By GasserOnline Correspondent, Dana Birkes
The number 100 is significant and this certainly proved to be the case when Karen Keith became Rotary Club of Tulsa’s 100th president in July. In a very short time she has made a significant positive impact. Her rapid integration in the role comes as no surprise since community leadership is her business. She serves as one of Tulsa’s county commissioners. The two positions are similar in many ways. To do either well requires a passion for our community, common sense, good communication skills, and a spirit of collaboration. Karen possesses all these traits and adds one that is a little harder to define and endears her to all — sparkle.
We recently caught up with this whirlwind of energy and good cheer to ask President Keith a few questions.
How did you first get involved with Rotary?
“I was working for Mayor Bill LaFortune and he was the Rotary speaker, I tagged along. I sat at a table with this great group of folks and uttered out loud how cool it would be to work with this many people committed to moving our community forward? Next thing I knew I was joining, that was March of 2004. I was working for the city at the time and went to Bill and asked if he would mind if I do this. Once I got into the rhythm of Rotary as part of my weekly schedule I was golden. That window that I set aside for Rotary is a cherished part of my week. The relationships and the projects are an important part of my life.”
How did you respond when you were tapped to be President of Rotary of Tulsa?
“I got a phone call asking if I would consider being president. I thought it was a great opportunity. My biggest concern was checking my schedule to make sure there was not a conflict like a re-election year. Once I confirmed I could commit the time I said yes and it has been an absolutely terrific experience.”
What are your primary goals for this year?
“I really want us to have a 100% contribution rate to the Rotary International fund. I want every member to contribute something this year. I also want to build up our membership with people that truly love this community and love working with others to make things happen.”
What are your most memorable moments as a Rotarian?
“Gosh, every week is so inspiring-I enjoy being with everyone and working on things together. I have had many special ‘Rotary moments’. I think I first realized the power of Rotary when the ‘Beryl Ford collection’ was in danger of going to Oklahoma City. John O’Connor and Steve Clark jumped in and created a Rotary fund to ensure that the collection stayed in Tulsa and Rotarian Jerry Cornelius began the process of scanning so the collection could be shared with the public. Another that never fails to tug at my heart is when we show videos of our water well project. I remember one year the women in our club organized and funded one of the water wells. I am really hoping I can go to Nicaragua this year and participate in that project first hand.”
I noticed you actively participating in a recent program committee meeting. Is this an area you are particularly focused upon during your year as President?
“We have had so many great speakers over the years. It is a big part of what our club offers our members. I want to continue that good work and help further establish us as the ‘go to’ place when community announcements on new programs and developments occur. It would be great if everyone working on a big project would turn to The Rotary Club of Tulsa as the place to unveil their news and we would of course invite the media.”
How does your family fit in with your involvement with Rotary of Tulsa?
“My husband Patrick is so supportive. My Mother says we are Ying and Yang. I am all over the place while he is a steady rock. He brings balance to my life. Our family also includes a foreign exchange student we hosted at our house for five years. She was 16 when she first came here to go to high school and then lived with us while she went on to college. She now works in Baku and has her own family. We consider her our daughter and her daughter as our granddaughter. They truly are an integral part of our family.”
Any other things you want to share with the Club in your role as our 100th President?
“Being your president has been a magical opportunity for me. I have loved every minute of it. We have an incredible team of volunteers and staff all working together to do the best they can do and I am so thankful. You can’t do this alone. Rotary Club of Tulsa is so great. Our membership is diverse in many ways; generationally, in our political views, in our divergent work place worlds, but we do have this in common – a commitment to building Tulsa’s community – to make Tulsa a better place. “