R. I. President & TRF Chair's Monthly Messages

Rotary names Attorney John Hewko as its Top Executive

Experience of seasoned international professional complements the global humanitarian organization’s mission and philosophy

EVANSTON, Ill. (Jan. 12, 2011) — Rotary International has named John Hewko, an attorney with extensive international experience in both the private and public sectors, to be the global humanitarian service organization’s new top executive, serving as its general secretary.

In this position, Hewko will manage more than 600 employees of Rotary International and its charitable arm, The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. Headquartered in Evanston, Ill., with regional offices in seven countries, Rotary’s Secretariat supports the activities of more than 33,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas, with a combined membership of 1.2 million men and women. The Rotary Foundation annually distributes over $180 million to fund a variety of educational programs and humanitarian projects throughout the world.

Hewko is a former partner with the international law firm of Baker & McKenzie and was vice president at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US government agency established in 2004 to deliver US foreign assistance to the world’s poorest countries. He begins work on July 1 at a key moment in Rotary’s 106-year history. Hewko will play a lead role in the implementation of the organization’s newly-revised strategic plan that envisions Rotary’s expanded engagement in areas such as maternal and child health, water and sanitation, disease prevention and treatment, basic education and literacy, economic and community development and peace studies and conflict prevention/resolution. His tenure could also see the successful conclusion of Rotary’s principal humanitarian initiative: its 25-year campaign to eradicate the crippling disease polio, a goal that is more than 99 percent complete.

Hewko also will interact with government and business leaders to enhance Rotary’s global visibility and forge new strategic partnerships worldwide to achieve common objectives and maximize the use of resources. He also will work to expand and strengthen Rotary’s current relationship with organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, US Agency for International Development (USAID) and others.

In announcing Hewko’s hiring, Rotary International President Ray Klinginsmith hailed his “visionary leadership” and predicted that under Hewko’s leadership Rotary will “continue to grow in numbers, stature and involvement in making the world a better place. Rotary is fortunate to have attracted a candidate with John Hewko's proven ability and extensive international experience,” Klinginsmith said. “His leadership will be an important asset for Rotary in the next few years.”

During his 15 years at Baker & McKenzie, Hewko specialized in international corporate transactions in emerging markets. He participated in the establishment of the firm’s Moscow office and was the managing partner of its offices in Kyiv and Prague. While in Ukraine in the early 1990s, Hewko assisted the working group that prepared the initial draft of the new Ukrainian post-Soviet constitution and was a charter member of the first Rotary club in Kyiv. Prior to joining Baker & McKenzie, he worked for leading Brazilian and Argentine law firms and later with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington and New York handling Latin American and project finance transactions.

In 2004, Hewko entered public service with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). As vice president for operations and compact development, Hewko had primary responsibility for managing MCC’s relationship with its 26 partner countries in Africa, Asia, South America, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. During his tenure he oversaw the development, negotiation and approval of foreign assistance agreements with 18 countries totaling $6.3 billion for projects in infrastructure, agriculture, water, sanitation, health and education. For the past year, he has been a non-resident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where his writing has focused on international development and foreign policy issues.

Hewko is a 1985 graduate of Harvard Law School, and holds a master’s degree from Oxford University (where he studied as a Marshall Scholar) and a bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. He speaks six languages.

“I am delighted to be joining Rotary and honored to be able to participate in the organization’s mission to promote world peace and understanding by addressing some of the root causes of conflict, such as poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and the global water and sanitation crisis,” Hewko said. “Rotary’s global membership of 1.2 million business and professional leaders -- supported by a dedicated, professional staff -- is a powerful resource that is making a meaningful global and grassroots contribution to that goal. Just look at what Rotary already has accomplished in the area of polio prevention and eradication.”

Hewko emerged from a field of 440 potential candidates for Rotary’s top job. The Rotary search committee worked with Korn/Ferry International, the world’s largest executive search firm. Hewko replaces Edwin Futa, who is retiring after 10 years as general secretary.
Hewko and his wife, Margarita, have a daughter, Maria, who graduates this year from high school in the Washington, D.C. area.
RI News recently sat down with him to talk about his background and why he took the job.

Within days of the announcement of your being hired, you met Rotary leaders in Ukraine and addressed incoming district governors in San Diego at the International Assembly. What did you tell them?

