New President Urges Rotarians To Step Out Of The Room

By GasserOnline Chair and Correspondent, TOM DROEGE

phil-lakin-familyAn unoccupied table in the middle of the otherwise noisy lunchroom this year will symbolize Rotarians who are out in the community serving charitable organizations at that very moment, says the new president of the Rotary Club of Tulsa.

“Instead of coming to the noon meeting, 10 Rotarians will be serving a local charity,” says Phil Lakin, whose presidency runs from July 1 of this year through June 30, 2012. “This year, I want us to set a goal to get out of this room. To get through those doors and influence our city, this world, even this club.”

Citing the many projects members of Rotary Club of Tulsa support, including Celia Clinton, Shop with a Cop, Water Wells in Nicaragua and the international fight against polio, Lakin says Rotarians are doing great work. But the need in Tulsa continues to grow. As CEO of the Tulsa Community Foundation, Lakin says he is exposed on a daily basis to the needs in Tulsa, needs he wasn’t aware of previously.

He shared the following local statistics to make his point during his inaugural speech on July 6.

  • In 1970, 82 percent of Tulsa-area kids lived in married households. Today, that number is 65 percent.
  • In 1970, 11 percent of Tulsa-area families were headed by single females. Now that number is 21 percent.
  • In 1990, Oklahoma ranked 21 out of 50 states in children living in poverty. Now it is 42nd.
  • Today, 82 percent of Tulsa Public Schools’ kids qualify for a free or reduced-fee lunch. Many don’t eat on the weekends.
  • 38 percent of babies born in Tulsa are born to unmarried mothers.
  • 24 percent of babies born in Tulsa are born to mothers with less than a 12th grade education.
  • Oklahoma is the only state where people are living fewer, rather than longer, years.
  • Life expectancy in north Tulsa is 14 years less than for those who live in south Tulsa.
  • Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other state in the U.S. – at twice the national average.

“How can we help improve life for people so that these statistics are what they should be, not what they are?”  Lakin asked the crowd.

phil-at-podiumTake a quick look at Lakin’s background and it’s easy to see why he cares about Tulsa so much. He moved to Tulsa in 5th grade, graduated from Jenks, married his wife and is helping to raise their three sons. He leads the largest community foundation in the United States, right here in Tulsa. Under his leadership, TCF has grown from $117,000 in assets to approximately $4 billion today.

Lakin is as comfortable in a business suit as he is in hiking gear.  In fact, he is a seasoned mountain climber, having reached the summit of all of Colorado’s 53 ranked 14,000 foot peaks.

He has been a Rotarian since March 2000. He is a Paul Harris Fellow and a Club Foundation Fellow. On July 6, he assumed the role as the 98th president of Rotary Club of Tulsa.

In addition to serving locally, Lakin laid out two other initiatives he wants to accomplish during his presidency at Rotary Club of Tulsa. They are to provide more services abroad and to serve the internal needs within the club, including improving the retention rate of members. This is a problem for Rotary clubs across the nation, with 42 percent of new members leaving within the first three years.

“If we focus on our motto we will become more active, we will become more relevant, we will become more involved,” he said. “Let this be our year. Let this be a year that changes how and why we Rotarians serve above self.”