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  • C Johnston

Sephanie Urchick: A World Leader Arises


So how does a woman raised in the small town of Monessen in Western Pennsylvania become the leader of 1.4 million people around the world?

 

It wasn’t a planned pathway, according to the woman who will be stepping into that very big leadership role. Stephanie Urchick says that being raised by a hard-working, business-owning father and a supportive, caring mother set her on the path. Her journey taught her skills that are productive and transferrable in a variety of areas. And, most importantly, her path was founded on putting service to others over self.

 

A long-time leader in business and education, Stephanie is a member of the Rotary Club of McMurray, Pennsylvania. And she is the president-elect of Rotary International, to take the office of president in July 2024.

 

Stephanie Urchick will be the first woman in the United States, and only second in the world, to hold the position of president of Rotary International.

 

Stephanie recently retired as partner and chief operating officer of Doctors at Work LLC, a consulting and training company. She worked extensively in higher education and has a doctorate in leadership studies from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has been active on many community boards and committees and honored by multiple organizations.

 

As Stephanie succeeded professionally through the years, her skills in areas such as strategic thinking, innovation advancement, interpersonal communication and relationship building increased. Those skills, along with what some call a gift of “great connection and approachability” make her a natural in the Rotarian world.

 

“I’ve had an amazing career in education, business and leadership, but my new role exceeds all of that. We all look at the purpose we have in life, and I believe this is where I’m to make my mark,” Stephanie says.

 

Rotary International is one of the largest service organizations in the world. Its stated mission is to “provide service to others, promote integrity and advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through fellowship of business, professional and community leaders.”

 

While international in reach and scope, Rotary actually has a community-oriented foundation. The network of 1.4 million men and women from more than 130 countries across the world are all members of a local club or affiliation.

 

And they believe they have a shared responsibility to take action on challenging issues facing their own communities and the world.

 

“Together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities and in ourselves.”

– Vision Statement of Rotary International

 

When Stephanie was invited to join Rotary International in 1991, only two years after the organization began to accept women as members, she was immediately intrigued. “I went to one meeting and then another meeting,” she remembers. “And by the fourth meeting, I was doing the club newsletter. Two years later I was the club president. It was a matter of showing up, which I happily did. And there was so much to get engaged in – hosting youth exchange students, group study exchange for professionals, and more – so I kept saying okay. I eventually became district governor and then director for the zone.

 

She learned a lot, she shares, from a man she calls her “Rotary Godfather,” the late Chuck Keller. He was active and had advanced through the ranks, serving as president in 1987-88. “He did a lot of good for so many people,” she says. Chuck Keller and others in Rotary inspired her.

 

Because of Rotary, Stephanie did more than she could ever have dreamed of, including altruistic endeavors around the world. She led an initiative to provide a mammography machine and biopsy unit to a hospital in Poland. She participated in polio prevention through National Immunization Days in India and Nigeria, helped build a school in Vietnam, and assisted with water filter installation in the Dominican Republic.

 

She remembers, “I will never forget the first time I went to India, held a baby and gave her drops for polio eradication. I had chills. It wasn’t my child, but it was a child – and that’s the future. That little girl is walking the streets of Mumbai now because of what we did. That’s why we do what we do – making an impact and changing lives. Sometimes it’s one person at a time and sometimes it’s a whole community.”

 

Along her journey in Rotary, people would ask if she wanted to be president and she repeatedly said no. It wasn’t something she aspired to until she led Rotary’s strategic planning process and developed a very strong action plan. It was well received and implemented at the corporate level, with positive changes implemented. “But for the strongest impact, the changes need to take place at a club level,” she explains. “With my background in the action plan, what I know now, and where we are right now, I came to realize that I’m the right leader at the right time.”


And so her no became a yes. Stephanie accepted the nomination of president of Rotary International.

 

“My mantra since I’ve been a little girl has always been, life is more exciting on the other side of the yes. I say yes and then figure it out.”

 

Growing membership in Rotary International will be a major focus for Stephanie when she’s president. “We’re a membership organization that does service. So it’s pretty simple, the more members we have, the more service we can do.”

 

She continues, “If we don’t create different avenues and ways for people to be part of Rotary and do Rotary the way that they want to do it, we’re not going to have a future.”

