PDG David Kennedy (707) 1959/60

Related Pages
Photo Albums

Today I want to tell you about John David Kennedy, an outstanding Rotarian. One whose contributions to Rotary International and the Rotary Club of Guelph can probably never be fully appreciated or understood since the effects of his service, leadership and inspiration continue and will continue for some time to come. Until her passing 3 ½ years ago, Dave was married to Mary, who was a wonderful support in his Rotary activities.


For Dave Kennedy, Rotary was like a continuous thread that ran through the fabric of his life. It was almost genetic. His father, David E. Kennedy, was a Rotarian for 32 years and a past president of the Rotary Club of Guelph. Son Dave joined him on many occasions when he was involved in Rotary activities. Dave had a tremendous admiration and respect for his father who was mayor of the City of Guelph in 1937. Our Dave joined Rotary in October of 1950, proposed by one of the charter members of the Rotary Club of Guelph, Fred Freudeman. Father and son were members together for five years. The family tradition continued:  Dave's son-in-law, Larry Wright, is now the president of the Rotary club of Port Perry.  Dave said that Rotary gave his life a purpose.


Almost immediately the plight of physically handicapped children became a consuming interest. Dave writes "Shortly after joining Rotary I had one of the most touching experiences of my life. I was taking a girl, about 12 and severely handicapped, to the "House of Happiness" in Toronto. As I was carrying her from the car into the centre, we both read a sign across the entrance - "Home for Incurable Children". She burst into tears and I wasn't far off. I complained bitterly to the administration and was told the building had been donated many years previously and the donor, without thinking, asked that the name be used. How insensitive people can be."


A year or two later Dave became the Chair of the Easter Seal Committee and initiated the Easter Seal Ball which ran for several years as a fund raiser. Dave served for several years as the Guelph Director on the Board of the Ontario Society for Crippled Children.


 In 1953 working with Roy Hodson and other Rotarians and friends Dave arranged to have a film made of the work of a mobile training clinic for handicapped children which came to Guelph. The 28 minute film "Non Are Refused" turned out to be a great success and was circulated all over North America and Great Britain by the Ontario Society for Crippled Children now the Easter Seal Society.


                   In July of 1953 The Rotary Club of Guelph formalized its interest in caring for handicapped children. A cerebral palsy clinic was organized at McRaeMemorialSchool and the Guelph film was presented showing caregivers working with physically handicapped children. It was very effective. In 1953-54 the Beechwood or Rotary Children's Centre emerged from this clinic. It was located on Beechwood Avenue in

Guelph on property donated by the City.  Club members were very involved in its construction.  Dave chaired the whole operation.  The Centre was formally opened on Feb. 23, 1955 to celeb rate the 35th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Guelp[h and the golden anniversary of Rotary International.  The purpose of the Centre was to provide care for disabled children; children who were both physically and mentally challenged.


                  Dave became president in 1955-56 and writes "I relied heavily on advice from Dad and many of his ideas were incorporated." For example, Rotary Information and Firesides were revived after a gap of many years and the seeds for the Club's Travelogue programme (1963-99) and the City's 'Second Chance' programme were sown.

        Dave progressed in Rotary initiating a number of activities and helping in others. For example, the Club banner was designed and produced, Interclub visits between Canada and the USA were begun.


 Dave became District Governor in 1959-60.Dave wrote in 1988, that "To be able to take on the job of governor when I was only 40 was an honour and privilege indeed and I felt I should do my utmost to always live up to the Rotary traditions and ideals. Being governor was one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences of my life. I found it difficult then, and still do, to explain to the average Rotarian what a unique experience it was. I regret that most Rotarians are confined in their experiences in Rotary to activities in their own clubs with the occasional makeup. To attempt to document my Rotary experiences within the District and beyond as I became involved in Rotary International affairs, is just too big a job to tackle now. Sufficient to say I have had so many wonderful experiences. I have friends now in almost every corner of the world that I can visit or call upon for assistance should I have need." Dave was very active on many RI Committees and attended many International Conferences, assemblies and institutes. He was the Canadian voice of Rotary, especially on international activities. From casual inquiries to a Federal Government task force on external aid, all roads led to Guelph. For example, in 1967 he was asked by the RI President to promote the activities of The Rotary Foundation. He visited 50 Districts holding one day seminars which were very well attended. In 1972 he was invited to become the General Secretary of RI; he turned it down unless they would move their headquarters from Evanston to Guelph!


The Rotary Club of Guelph has had a major involvement in international projects since it began these activities in 1974-75 when, led by Dave, our Club was twinned with the Rotary Club of St. Lucia. Service projects were related to health, education and agriculture. There were only a few such twinnings in the world at that time and our case served as a model for Rotary International and led to The Rotary Foundation Matched Grants Programme. This Programme continues to fund international projects in the range of $5,000 to $150,000 in which there is a host Rotary Club and an international Rotary Club involved and contributing funding. For several years after 1975 RI strongly encouraged the twinning of clubs in developed countries with clubs in developing countries. The Rotary Foundation Health, Hunger and Humanity (3H) Grants Programme to improve health, alleviate hunger and promote human development was launched in 1978. At that time 3H grants could be up to $US 500,000. Dave was a prime mover of all of these activities.


In 1977-78 the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) set aside $200,000 and in 78/79 $400,000 for Canadian Rotary projects and made the Rotary Cub of Guelph the contact club for the 460 Canadian clubs then in existence. The Canadian Rotary Committee for International Development (CRCID) resulted. When CRCID was incorporated on Nov. 19, 1985, Dave Kennedy was named coordinator. This money was substantially increased each year for a few years to $1 million per year and more after 1985.  During the period 1989-2000 more than $30 million of CIDA money was transferred to Rotary international activities through CRCID. In those days CRCID matched a club's contribution which could also be matched by District Designated Funds and Rotary International that is 8/1. CRCID is still very active today. It is working in some countries in Africa and Central America on major projects connected with health concerns, literacy and education, water management and micro credit financing. This is the wonderful legacy of Dave Kennedy.


In the '80's Dave became very involved in helping senior citizens in Guelph becoming President of the Guelph Seniors Association in 1984 and 1985. He chaired the building committee for the Evergreen Centre.


In 1982 our District 707, with the support from CIDA and RI, organized a measles vaccination programme in the south of India, centred in Madras. The objective of this pilot project was to immunize about 68,000 children and show that immunization could be done on a mass scale. Two Guelph Rotarians, Fred Black and Dave Kennedy, were among the volunteers and this Club raised funds to support the project.


With the great success of the measles immunization pilot project a new project to immunize all the children in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala was adopted and became a 3H project of The Rotary Foundation of RI. This 3H project, managed by a team from our District 707 (including Dave and Guelph Rotarians) became the model for the 3H Polio Plus Programme several years later after a successful pilot polio vaccination programme in the Philippines in 1984. The eradication of polio over the whole world is the current objective of Rotary International. The Polio Plus programme has just recently received a huge financial infusion from Bill Gates to complete this wonderful goal. Again, what a wonderful legacy to Dave to have played a formative role in eradicating polio.


You can see the broad scope of the activities of Rotarian John David Kennedy. It has been an honour to help us all remember and celebrate his many contributions.


Jim Stevens, January, 2008