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Alumni Profile

Service above self

Ray Klinginsmith

Rotary International's outgoing president, Ray Klinginsmith, BS BA ’59, JD ’65, takes pride in the organization's fundraising efforts to fight polio.

The guest list of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm isn’t the first place you’d expect to find an attorney from northeast Missouri. But in 2010, that’s exactly where Ray Klinginsmith found himself. As outgoing president of Rotary International, Klinginsmith, BS BA ’59, JD ’65, of Kirksville, Mo., spent the majority of the past year touring the globe and spreading Rotary’s vision of "service above self."

A Rotarian for more than 50 years, Klinginsmith made presidential stops in places as diverse as Sri Lanka (where he was escorted in military airplanes for security) and Turkey (where the Islamist country is flirting with eurozone membership).

But this isn’t the first time Klinginsmith has gone abroad representing Rotary. In 1961, as a young college student, he was awarded a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship to study for a year at University of Cape Town in South Africa.

“There weren’t many opportunities to study abroad back then,” Klinginsmith says. “Schools didn’t have robust programs like they do now. Basically the only way to go was a Rhodes Scholarship or through Rotary.”

Like its own international community, Rotary has chapters in 151 countries — just 20 countries shy of the United Nations — and counts 1.2 million people as members.

Klinginsmith is most proud of his organization’s dedication to eradicating polio. Since 1979, Rotary has raised $1 billion to fight the paralyzing disease. The World Health Organization says polio cases have plummeted 99 percent since 1988.

But a summit in Eastern Europe may speak more plainly to the power of Rotary’s international influence.  At lunch on the border of two countries that have been locked in a bitter — sometimes violent — territory dispute, Klinginsmith reports nothing but fellowship with Rotarians from Kosovo and Macedonia.

“I’m a firm believer that making friends in countries other than your own will pay big dividends in peace.” — David Earl