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President’s Corner: An introduction

July 12, 2013

By Betsy Munroe

As I celebrate my sixth year as a Rotarian, I reflect on whether Rotary – or more specifically, the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara Sunrise – has met my expectations.  When I started my medical practice six years ago, I wanted to join an organization to network as we were new to Santa Barbara. After attending many local networking meetings, it became clear I was uncomfortable with the self-oriented social groups. My husband, Jim, suggested Rotary. He had been a Rotarian for 14 years while running a business in Hawai’i. His club was 300 members strong, and he was the newsletter editor. He still has many long-time friends from those days so when we travel to Oahu and attend a Rotary meeting – inevitably he knows someone there! Both Jim and I are Paul Harris Fellows.

After visiting local Rotary clubs, Sunrise fit my timing and personality. A dilemma was my classification as my profession was new to these Rotarians! I was given a two-month reprieve before becoming scribe/taking weekly club meeting minutes for two years before becoming Membership Co-Chair. The stars must have been aligned because the committee recruited 15 new members that year! For two years, I chaired the Public Relations Committee and created a monthly “Rotary Corner” that was published in the local media. I am not sure that attracted new members, but local Rotarians enjoyed the info. I was also on our Club’s Foundation Board for three years as a Board member and then as Secretary for two years. Then came Secretary/ President-Elect, and now President. Phew! I have heard from my predecessors that while the year as President is crazy, it’s the best year in Rotary. I look forward to that!

I have an A.S. from The Katharine Gibbs School, Boston, MA, and a B.S. in Business Management from Lesley University, Cambridge, MA. My career started in Washington, D.C., working for airline industry lobbyists. Everyone should start out working in D.C. It is not only a fabulous, beautiful, and historical place to live, but the work environment is unique, professional, intelligent, and fast paced. I marched on Washington with Peter, Paul & Mary, watched the landing on the moon at the White House, hoped I didn’t know anyone involved in Watergate, and was in the audience to hear Roberta Flack sing in Georgetown pubs before she was discovered. My neighbor and long-time friend who was a law student at the time ended up being elected Governor of NH, and my sister was a special assistant in the White House so they added flavor and humor to living there! It is a very energizing work environment with some of the best international food in the country and the craziest drivers.

My husband, Jim, and I celebrate our 20th anniversary this year. I met Jim in the 1970s in Honolulu, HI, where we volunteered for the same politician. When I left HI, Jim and I didn’t reconnect for many years until I moved to Pasadena, CA, as I was recruited to work for Disney Development Company. I felt honored to be recruited (they got 5,000 resumes per week) and what an experience reporting directly to Michael Eisner. Apart from my job, I was involved in Disney events/movie screenings, on the Disney University Advisory Board, was asked to carry the Olympic torch on behalf of Disney for the LA Olympics (1990s), and acted as a liaison for employees to management. To be discreet, the pixie dust was hard to find!

Jim retired from running the Jr. Achievement Program for the State of HI for 14 years. He enticed me to take a 7-month van trip with him around the U.S., bits of Canada and Mexico, 34 states. I only drove 150 miles of the 28,000 miles we travelled! What an awesome trip and country. At the end of the trip we moved back to Oahu where I worked for a mainland-based engineering/construction company called Morrison-Knudsen (Boise, Idaho).  They were in HI to build the first rail system on the island.  Talk about politics!  The rail was voted down and now 20 years later they are starting to build this highly controversial system. We moved to Del Mar, CA, to settle into marriage. I worked for Callaway Golf on their first golf ball and gave special tours to celebrities (Celine Dion/Renee, Bill Gates, Greg Norman, Alice Cooper, Lionel Richie, John Daly, CPK owners, and many others), reported to Eli Callaway who was a visionary with a golden touch. Did you know there is a Ph.D. in the UK who watches grass grow for the purpose of how a golf ball travels in grass? Industrial espionage in the golf industry would be hysterical if it weren’t taken so seriously.

In 1999, Jim and I attended a family wedding in Alexandria, VA, and somehow ended up buying a waterfront house on the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, MD, where we raised oyster beds and renovated our old house … and opened our mail outside due to 9/11 and the anthrax scare. Living close to our nation’s capital became hazardous to one’s health! Elderly in-laws brought us back to the West Coast, settling in Santa Barbara in 2001. I switched careers from business to medicine.

I attended graduate school for the next 4 years obtaining an M.S. in Oriental Medicine, plus another year sitting for the numerous board exams. I am licensed to practice in 49 states. I practiced for several years before we divested my in-laws estate and started traveling. Along the way, I earned my Master status in Reiki (a Japanese healing method) and other modalities, taught Reiki classes, and treated cancer patients at the Breast Cancer Resource Center for which I now knit hats and hand warmers for patients. I love both eastern and western medicine and hope one day soon they will be functionally merged. Although I no longer actively treat patients, I attend classes to maintain my licenses. FYI, the oldest acupuncture school is in Boston. While CA leads in having the highest population of practicing acupuncturists, CA is behind in integrating the two medicines in their hospitals and western medical practices.  I belong(ed) to several industry-related associations and local organizations (Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Economic Venture, National Association for Women in Business, Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara).

Rotary continues to amaze me – it is a huge organization with tremendous depth, talent, treasure, and experience. The number of volunteers who offer their time, treasure, and talent is a true testament to how worthy this organization is. The Rotary achievements and accomplishments domestically and worldwide are unprecedented. Has Rotary met my expectations? You bet, it has exceeded them, Rotary makes me feel humble, inspired, and in awe at the extent to which Rotarians give of their 3T’s.

I grew up on a veterinarian farm, am 11th generation from Andover, MA (maternal ancestors helped establish the town) with strong ties in NH and ME; Jay Leno was my neighbor/classmate /friend – he was voted class clown, I was voted Queen of the senior prom; my maternal grandmother said we have Pilgrim roots – I played a Pilgrim in a fifth grade school play, maybe that’s what she meant!  I have an older sister and a younger brother.  I am strongly rooted in New England (except for winter weather).  Go Patriots, Sox, Celtics, Bruins!  Who knows what this next chapter will offer my husband and me and where.  Regardless of where we live, Rotary and its mission will be a part of who we are. Thank you Rotary for opening our eyes and hearts! And thank you Sunrisers for having the confidence in me to serve as the Club’s President for 2013-14.

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