District Governor Grant Spackman has asked that all Rotary clubs in District 9930 hold this year’s polio fundraisers, such as the I Am Woman movie event, in the name of Past International President Sir Clem Renouf.
But exactly who was he?
Sir Clem served Rotary for an amazing 70 years. He returned from WWII to settle in the small Queensland town of Nambour as an accountant where joined the Rotary Club of Nambour as a charter member in 1949. He later became Club President and in 1965 was District Governor. From there he went on to serve on the RI Board of Directors and as Rotary International President in 1978-9.
It was during the time leading up to Sir Clem’s Rotary Internationsl presidency that factors were coming together that would eventually, lead to the creation of Rotary International’s largest ever fundraiser PolioPlus, and the greatest public health initiative the world has ever seen, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
And it was the important and visionary role that Sir Clem played in bringing these factors together that makes him the Past Rotary Internal President held in such high regard, by so many.
With Rotary’s 75th anniversary approaching, as Rotary International President-Elect (1977-8) Sir Clem proposed the Heath, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) Programme, a two-year 75th Anniversary Fund to support international projects too large for any one club or district to undertake. 3-H would encourage Rotarians to become personally involved by volunteering their time and talents to the projects. This would prove to be a turning point in how Rotary functioned. It really did break the mould of Rotary.
The programme was approved by the RI Board and its implementation dominated Sir Clem’s Presidency.
Sir Clem later penned a book on the Health, Hunger and Humanity programme which can be read online here. It is an interesting account, not only of the success of the programme but the battle to fight traditionalists to bring about change that would serve humanity.
“As I moved toward the presidency of Rotary Iinernational. in 1978, seeking to give practical expression to a theme which was already in my mind (“Reach Out”), and as I listened to what people were saying, it became apparent that somehow we had to develop a plan which would enable Rotarians to give practical expression to their compassion and their concern for world-wide problems — problems we had no hope of tackling while we remained shackled by the constraints of our policy against ‘corporate action’.”
Sir Clem Renouf from his book on the 3-H programme
It was towards the end of Sir Clem’s year as Rotary International President that the World Health Organization declared the eradication of smallpox at an estimated cost of US$100 million. He immediately contacted an eminent doctor and scientist who worked in vaccine research asking if there was one disease Rotary could help to eradicate. Dr John Sever, who was at that time a District Governor, responded promptly. Polio.
Two different polio vaccines were available and in competition. History would go on to prove that they both have a vital role to play in global polio eradication the one needed in the first stages, when polio is endemic was Albert Sabin’s oral polio vaccine. This was the vaccine chosen for use when Sir Clem’s Rotary International President successor Jim Bomar launched the 3-H polio immunisation project in the Philippines in September 1979. Rotary eradicated polio from the Philippines, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Rotary honoured Renouf with the PolioPlus Pioneer Award for his extraordinary service to PolioPlus, as well as the Service Above Self Award, Rotary Foundation Citation for Meritorious Service, and Rotary Foundation Distinguished Service Award. He was a Rotary Foundation Benefactor and Major Donor and a member of the Paul Harris Society and the Bequest Society.
Born on 19 April 1921, Sir Clem passed away on 11 June 2020 aged 99 years.
Further reading:
Michelle Tanner
District Polio Chair
20 September 2020