had to be in Roswell that afternoon for the
visit with the officers and the club assembly. So, I noisily made my way back to Roswell, was an hour late for the officers' meeting. Those Rotarians did what Rotarians always do. The Roswell club contacted a member of the club and I had my car to him first thing the next morning and it was repaired by the time the club visit was finished.
Two more really wonderful things happened during my year as DGN. Prior to taking office, I thought I had better get some dental work done and it was discovered that my wisdom teeth needed to be pulled. I didn't know a local oral surgeon, so I called a Rotary friend (oral surgeon) in El Paso. I asked her what it would cost, so I could plan for it ht my budget and was told that, for me, there would be no cost. We argued about fairness for a few minutes and I was told that this was how she could support me as governor. An appointment was made and out came the teeth and I felt this was the epitome of how Rotarians take care of one another.
The other instance was when I got a call from a member of the Albuquerque club. Both the husband and wife were Rotarians and good friends and they owned a bridal shop. I received a call one day asking me to come to the shop. They wanted to give me a dress and I could choose any dress in the shop. It was their feeling that I would have many functions to attend and this was the way they could show their support of me. This was another case of the love and support Rotarians continually give to one another. So many things happened which only reinforced the love and encouragement I received from so many people in this district. I don't think anything like these two special gifts ever happened to any of the previous governors. Was it because I was the first woman governor? Maybe. I only know that all of that support -- large and small -really made my experience even more special.
When I became governor, there were six clubs in the district with no women members. One of the clubs had had women in the past, just none at the moment, so l knew that club did not have a philosophical problem. I made the decision to confront the issue with each of the clubs. Some people might question the wisdom of that decision, but I still think l did the right thing. The reasons and excuses I heard were numerous and some were even hilarious. The most absurd was that one club respected their women too much to bring them into Rotary. My response to that was that my club had a fair amount of respect for me or I wouldn't have been in the position of district governor. Another club told me that the men knew they would have to go to work if they brought in women.
At the end of my year, the club that had formerly had women had women again. Then I had the privilege of inducting two women into a club that had previously really fought the idea. There are still four clubs without women. I think one will make the move to induct women soon because they're beginning to lose good, active members over this issue. In spite of the resistance to women by these clubs, I was received with respect and humor. I was never made to feel unwelcome or unwanted. And, I think it was good for the clubs to experience a woman who takes Rotary seriously.
The weakest club in the district is one that has concerned governors for several years. I failed to get the president to PETs. I failed to get him to respond to any of my communications. I'm sure he has thrown away every envelope with my name he ever received or just stacked them in a corner. My representative worked with the club and still could get no response. When the district secretary could get no information about the accommodations for my visit, I began to get a suspicious feeling, so l made a call to the president and was told he was hunting in Alaska. I then called a past president to discover that the club was unaware of my visit, which was to take place that week. Arrangements were quickly made and I had a fairly good visit with the secretary and the club. This is the club that will not induct women, because they don't want to have to go to work.
My least favorite job was the immense amount of paperwork. And, I did not like getting involved in local club politics. One of the clubs had a real problem with the president-elect for 1996-97. He kept trying to take over control of the club prior to having the office as president. Members were quitting the club and officers were resigning. Subtle hints didn't work. I finally appointed a representative who helped with the situation and it was resolved. And, it was resolved without the man leaving the club. He's still active and the club members are happy, again.
Women have brought to Rotary a new energy and a new perspective on how things can be done. Women look at things differently and find different solutions to problems. When I was club president, I found the committees with women members were the ones that functioned more efficiently and got the most done. I found, in my visits, that the clubs with larger percentages of women members had more energy and were doing more diverse projects. I really have no opinion about how soon women will advance to positions higher than district governor. I hope it's sooner than later, because I think the women who have been district governors have ideas that can benefit Rotary international
The Rotarians of this district, both male and female, have shown me a tremendous amount of respect. I think the perception is that I've done a better than average job. People still call me when they have questions or problems, because, of course, the current governor has a really busy travel schedule right now.
