LISBON, Portugal — Oklahoma native Ron Burton, who once considered quitting his local Rotary Club because he found the lunch food of poor quality, the programs weak and members unfriendly, will take over as president of the 1.2 million member worldwide organization here this week.
A Duncan native and Norman resident since he was a University of Oklahoma student in the 1960s, Burton will lead Rotary International’s 34,000 clubs in local and international service and humanitarian projects, including its signature project — eradication of polio.
Burton retired as executive director of the OU Foundation in 2007 and has been active in Rotary leadership for decades. He joined the Norman club in 1979. Norman currently has three Rotary clubs with a fourth nearly chartered.
Thousands of Rotarians and guests began arriving at this seaside city for the three-day convention. About three dozen central Oklahoma Rotarians and guests were expected to be on hand to support Burton, a member of the Norman Rotary Club, and his wife, Jetta, a retired Norman teacher and member of the Norman Crosstimbers Rotary Club.
Burton succeeds Sakuji Tanaka of Japan who came to Norman with Burton in February to a Rotary International Foundation banquet. This week’s convention will draw representatives of up to 200 countries where there are local clubs.
“Every year, when we come together for a Rotary convention, we see for a few days the world as it could be. We see people of all colors and cultures come together,” Tanaka told Rotarians. “We look past our differences and focus on our goal: the building of a better world.”
On Wednesday, club banners will be exchanged between presidents of Norman’s Rotary Club and Tanaka’s home club in Japan.