Colleen Singleton

- Member since August 1990

Colleen has been a member of Rotary since 1990; she was nominated for membership by RCW current president and Colleen’s long time friend - James Austin.

James thought Rotary would be an organisation that Colleen could contribute to, a place where she could meet lots of amazing people and where she could get involved with new activities. She didn’t know a huge amount about Rotary before hand, she was aware of the club but it was a fairly steep learning curve for her, albeit a good one!

Being only the fifth women member at the time she joined, Colleen’s first impressions were that it was a club of corporate men who would sit at their set places, at their set tables and talk business, “you couldn’t have the kind of conversations we have today,” she explains.

Colleen doesn’t want to sound derogatory at all, because they really were fantastic Rotarians, but it did seem to be a bit of an “old boys club.” Wellington City was, after all, much different in the 1990s, but now that many of those big corporate organisations have gone off shore the membership demographics of Rotary has subsequently changed significantly.

While back in the old days fundraising may have been easier Colleen believes that Rotary has in fact changed for the better.

“Rotary has to change if we want the movement to continue,” says Colleen, and it’s with initiatives such as the associate membership pilot programme that are facilitating and allowing this important change.

“We have to keep up with the environment,” says Colleen and with the latest influx of members who are balancing out the gender imbalance and lowering the average club age it seems Rotary is on the right track for success. Colleen hopes that Rotary continues to grow and diversify. She believes “we have to look a little wider, expand our thinking - and the changing membership is helping with that.”

Newer members value the wisdom and knowledge of the older members, “those members” says Colleen “are the ‘unsung heroes’ and have done some amazing things – we can learn a lot from them.”

But she also believes that we must recognize the importance of young people to the future of the club. She uses the students of Christchurch as an example of people who got out there, lent a hand and did what they had to. “They may not want to join a club,” says Colleen “so we must find ways to attract these young people, it’s a really interesting dilemma.”

Colleen’s favourite memory is from November 2009 when she went over to America to compete in the New York marathon; during her time over there she also attended the annual Rotary day at the United Nations. With over 16,000 people from 46 different countries Colleen had the unique opportunity to meet some amazing people; scholars, ambassadors and Rotarians from all over the world.

Maybe most touching of all was hearing head people of the UN acknowledge some of the great projects Rotary are involved in and giving their thanks.

Another favourite memory of Colleen’s is her trip last year when she and William Sommerville went to the Solomon Islands and presented one of the villages with a $20,000 cheque to build a school for deaf children, which will ultimately help those individuals participate in their community and no longer be outcasts.

Although Colleen has always been keen on justice for all and living in an egalitarian society, she believes that Rotary has influenced and enhanced her life by exposing her to aspects of life she might not otherwise been exposed to.

“Vocational visits help to make you a better person, less judgmental, and more understanding,” says Colleen “they also make you appreciate how hard it can be to change things.”

To Colleen ‘Service Above Self’ means putting others before yourself and doing the best you can. “You can’t help others if you haven’t got your own life in order,” she says “it makes you think about the way you run your own life and makes you appreciate what you have.”

“We are very lucky in NZ - we have the ability to help others,” says Colleen.

Attending the weekly Monday lunch is one thing Colleen enjoys about being a Rotary member. “I really value getting away from the office, getting to see and talk to people and catch up with the latest Rotary activities,” she explains “it’s my Monday ’me’ time.”

Being associated with Operation Heartbeat –a project which is providing a number of ambulances with defibrillators, is another aspect of Rotary that Colleen appreciates, “it could well save lives and we’re really making a difference, it’s great to help and be part of an amazing organisation such as Wellington free ambulance.”

“The nicest thing about being president,” said Colleen when asked about her role last year “was actually being the president! You wouldn’t expect it in such a large club. It’s not the kind of thing that falls to every person.”

Colleen, as she should be, is very proud of her presidency, it’s a big job and it was a very busy time for her “it was only after tidying my desk, that I realised how much of my work time was spent on Rotary activities,” she admits a little sheepishly. However, she’s very happy to be seeing some of the benefits, such as the Resilience Forum, come out of the planning session that was had and the strategic plan she put in place during her time as president.

Overall, Colleen enjoyed her time as president, feels like she has made her mark and was more than happy to hand over the responsibility to James at the end of her one-year term.