No one, and I mean no one, could have had better support from their club than I've had front mine. One of the highlights of my years was the gala my club gave for me in November. The club wanted to celebrate my year as governor and they also wanted to have a fundraiser for my favorite charity, which is the Rotary Foundation of Rotary international. They invited all the regional clubs to participate and there were representatives from 18 Rotary clubs in attendance. The silent auction and raffle raised $6000 and my club used this money as matching funds for those members who desired to become Paul Harris Fellows. More than $12,000 was sent to TRF. A new member of my club then donated $4000 to TRF with the stipulation that it be used as matching funds for members who would like to become Paul Harris Fellows. This raised an additional $4000. My club gave $26,100 to TRF during my year, just over 25% of the total district donation. My district foundation goal was $90,000. Because of my club, this was exceeded and the total was just shy of $101,000.00. No governor in this district has ever made their foundation goal, with the exception of the Polio Plus campaign. In addition to all of the support my club gave me through Rotary, they just nominated me for Outstanding Female Executive of the Year in Albuquerque. I didn't win, but was thrilled with the honor of being nominated by my Rotary club.
In addition to all of this, the biggest surprise came at the District Conference. At the Saturday night banquet, the final awards were being given and the president of my club came forward to present an award. The tears came to my eyes when he presented a Paul Harris Fellow to me. I was already a PHF and that first one came from my club, too. I was overwhelmed and still am.
I'm serving, this year, as the Assistant Chair to the Permanent Fund committee. I'm the Annual Giving Chair for the Foundation Committee. I'll continue my role as co-chair of the District RYLA committee and as camp director of our district's Girls RYLA. I was disappointed when I wasn't asked to serve on a Rotary international committee, but I've decided that's OK. I'll keep busy with district work until the time does come when I'm asked to do something outside of the district.
One of my goals was to have 10% of the Rotarians in the district at the District Conference and I did achieve that goal. As I've noted, I more than achieved my Foundation goal. My club helped me put on an outstanding district conference. It was fun, informative and we did some different things. One thing that was different was the Living Business Directory. Rotarians from around the district had the opportunity to talk about their businesses and how they would like to do business with Rotarians in the district. It was a small start, but a successful one, and it will be done again next year.
While doing the job of district governor, I don't think there can be a real balance in one's life. Our first grandchild was born in January 1995. Our son-in-law asked me if they had picked a bad time to have this child. My reply was a resounding yes, but that there is never a perfect time to have a child. In spite of my busy schedule, I found lots of time to spend with the new granddaughter. I still did my job as Girls RYLA camp director and had a wonderful camp because of the help I had. The real challenge came when the secretary at my business walked off the job in September. Clark and I own a very small, family business and have a "one-girl" office. When that one office person left, it was a problem. My daughter and daughter-in-law came to my rescue and ran the office until I could take the time to hire and train a new office assistant.
When my traveling and the club visits were over, I had a lot of catching up to do at the office and at home. In fact, I'm still working on catching up. I knew I had a big job to do and my feeling was that I had made the commitment and Rotary would be the number one priority for a year. Business and family did get a good amount of my time, but Rotary was the priority.
Would I do it again? You better believe it. It was one of the best years of my life. I enjoyed every minute of it. I learned a lot about myself Being district governor brought out some strengths I didn't know I had, exposed some weaknesses and was a major learning experience. If I had it to do over again, I'd do some things differently, but not many. I'd mainly be better organized with my time and the paperwork.
My club honored me by nominating me for the position of district governor. It was an honor to be selected by the DG selection committee. It was one of the best years of my life. As I said in my "official" speech, Rotary has changed my life. It's done that through the opportunities I've had to serve, through-the 15 youth exchange students we've hosted, through growing by helping the young people at RYLA grow and change, through the friendships we've formed with Rotarians and in so many other ways. But, the biggest change of all came with the job of district governor. It was a fantastic time!

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