Jim Ruhly Receives Club’s Highest Honor: Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award

-Introduced by Rich Leffler; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Jim Ruhly (right) received Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award from Club President Ellsworth Brown

Jim Ruhly (right) received Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award from Club President Ellsworth Brown

In April 1974, the Joseph G. Werner Memorial Committee proposed that awarding of this honor “not be done annually or routinely or for a specific project but in recognition of outstanding club service over a period of years. The intention is not to provide a reward or incentive for club efforts but rather to maintain examples of a tradition of ‘service above self.’ ”

In 1994, when Claire Thomas received this award, the presenter was Ted Long. Joe Werner mentored Ted as a lawyer and sponsored him as a member of this club. Ted knew Joe well. Ted said of Joe that he “was a committed Rotarian, for Rotary was a primary focus of his life from the time he joined this club.”

Those words apply as well to Jim Ruhly for this club has been “a primary focus of his life.” He truly is one of the most extraordinary members in the 102-year history of the Rotary Club of Madison.  His service has been stunning. Since joining the Club in 1973, Jim has chaired the Fund Drive, been Sergeant-at-Arms, served as a member of the Board twice (1984–86, 1997–99), been president (1999–2000), has served on numerous major committees, been a member of the kitchen committee, and, remarkably, Jim arranged our weekly Club programs from July 2005 to July 2015. His community service has also been outstanding, serving on the boards of the Badger Red Cross, Big Brothers/Sister of Dane County (president), CTM Family Theater, the Madison Civic Center Commission, the Madison Cultural Arts District (chairman), Madison Opera, and United Way of Dane County, to name just a few.

As the Werner Memorial Committee said forty years ago, such service cannot be rewarded; nor is there an incentive we can offer to induce such service over so many years.  But we can offer this award to note a lifetime of service to this club, in the tradition of “Service Above Self.” Let us use Jim as an example for the rest of us of an exemplary Rotarian.

Jim Ruhly, thank you for your continuing commitment to Rotary, and congratulations on receiving our club’s highest recognition, the Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Serivce Award.

History of Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service Award:   In 1974, our club established the Joseph G. Werner Meritorious Service award as the club’s highest recognition for club service.  This award is granted by our Rotary Club in recognition of outstanding club service in the Rotary tradition of “Service Above Self.”  Joseph Werner was a committed Rotarian.  He chaired many significant committees, both before and after serving as club president in 1953-54.  He served as a district governor in 1958-59 and became the second member of this club to serve as director of Rotary International in 1969-71.  He later served Rotary International in many other positions, and two different RI Directors indicated that Joe was in line for president of Rotary International at the time of his death from cancer in 1973.  Joe was a truly committed Rotarian whose example of “Service Above Self” is memorialized in this award.

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