5 Questions with Tom Klenda, Rotary Club of Tulsa president
BY JOHN STANCAVAGE World Business Editor
Friday, January 25, 2013
1/25/13 at 4:29 AM
Tom Klenda, a partner with Newton O'Connor Turner & Ketchum, is a franchise and business attorney. He received a bachelor's degree in finance from Oklahoma State University in 1977 and holds a law degree from the University of Tulsa.
1. You are halfway through your term as president of the Rotary Club of Tulsa. How many members do you have and what is the group's mission?
Our club, with 430 members, is comprised of leading Tulsa business professionals who deeply care about our community and the mission of Rotary International - to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation and eradicate polio. Founded in 1915, the "downtown" club is the 15th largest among 34,216 clubs in 220 countries.
2. How did you get involved with the organization? What made you want to become a member?
I was asked by my law partner more than 30 years ago, and I really enjoyed the weekly programs.
After joining, I found there were so many opportunities to get involved. I joined the committee that awards grants to Tulsa-area nonprofit organizations. Our club's foundation has grown to $2.8 million, and since it started in 1972, we have awarded more than $1.2 million in local grants.
My "Rotary moment" and true involvement in our club occurred 12 years ago I was asked to chair our International Projects Committee, which just started the Nicaragua water-well drilling program. Next month my wife and I will join a team of 17 Rotarians traveling to Nicaragua for the drilling of our club's 300th water well there. Support for this program comes from our club, and from numerous other Rotary clubs and individuals.
Our family has also been active in Rotary's International Youth Exchange Program.
3. The Rotary Club of Tulsa dedicated a $1 million collection of public sculptures last year to create Rotary Plaza at Third Street and Boston Avenue. How did that project come about, and what's been the reaction to its installation?
As our club considered what would be an appropriate and long-lasting project to recognize our club's centennial in 2015, we decided that a gift of public art that recognized Tulsa's community spirit of volunteerism would be ideal. The granite plaza was designed to serve as a gathering place for families and for downtown workers at lunchtime.
As funds were being raised and artists Jay O'Meilia and David Nunneley began their sculptures, Rotary volunteers worked with the city and nearby property owners to build our magnificent Rotary Plaza on Williams Center Green, along Third Street. This was the largest project ever undertaken by our club, and the five bronze sculptures that tell the story of volunteerism through Rotary have become an instant downtown landmark.
4. What are your goals for the group for 2013?
Our club continues to be a forum for outstanding weekly speakers, and as we begin planning for President-elect Karen Keith's year as our club's 100th president, that emphasis will continue. In a few weeks our luncheon will be turned into a courtroom, as Tulsa's newest citizens (and one of our Rotarians) will take part in a U.S. Naturalization Ceremony.
Other goals, in addition to the constant challenge for a club our size to manage and direct a huge volunteer effort, include increasing ways to grow our local foundation so that more Tulsans can benefit from grants to Tulsa-area nonprofits.
5. What steps would you suggest for someone who is interested in learning more about the Rotary Club?
Please visit our website at tulsaworld.com/rotary or call our office at 918-584-7642. On our website, you can click on programs and read about our upcoming programs.
We welcome visitors to our meetings held every Wednesday at noon in Thomas Hall of First United Methodist Church, 11th Street and Boulder Avenue, and first-time visitors can join us for lunch for free.
STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World