 

“I love Rotary, but I will not be here forever. I want to make sure that there are enough young members coming up to keep the good work going when those of us who are here now are no longer around,” Stephanie says.

 

Stephanie explains that Rotary is just now learning how to tell the Rotary story – and that’s crucial for a new generation of members to join the organization. For too long, she says, Rotarians were quietly doing good deeds – not saying anything about them and not getting credit for them. And that credit is no small thing, especially when the good work is seen in its entirety. Rotary International members transform communities by giving over 47 million volunteer hours and awarding $333 million for global initiatives per year.

 

So now Rotary is active on social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. And members are talking about what they’re doing. For a membership organization that depends on invitation, that step of telling the story is vitally important, says Stephanie.

 

She also says it’s vitally important to be open to new ways of doing Rotary. The format of regular meetings has worked well for the organization through the years, but that may not be the Rotary of the future.  “People want more. And as long as they keep the values of Rotary – service, leadership, integrity, diversity and fellowship – they can adapt the how of what we do. We have e-clubs who meet online instead of in person. We have clubs that don’t meet at all, they just go out and do service, and maybe get together for a pizza. People are telling us they want to make a difference through Rotary but do it in a new way. And that’s great with us.”

 

In order to sustain the quality and standards of its members by bringing in people who are concerned about service over self, Rotary will continue to be an invitation-only organization. And people who feel alignment with the cause are welcome to reach out to a representative about membership by going to rotary.org.

 

When she begins her term as president of Rotary International, Stephanie wants to help heal a divided world through positive peace.

 

“Our mission statement says we are an organization that encourages world understanding and peace. It’s in our DNA as an organization, so we have a lot of areas that are directed to peace.”

 

She points out, “Today, more than ever, we need peace in this world.” So she’s planning on shining a light on Rotary’s peace initiatives to increase what’s being done and the impact it has.

 

Stephanie plans to visit as many Rotary Peace Centers as she can. The centers, which are located in England, Japan, Australia, Uganda, Sweden and in the U.S, Chapel Hill, NC – provide training in conflict resolution and peace advancement.  More than 1,800 peace fellows from more than 115 countries have graduated from a Rotary Peace Center since the program was created in 1999.

 

A new Rotary Peace Center is scheduled to open in the spring of 2025 in Istanbul, Turkey, with celebratory activities culminating in a public peace walk. “I want the spotlight to be on that event to show the world that Rotary is about peace.”

 

Many local Rotary clubs have Peace Poles with the message “Make Peace Prevail on Earth” in languages of the area. Stephanie notes that the one planned for her local club in McMurray will be in English, Greek, Italian and Russian, the heritage of many local people. She also points out that Monroeville has a beautiful Peace Pole that is used as a centerpiece for events and award presentations.

 

Kelli Robbins, a long-time Rotarian, says that she’s been inspired by Stephanie. “She is engaging, honest and warm – someone you want to be around. But more than that, Stephanie is a true visionary who can see what needs to be done and how to do it.  With her leadership skills, she’s able to spread that vision to others and make it catch fire. I’m looking forward to an exciting year at Rotary International with Stephanie Urchick at the helm.”

 

And that’s been the kind of talk going on at Rotary clubs these days. The woman from Monessan, PA is expected to make a big difference.

 

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”

- Proverbs 3:27-28





Photos show Stephanie at work. In the first she is recognizing the ambassador from Ukraine, Osana Markarova. In the second, Stephanie is with two district governors in Italy (one on each side) and aides (on the ends).


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Guest
2 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A beautiful story of a highly educated person having a personality with. the ability to be a great leader. Stephanie has already and will make an even bigger impact on others. Cheryl, you composed an excellent and interesting story of Stephanie and her accomplishments. Vi, Cheryl’s mother.

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Guest
Jan 17
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you.. your destiny is shinning all over the world.. very very proud of you my friend…I remember your passion from the beginning of your Rotary journey and how caring you were for the Rotary cause. Yes you are so very inspiring and deserve the credit and so much more.carry on with pride and joy.

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Guest
Jan 17
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great story. Had no idea the Rotary ventured so far and so large. Stephanie makes IUP proud.

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Guest
Jan 17
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This is a born leader. Good sstory!

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Guest
Jan 15
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Such an amazing lady who would never say no to any work to be done to do for others. A beautiful, heartwarming story beautifully written by Cheryl

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