Although her time as president is over, Colleen is not done yet, “I’ll be with Rotary for awhile longer,” she laughs - and just like her old Te Puke High School motto and what Rotary International president recently encouraged Rotarians to do in an email, she will continue to “aim high.”

Written by Vanessa Higham - Communications Intern 2011


Bob Stannard

- Member since December 1970

Seated in the lounge of the Whitby Room, Bob Stannard displayed extraordinary powers of recall that would put a much younger person (namely myself) to shame.

“I became a Rotarian 41 years and three or four days ago,” he says with barely a hestitation. “December 1970.”

“One of the great things about Rotary is that it keeps you in touch with the people that you’ve gotten to know over the years. In retirement, you run into them once in a blue moon, but with Rotary you are maintaining your contacts on a regular basis,” he said.

Bob was nominated by his good friend, Bruce Robertson. “I knew my friend’s enthusiasm about the club and was pleased that he took the initiative,” said Bob.

Bob grew up in Levin and came to Wellington when he left school. In early 1944 he worked and studied part-time at Victoria University, like many law and accountancy students of the time.

He confesses to have been too young for the war, registering when he turned 18. “I wanted to travel so I thought that I could travel the world during the war.”

Bob discovered that none of the services would take him overseas so he decided not to enlist. Instead, opportunities for travel to distant and exotic lands would come in his working years.

“In 1949 I wanted to go to England. Accountants were very poorly paid in those days. I had 100 pounds to my name and that was the price of a boat fare from New Zealand to the United Kingdom,” he said.

With the help of a close friend who worked for one of the shipping companies, Bob was signed on as Engineer's Steward and worked his passage across. “I got to London with my 100 pounds intact and was paid off 23 pounds six and four pence or something like that,” he chuckled.

“It’s virtually impossible to do that these days – but way back in 1949 that was really nothing out of the ordinary.”

The boat docked and Bob went to London with a letter of introduction which lead to his employment in London-based international accounting firm, Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co.

Two years later he was sent to the Singapore office for a twelve month stint, after which he returned to the UK for a few months. “I was due to pick up an offer of employment and the potential offer of a partnership in a Wellington firm,” said Bob.

But his wanderlust proved too strong and Bob postponed his appointment to travel to the Far East again, spending time in Singapore and Indonesia before returning to New Zealand to work for Bowden, Bass and Cox in 1953.

The following year, Bob was made a partner of Bowden, Bass and Cox (now KPMG Peat Marwick).

In 1987 he “picked up” a number of directorates and enjoyed working with several companies. “I finished my last board appointment a few years ago,” he said.

Bob cites his most important achievement as his role in solving the financial difficulties faced by the Public Service Investment Society in 1979.

“They got into financial difficulties and in order to prevent a disaster, the government passed special legislation without warning one night and I was named as the Statutory Manager of the Public Service Investment Society.”

“I was there until 1987 and it survived and has flourished in the intervening years,” said Bob. “It was probably my greatest achievement, as their liability was fairly substantial – they were hopelessly insolvent,” he explained.

Years of crunching numbers and seeing first hand, the financial woes of others, has meant Bob has some sound practical advice. “If I were to give a young person one piece of advice it would be to avoid debt,” he said.

“A wonderful Professor of economics, Barney Murphy of Victoria University, used to tell us – slightly paraphrased - ‘the Bible tells us that the meek shall inherit the earth. That’s all very well but when they do they’ll find the strong still hold the first mortgage’,” said Bob with a laugh.

“Be careful – avoid debt and you’ll avoid trouble,” he added.

In his younger days, Bob tramped in the Tararua Ranges near his hometown Levin. “I went down to Fiordland with five others in 1946. It was my introduction to Fiordland and I fell in love with the place,” he said.

Bob was a Director of Fiordland Travel Limited (now named Real Journeys), based in Te Anau, which ran numerous tourist boats and the 100 year old steamboat on Lake Wakatipu. “It was 25 years that I thoroughly enjoyed,” he said.

Bob was awarded a Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship in 1997 and has been a guest at Auckland, Taupo, Levin, Te Anau, London, Invercargill and Sydney Rotary clubs.

He commented on the change in membership composition over the years. “Head offices have moved to Auckland and insurance companies have amalgamated so today there is not the number of chief executive officers that we had in earlier years.”

“The club’s diversity has increased. Previously, we didn’t have members from the public service or representatives from the armed forces. The admission of women to the club has also enabled Rotary to survive.”