I expressed to them how honored and delighted I am to have been chosen as Rotary's next general secretary. I also explained my motivation and interest in the position and assured them that my top priority will be to make sure that the Secretariat remains an effective and useful resource for the clubs, so that they are able to grow and are better able to carry out the mission of Rotary. I was particularly moved by the fact that the first Rotarians I addressed after the announcement were in Ukraine, where I had been a member of the Kyiv club in the early 1990s.

When did you first hear about Rotary?

My father has been an active Rotarian for almost 30 years in Clarkston, Michigan, a small town north of Detroit. Seeing my father's enthusiasm for Rotary and the impact that his club's service projects had on the local community made me appreciate the beauty of Rotary – grassroots people pulling together on their own initiative, trying to do good in their communities. When I would visit my parents while living abroad, my dad would occasionally invite me to speak at his club. I was always impressed by the quality of the members and their passion and dedication to the organization and its principles.

Tell us about your experience with Rotary in Kyiv.

When I was working in Ukraine in the early 1990s, my father's club was one of the sponsors of the first Rotary club in Kyiv. My dad came to the United States from Ukraine after the Second World War and had a strong interest in seeing Rotary develop in his former homeland. Through his involvement in helping the Kyiv club get up and running, I became interested in the effort and was fortunate enough to become a charter member of the club.

Why were you interested in the job of RI general secretary?

As I mentioned during my address to the International Assembly, first and foremost, the Rotary mottoes of Service Above Self and Doing Good in the World, The Four-Way Test, the focus on integrity, and the promotion of goodwill, peace, and understanding through the fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders – these are all ideas and concepts that I believe in and strongly support. For me, this will not be so much a job as a passion. Second, there is no organization in the world that is better positioned to carry out that mission. Of course, my dad's involvement in Rotary sparked a keen interest. This is also an exciting time to be joining the Rotary family, as the organization tries to move to the next level through the implementation of RI's Strategic Plan and The Rotary Foundation's Future Vision Plan. Finally, the fact that Rotary is a truly international organization dovetails with my own professional and personal background and experience.

What professional experiences helped prepare you for your new role?

There were several. I was an international partner in Baker & McKenzie (B&M), the largest law firm in the world, with over 3,000 lawyers in more than 60 offices around the world. B&M is a very diverse and international organization, where a majority of the attorneys are non-Americans. Just as Rotary, it has to strike a balance between maintaining global standards and procedures, while at the same time allowing for enough autonomy at the local level. My time with B&M was spent almost exclusively outside the United States – in Russia, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic. So it was excellent training in terms of understanding how large, multinational, multicultural organizations operate, as well as understanding the challenges they face.
The other experience was at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency created in 2004 under President George W. Bush to provide development assistance to the world's poorest countries. I managed the largest department at MCC, and during my tenure I oversaw the development and negotiation of foreign assistance agreements totaling $6.3 billion with 18 countries for transportation, water and sanitation, rural development, microfinance, health, education, and other development projects. I've also spent time in think tanks and written on international development issues. These experiences, I believe, have given me a perspective on the world that will allow me to better serve Rotary, its mission, and most important, its diverse membership.

How does Rotary's work fit in with the international development world from your perspective?

There is currently a spirited global debate in the development community on how best to deliver assistance to the world's poor. I would like to see Rotary at the discussion table, taking a leading role and making a meaningful contribution to this debate. I'd like to see Rotary partner more effectively with other foundations and strategic partners in order to better leverage our resources. In my opinion, one of the principal goals of government and nongovernmental organizations' development activities should be to create the conditions for sustainable, private-sector-led economic growth. If you add up all of the official development assistance in the world, it pales in comparison to the resources available in the private sector. This is where Rotary, with its enormous network of private-sector leaders, can play a very important role.

What is the greatest lesson you learned from your international development experience that might be applied at Rotary International?

The biggest challenge is sustainability. The world is littered with humanitarian and development projects that ultimately failed because they were not sustainable. Putting a water pump in a village is only half the battle. Equally important is providing the village with the training and the financial means to operate, repair, and maintain the pump once the donor has left. If a project is not sustainable, if it can't survive on its own without ongoing outside financial or technical support, then you may want to reevaluate its design. I would urge Rotarians to look at a potential project through two important lenses: Will it lead to economic growth? And, is it sustainable?
What are Rotary's greatest strengths?

I think the greatest strength of the organization is its membership. You have 1.2 million professionals and businesspeople around the world, all with influence, all with connections, and all with a deep grassroots presence in their communities. There are very few nongovernmental organizations in the world with that kind of global reach and global presence.

Source: Rotary International

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