Michael Graves, President of the YMCA of Delaware, is the current President of the Rotary Club of Wilmington, the state’s largest Rotarian organization.
MICHAEL GRAVES: The Wilmington Rotary Club will celebrate 100th Anniversary in 2015. As the oldest Rotary on the DelMarVa Peninsula all other clubs can trace their roots to our club. We meet every Thursday, from 12:10 – 1:30 PM in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel DuPont. We have met at the same location longer than any other Rotary Club in the world. We current have 230 members who are professional and community leaders from a wide range of business and organizations. The Wilmington Rotary Club channels our commitment to “Service Above Self” through: the fellowship and quality of our weekly meetings; aspiring to high ethical standards as community leaders, support our two year service project in Lahore, Pakistan and developing new leaders within our club and community.
TSD: How did you get involved in Rotary?
MG: I joined the New Canaan, CT Rotary Club in 1979 and have been a member ever since. I was president elect of the New Canaan Club when we moved to Delaware in 1987. My wife Nancy, was a Rotary Exchange Student to Haderslev, Sonderjylland, Denmark between high-school and college. Her father is a past-president of the Ithaca, NY Rotary Club. Membership and Involvement are two different questions. I have been drawn to the community service, international reach, quality speakers and fellowship. Some of my most valued friendships have grown from my membership in Rotary.
TSD: Many people might think of Rotary as a quaint, dated tradition, but your membership continues to thrive. In a time when so much has changed in our society, how has Rotary managed to stay relevant and so popular?
MG: Our club works very hard at having high quality, newsworthy speakers that make us better informed citizens. We try to engage members in a meaningful committee to advance our causes.
TSD: Rotary is a service organization that has its hands in many important projects across the globe. What are the priority service programs for the Wilmington Rotary right now?
MG: Our current service project involves educating girls in Lahore Pakistan, educating ourselves and the community through lectures and exchanges about Pakistan. Rotary International is also very close to eliminating Polio worldwide. In other words, we consciously work at being relevant. We also have several smaller projects such as ring the bell for the Salvation Army.
TSD: How closely do the Delaware Rotary clubs work together?
MG: Rotary is a well-oiled machine from the local club level, through districts, countries and the international organizations. We meet frequently with other club leaders for training, sharing of best practices, service and fellowship.
TSD: The Wilmington Rotary has a reputation as being the premiere local venue for important speeches and political debates. What ‘s on the agenda for the coming months?
MG: This fall we have had Governor Markell, Ellen Kullman Chairman of DuPont and William O’Brien from the Public Services Commission. Coming up is the Ambassador of Taiwan, the DuPont Chief Economist, the CEO of NEPC, the Dean of UD’s School of Agriculture, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Steve Forbes among others.