Bob believes that RCW is doing a marvelous job. “The people who go in as president do a wonderful job and I would hate to suggest anything that would add to their burden,” he said.

Responding to a question about his secret ambition, Bob said that “Although my tramping days are well and truly over, if I could, I’d hire a helicopter and fly around the mountains down there. Helicopter flying in Fiordland is the ultimate in flying,” he said.

Researched and written by Lauretta Ah Sam, Communications Intern Dec 2011 - Feb 2012

Sir John Todd

I walked in to meet Sir John Todd feeling nervous, intimidated and lucky. By the time I walked across the room and sat down, my worries had flown away with the butterflies in my stomach. I never knew a man with such stature could be so friendly, helpful and welcoming.

He is the man who has been a member of Rotary since 1965, is a Paul Harris fellow, awarded a Sapphire Pin, been Knighted and is a past RCW President.

To start to tell his story we began when he was invited to Rotary by the director of Todd Motors at the time. John Todd replied “well, I don’t know much about Rotary, so tell me what Rotary is.”

After informing his father of his membership he was told “sure you’ll enjoy Rotary, but, let me give you a bit of advice: never get involved in a committee, cause that’ll take your time and effort.” So Sir John joined Rotary and was “immediately put into a committee”.

Sir John describes his Presidency as an “interesting year” as he was Managing Director of  Todd Motors at the time.

He accepted the role and arranged with the Rotary board to have a President’s Representative. He explained the President’s Representative was there to “attend meetings and events and so forth, on my behalf” when prior commitments prevented him from attending.

Sir John still praises the work and help of his President’s Representative as he was “very valuable”. He explained he was always “kept up to date and informed from the detailed reports written” and given to him.

Sir John has seen the presidency role change and evolve over his 48 years of membership. He thinks that “these days there is a little less ownership” of the role due to the time constraints of a modern day business person.

“There is a great deal more done now, almost autonomously by the sub-committees; which is fine because the committees report back to the board.”

Sir John explained that there is “more shared responsibility” which he thinks is appropriate as “it’s a very good way of involving more people in Rotary”.

One issue that Sir John identifies in the RCW as needing improvement is the “involvement in committees by the members”. “The work of Rotary is done through the committees and so much of the committee work is left in the hands of the few people who take a more proactive role on committees.”

“There are a lot of people who are in committees and don’t really contribute a lot” he continued. 

He confesses that he is “as much to blame as anyone else”.

Sir John explains that “it’s important, [but] very difficult to bring people into not just the spirit of Rotary, but the work of Rotary by involving them in the committee work.”

He ponders on his own thought of it being the size of the club. As RCW is a large club “there will be a lot of older members such as me, who don’t have the time or opportunity, or need or wish, to become directly involved in activities.

If we were a small club, members would be far more personally involved because they would have to be.”

“It’s a very difficult job for a president, or committee, or directors to really stimulate people to become active, or a bit more proactive on committees.”

“I don’t know how you do it, or how it should be done” he concluded.

“But, I really think that Rotary does a great deal of good…it works so much in the community which is outstanding.”

Inrterviewed by Ellee Donald, Communications Intern 2012

Dame Beverley Wakem

- Member since November 1989

Across the glossy surface of the Ombudsman’s boardroom table, Beverley Wakem adjusts the tiny microphone on her lapel with all the confidence of a seasoned broadcaster. “You get out of Rotary what you put into it,” she said.

