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Thomas More University, Covington Rotary celebrate 100 years-plus with collaborative in-service day

It began with a back porch pandemic conversation. Brenda Kelly Fauber, service chair of the Covington Rotary, shared with Judith A. Marlowe ’69, Ph.D., chairperson of the Thomas More University Board of Trustees, her disappointment that COVID prevented the Rotary from celebrating their 2020 centennial with Thomas More, which was approaching their centennial celebration in 2021. The longest standing service club in Northern Kentucky and the first college of Northern Kentucky should celebrate these milestones together.

Covington Rotary, chartered in December 1920, is dedicated to “Service Above Self” and is known for its Four-Way Test, a non-partisan and non-sectarian ethical guide to professional and personal relationships: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

TMU and Covington Rotary team up for service.

Thomas More University, founded in September 1921 as Villa Madonna College, located in downtown Covington throughout its first 50 years, challenges students to examine the ultimate meaning of life, their place in the world, and their responsibility to others, which includes service.

Beyond the alignment of these guiding principles there are decades of shared members as past Covington Rotary Presidents include several Thomas More trustees and administrators.

Rotary Presidents included John Cronin (Villa Madonna College Board of Overseers, 1967), Frank Sommerkamp (Thomas More College Board of Trustees Chair, 1974), Raymond Hebert, Ph.D. (Thomas More University professor, Dean of the College Emeritus, 1984). Mary Fisher, former Vice-President of Institutional Advancement at Thomas More, was one of the first two women admitted to Covington Rotary in 1989, when membership was no longer limited to men. More recently, Covington Rotary established a Rotaract Club under the leadership of Thomas More’s John Wolper, Ph.D., to develop the community service interests and skills of students from all local colleges and universities.

Clean up Rotary Grove in Devou Park

With roots in downtown Covington, a history of shared leaders, and a mutual commitment to service, the idea to join in a special day of projects to commemorate this relationship and celebrate centennials was inevitable.
The result was that Thomas More students, faculty, and staff put aside their regular duties for a day to work alongside Covington Rotarians, including Thomas More alumni, and even former Secretary of State and State Representative Ken Harper, the longest serving Covington Rotarian.

The Rotary Club connected Thomas More with several of their ongoing service projects and facilitated additional opportunities to serve the community in a variety of locations that included:

• Clearing 1.45 tons of debris from the Kentucky side of the Ohio River in cooperation with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, and the City of Covington Solid Waste and Recycling and Public Works teams,

Marshall Libermann with the group at Master Provision

• Preparing sandwiches and assembling personal hygiene kits for the Parish Kitchen, and painting benches at their Madison Avenue location,

• Clearing and mulching Rotary Grove and trails in Devou Park in cooperation with the City of Covington Parks and Recreation,

• Removing debris and restoring NaturePlay, a free, handicapped-accessible green space where children and their families can explore the outdoors, located at the Behringer-Crawford Museum,

• Delivering donated clothing to the Thomas More campus, along with sorting and packing, for Master Provisions to send to 7,000 people in need in Togo, Ghana, and Honduras.

Helping out at Parish Kitchen

“What an exciting and inspiring day for everyone who participated,” an enthusiastic Fauber said. “Rotarians were able to demonstrate their commitment to service, meet and share the day with wonderful Thomas More students, faculty, and staff. Best of all was the chance to enjoy seeing how the community benefited from their joint efforts as they viewed the results of their completed work.

“Our International Rotary President Shekhar Mehta has observed that ‘Service is the rent I pay for the space I occupy on this earth’ and we agree wholeheartedly. This Day of Service will be an annual opportunity for a truly rewarding experience.” 
Marlowe concurred, adding, “Bringing together two of the longest standing community assets in Northern Kentucky in such meaningful activity is an important step in nurturing a culture of social responsibility and service that benefits our region and beyond. That has been the mission and legacy of both Thomas More University and Covington Rotary throughout our respective first 100 years.

“As Thomas More President Chillo reminds the campus community, ‘developing a commitment to service is essential to fulfilling our mission,’ and for this reason, we look forward to continuing to partner with Covington Rotary to do just that as our second century unfolds.”

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