October 16, 2020
Our Rotary Club was honoured to host Dr. Sylvia Whitlock as guest speaker, via Zoom from her home in California. What an entertaining and informative story she told about how women members were finally admitted to Rotary only after it actually became a 'civil rights issue' that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. The court ruled that Rotary did not meet the definition of a 'private club' and therefore could not exclude female members. While Rotary International lost its legal battle to remain a 'men's club' it proved fortuitous, as history shows. That same year, Sylvia became Rotary's first ever female president of a Rotary Club, thus breaking the glass ceiling for hundreds of thousands of women who have served in Rotary ever since. 
Sylvia also described how she is still a "Rotary Geek" serving humanitarian causes and encouraging absolutely everyone she meets to become Rotarian - as should we all. 
Sylvia's personal and engaging story is on this video (36 minutes) where she is introduced by Jennifer Jones. Jennifer (a Canadian!) will become Rotary International's first ever female president in 2022-2023.
Rotary has come a long way since its founding in 1905.  
Sylvia's bio is impressive.
An advocate, a trailblazer and a humanitarian — these are just a few words people used to describe her.  Born in New York City, she attended high school in Kingston, Jamaica.  She returned to New York City and earned a BA in Psychology from Hunter College.  She worked at the United Nations as a Statistical Clerk before moving to California to pursue a career in education, having earned a Masters’ Degree in Education from California Polytechnic University at Pomona.  She earned her PhD in Education from Claremont Graduate School and another Masters’ Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Azusa Pacific University.  She became an elementary school principal in Duarte, California in 1982 and served as an educator for 40 years before beginning a second career as a family therapist.
While she is perhaps best known for being the first woman ever to become president of a Rotary club, she did a lot more besides. She actually served as club president twice at her Rotary Club of Duarte and at various times served as club secretary, treasurer and Foundation Representative. At district level, she chaired the Ambassadorial Scholarship Committee for six years, has been assistant governor, presenter at Institutes and a speaker at Rotary Clubs, Conventions and meeting in the US as well as overseas.
Sylvia is a recipient of many awards including the Rotary Foundation District Service Award. She has supported an orphanage in Mexico, sunk wells in Nigeria and raised nearly $90,000 to educate girls in India.
She is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow and benefactor.
A world traveller, Dr. Whitlock talked about how thrilled she was to have met the Queen in Nigeria, Jamaica and Calcutta.
At the urging of many supporters, she eventually wrote a book describing the history of Rotary admitting women to its membership.  
When asked by a person at our meeting if she would please consider running for President of the United States, she claimed she didn't have time ... she now spends every possible moment with her grandchildren when she isn't graciously sharing her story and inspiration with clubs like ours.