by Mitch Lehman
The Rotary movement has distinguished itself as the ultimate team effort, confirming daily the motto that ‘great things can be accomplished if nobody cares who gets the credit’ or the sports adage to ‘play for the name on the front of your jersey, not the name on the back.’
Once a year, however, the organization pauses to host its own version of the Academy Awards, or Super Bowl Sunday, for that matter and last Thursday hundreds assembled in Friends Hall at The Huntington Library to raise a glass to two community members the local club deemed fit to receive the Honorary Paul Harris Fellowship. Notice that – true to Rotary’s self-effacing style – the group honors those outside their membership ranks.
Mrs. Nam Jack and Mr. John Morris became the sixty-first and sixty-second individuals from the San Marino Community to receive the honor, presented on a picture postcard day replete with music, laughter and good will.
In introducing Mrs. Jack, Rotarian and local educator Denise Wadsworth called the school board member “Welcoming. Forthright. Committed,” while listing her many accomplishments which include a term on the school board after spearheading a drive to pass an unprecedented 2009 parcel tax to save San Marino’s schools.
In what was a stirring address on a somewhat unexpected yet welcome and appropriate topic, Mrs. Jack reflected on the Korean War, her family, why she came to the United States, and how proud she was to be an American.
Being an immigrant, she said, made her “even more aware of the vast opportunities made available by this country.”
“In what other country are you so encouraged to determine your destiny – where things you cannot control, such as gender or birth order, make little or no difference,” she said.
Jack stressed that we should never forget how truly exceptional America is for the limitless possibilities it provides for its people. but also for what it has done to help other countries, such as her homeland of Korea.
“My father has always said that we must show our deepest respect and gratitude to America for their actions on behalf of a people and country they did not know ensured Korea’s freedom. Their sacrifices provide testament that freedom is not free and their selfless service serves as a beacon to us all. For the 227,800 Korean soldiers who died, the over 1 million civilians who perished, and the 36,576 United States soldiers who helped in our cause so we the living could be blessed with the freedoms and economic abundance we think is so now natural, on behalf of the Korean people, we will never forget America’s sacrifice.”
She hoped that we, as Americans, “would continue to believe in the greatness of this country and what an extraordinary privilege it is to be a citizen of the United States.”
Mrs. Jack’s father – Paik Sun-yup – is South Korea’s first Four and Five-star General. She was accompanied at the luncheon by her husband Michael, daughter Devon, son Andrew and her in-laws, Mary and William Jack.
John Morris was introduced by Robert Eichel, who summarized the recipient’s expertise in the field of water engineering, the many field trips he has hosted to inform residents of our regional water supply and his participation in the San Marino Historical Society and San Marino Community Church.
“I’m glad I’m following that!” Morris quipped after Mrs. Jack had finished her empassioned speech, eliciting a roar of laughter from the room.
But Morris had plenty of poignant moments of his own on which to impart, thanking his father-in-law, Mr. Kirk Helm, for setting a high standard of community involvement.
“He sponsored me for the San Marino City Club while our house was in escrow,” Morris said. “And that was in 1973.” Mr. Helm was also involved in the Historical Society and Community Church until his passing in 2000.
“This is for you, Kirk,” Morris concluded as he looked and pointed towards the heavens.
Morris was joined at the meeting by his wife, Sandy, and their two sons, Matt and Jeff, both of whom graduated from San Marino High School.
Rotarian Bill Payne introduced former Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar Dr. Robert R. Duke, who delivered a presentation regarding his hands-on research with the Dead Sea Scrolls.
San Marino Rotary’s Honorary Paul Harris Fellow awards recognize special men and women who give their time and talents to make our community better, but who are not themselves members of Rotary.
The international organization’s motto and mission is to give ‘Service Above Self.’ The club in San Marino selects and honors annually one or two people with this Fellowship, saluting their service while contributing in their name to educational exchanges and to improving health, hunger, and humanity around the globe.
San Marino’s Rotarians are leaders in giving in excess of $1 million to the Rotary Foundation, the charitable arm of the international organization. The San Marino club has selected and funded recent college graduates for Ambassadorial Fellowships to study abroad, and has supported projects including the remarkable PolioPlus program to eliminate the polio virus from the world, nearing complete success after twenty years’ effort. In fact, Rotarians world wide have donated well over $1 billion in the quest.
Also attending the event were past Paul Harris Fellow honorees Rosemary Simmons, Judith Carter, Winnie Reitnouer, Charlene Liebau, Valerie Weiss, Jeanne & Wray Cornwell, Scott Cameron, Jim Shearer, Warren Weber, Eugene Dryden, Dr. Allan Yung and this reporter.
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