“If you put as much into the club as your work and time commitments would allow, your opportunities for fellowship and service to the community can be very rewarding and worthwhile. And you meet some outstanding people.,” she added.
Beverley describes her membership as “an opportunity to put something back.”
“When I joined the club it was fairly conservative and a bit of an “old boys” club. From being a bit blokey and stuffy it has grown and developed to become very modern and innovative.”
Beverley was the first female member of the club. “In the old days when you became a member you were left to sink or swim – but these days there is a very well coordinated buddy system. You aren’t left alone so it becomes easier to build your networks.”
Nominated for membership by Tony Hassad, Beverley was all too happy to say “yes!” “I’ve been proud to see this club grow. It used to be thought of as a cheque book club, but in recent years it has once again become very active in the community. It’s much more of a sleeves-rolled-up-club these days but it hasn’t lost its quintessential dignity as the oldest established club in New Zealand.”
Beverley’s first brush with Rotary came in the form of a Rotary Graduate Fellowship. She applied because . “Nine years into my time with broadcasting I felt a bit like a sausage machine, I couldn’t see where my next career step would be because opportunities for women, particularly as an executive, were limited.”
Beverley’s Rotary Graduate Fellowship was made tenable at the University of Kentucky in the United States. Despite being her fifth choice, the University proved to be a stimulating and progressive environment with a well ranked school of diplomacy and several departments that Beverley believed to be cutting edge. 
“It actually turned out to be an amazing experience,” she said. “It was an extraordinary university with about 20,000 students on campus.”
Beverley excelled at the School of Journalism and Communication, gaining more scholarships that enabled her to finish a Master’s degree in Communication. She recalls the opportunities availed to her through her university networks.
“There were ex-television network people amongst the staff in the faculty and I was given an introduction to go and observe the coverage of the 1972 presidential elections at NBC in New York.
“At the time, Richard Nixon swept back in, and the country came to rue that with the Watergate scandal – which I was there for. It was just a fascinating experience for someone with my background in news and current affairs.”
Prior to her stint in the United States, Beverley was employed by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation as a cadet where she worked as Public Affairs Producer while completing the remaining two years of her undergraduate studies as an English and History major at Victoria University.
Upon returning from the United States, Beverley became the Executive Producer of District Current Affairs for Radio New Zealand and then Controller of Programmes for the following nine years
“The New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation had  restructured following a royal commission of inquiry into the future of public broadcasting.
Radio New Zealand was being set up as a standalone entity. It had appointed a local director general and two assistant director generals, one from the United States and one from the BBC.”
“The American and the Englishman” saw Beverley’s potential, encouraging her to apply for vacancies for senior positions advertised in the circular. “They were for the top divisional heads of the organization and one of them was 11 grades ahead of where I was,” said Beverly, thinking for sure the pair had been mistaken.
“They can’t have meant those – I’ll wait.”
The night before applications closed Beverly received a panicked phone call - “where’s your application?”
Reminiscent of university days, Beverley stayed up all night writing an application for the position of news and current affairs chief and another for the senior divisional head for programmes, for which she was successful. When asked why she hadn’t considered herself a candidate for those senior roles Beverely said it had been the culture of the place.
“When I left there was no way that a woman could be promoted to a senior level and I didn’t understand what kind of a change the Englishman and the American were intent on making. Once I understood that I saw a door and thought – well I’m going through that door.”
Beverley set about pooling the ideas of the senior management team, “getting everybody to open their bottom drawers and pull out any idea they’ve ever had to see what we had to work with.”
“We reshaped the whole of the National Programme and introduced a new breakfast programme and made it more vibrant, lively and engaging.”
“They were exciting times. To be in on the ground floor and feel that you really were shaking the tree and making a difference was wonderful. We were modernizing the place, giving the staff a bit of air and space to be creative. They produced some wonderful work and I was able to elevate some extraordinarily talented people. And all I had to do is sit there and direct traffic – it was fantastic,” she laughed.
Beverley believes that she has been able to make a contribution in whatever she has done in her career. Her years in radio were the highpoint.
“I’d been in the place 26 years and at least 15 of those years near or at the top”.
“Public radio, especially in the absence of a national newspaper provides the glue that holds everything together in many ways. You felt that you are giving the country a voice. “It was challenging, creative, and frustrating at times,” she said.
Beverley’s roles demanded creativity, on which she thrived. With an illustrious career history under her belt, you would never imagine this mover and shaker once had aspirations to become an opera singer. “At one time in my life I had aspirations to be a singer. I have a deep contralto voice, but I realized that it wasn’t a big enough talent to take me where I wanted to go.”
“I still thoroughly enjoy music and theatre and my time as Chair of the St James Theatre Trust was the most fun I’d ever had in my life.”
“We ran the theatre profitably at the time, but it was like the biggest gambling game outside of Las Vegas. If the theatre is dark, you aren’t earning any money, so we completely redeveloped and refurbished. We built a wonderful atrium and used that for product launches and shooting commercials and  we got the theatres re-established on the South East Asia touring circuit.”
“Refurbishing the theatre was risky. At times I thought - crikey - will we ever recover from this?”
Beverley believes that if she hadn’t been introduced to Rotary via her foundation scholarship it would simply have been a matter of time.
“I think it would have been inevitable that I would have found it – or it would have found me,” she said.


Researched and written by Lauretta Ah Sam, Communications Intern Dec 2011 - Feb 2012