Virginia B. Nordby

Virginia B. Nordby

Governor District 6380 - 1995-1996
Being governor of District 6380 was a particular privilege to me personally since it is an international district, including clubs in both Canada and the United States, and I, although a US citizen, am a direct descendant of some proud Canadians. Getting to know Canadian Rotarians, learning more about the country, singing its national anthem so very often, and feeling as if I were contributing something to the country in my small way, were all important parts of the rewards of being governor. Both before and since my year as governor I have attended Canadian Zone Institutes as well as US Zone Institutes, and this also has helped my special Canadian connection remain meaningful.
District 6380 had 52 clubs and an additional provisional club during 1995-96. Seven of these clubs are in Canada. There is a typical mix of old large clubs and small struggling clubs. The oldest and largest club in the district is the Ann Arbor Club, in my own hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Members of that club often ask how it was that I became a member of the Ann Arbor North Club when Rotary membership first opened to women in 1987. I was the highest ranked woman administrator at the University of Michigan at the time and the big old downtown club thought that I would certainly be joining them. Actually, however, they neglected to invite me in a timely fashion and so I
joined the up-and-coming north-side club. This is a story I remembered often when I spoke to clubs about the Rotary membership drive during my year as governor.
I first became active in district affairs during the year in which I was club president, 1990-91. In my position as Associate Vice President at the University of Michigan my responsibilities included the supervision of the university's International Center and its Director. Hence, I was recruited by a Past District Governor, who also was affiliated with the university, to head up the Ambassadorial Scholarship Committee for the district. This responsibility required me to be in contact with club presidents and appropriate committee members and to attend the district staff meetings every other month. Even a brief exposure to district operations convinced me that there was considerable opportunity to be of service, given my administrative and organizational training and experience as well as my deep commitment to the work of Rotary.
During my year as District Governor Nominee I also served as District Foundation Committee Chair, organizing the district's first Foundation Dinner and promoting the importance of annual giving for all Rotarians. Many clubs instituted matching giving programs to encourage individual members to give, often using old Paul Harris "credit", for very creative incentives. That year district annual giving exceeded $100,000 for the first time ever. Another assignment during my DGN year was to chair a committee to completely revise the district's Policies and Procedures. These were in quite a mess, not in compliance with the Manual of Procedure and not being followed by the District Governors. The new Policies and Procedures proposed by my committee were discussed at club presidents' meetings and at the District Assembly and Conference. After appropriate revision they were approved by mail ballot early in my year as governor and implemented immediately.
Professionally, I am a university faculty member as well as university administrator, and so I viewed the RI training for district governors from the point of view of considerable experience in adult education. However, I must quickly add that I am a person who learns and retains more from what I read than from any other source, including group discussion or "problem solving" exercises. The written material provided by Rotary in the governor's manual was thorough and thought provoking. Discussions with PDGs and others at zone institutes and at the International Assembly helped immensely to alert me to issues I would need to consider and to acculturate me to Rotary's ways. Since I was facing a number of rather unique problems in my district not shared by other DGNs, perhaps, I would have welcomed some one-on-one conversations with the very experienced group discussion leaders and other Rotary leaders present at Anaheim.
My most urgent goal for my year as governor was to get the district's operations into compliance with the Manual of Procedure and to establish realistic budgeting and financial controls. It was also necessary to reorganize the area representative sectors and to clarify district staff accountabilities. When I took over July 1, 1995, there was no money in the district's bank account and almost $6000 of bills and debts. When I finished on July 1,1996, there was a $12,000-plus surplus and also a system of financial control and accountability.
During my year the Foundation annual giving exceeded the outstanding level of the year before. The district also was first in the US and fourth in the world in restricted giving to the Foundation, due largely to a $100,000 gift from a local foundation, which I helped to tie down. It was a great thrill to have RI President Herb Brown attend my District Conference and personally convey the Major Gift recognition. Clubs in the district got involved in a water well project being coordinated by our Zone Director, and, for the first time in our district, an Ambassadorial Scholarship was donated to another district in a poorer country.
Clubs in the district worked hard on the Calgary Challenge membership drive and we came within one member (!) of winning the Challenge for our zone. The district conference had the highest attendance in ten years and actually made money. With my husband's help the district started down the high tech path; eight of my twelve newsletters were delivered by Fax, several clubs started home pages, and a number of clubs began using Clubmate software for club bookkeeping and membership records.

Also with the help of my husband a new district logo was designed and converted into ' pins, stationery, bookmarks and district directory covers.
Being in the first group of women governors was perhaps harder for my husband than for me. After all, I joined the legal profession in 1954 when there were very few women lawyers, so this experience was not new to me. My husband found great variety in the treatment of spouses. In our district he is known as a Rotarian and past president of our club and is treated accordingly. But as a governorís spouse he sometimes found "spouse programs" simplistic and stereotyping. He learned that many professional female spouses felt the same way. On the other hand, Dianne Brown, wife of RI President Herb Brown always solicited my husband's views on substantive Rotary matters and treated him, as well as all spouses, with great personal respect.
My husband and I decided to take on the governorís position in connection with a decision that each of us would retire from our positions at the University of Michigan. We viewed this work in Rotary as a project which we could work on together after so many years involved in separate professional careers. We were not disappointed. We had many wonderful times together and with other Rotarians. It was a great experience. We had planned, when our year as governor was over, to sell our family home and move into a condominium. As it happened, we had to move up the dates because the condominium location we wanted was selling very rapidly. I would not recommend building a new home, selling an old one, and moving households during the year as Rotary governor!
In all of my work with Rotary I have found the staff at the Secretariat to be extremely helpful. Not only are they ready and willing and able to assist, but they can be relied upon to be discrete.

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