Posted by Steve Lettau on Nov 08, 2022

By Edward Hicks, a member of the Rotary Club of Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

I first became acquainted with The Rotary Foundation and its Fellowship for Undergraduate Study Abroad in 1970, as a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma. My faculty adviser suggested I apply for the fellowship. Little did I imagine how much it would change my life. I used the fellowship to study Economics at the University of Melbourne in Australia during the 1971 academic term.

Australia was very far from Oklahoma. There were no cell phones or internet service available for the typical college student. There were one-page aerograms which carried news to and from home that was already over a week old by the time it reached the reader. International telephone calls were few and far between and could quickly deplete a student’s discretionary budget.

Fortunately, the family of my Rotarian host and the Fitzroy Rotary Club quickly made me feel at home by welcoming me to the beautiful city of Melbourne. Many Rotarians in Melbourne and other areas graciously invited me to their homes, businesses, and sporting events so that I could get a taste of the culture down under.

Melbourne University was on a trimester system and the breaks between the sessions and occasional weekend trips provided ample time for me to travel and become acquainted with other parts of Australia. I was able to spend time in all major Australian cities except Perth. My host club, Fitzroy, used their contacts to make sure I always had accommodations and a host for my travels during the academic breaks. I was also very fortunate to be able to attend the Rotary International Convention which was held in Sydney in 1971.

Upon my return to the United States, I concluded my undergraduate degree and enrolled in Law School at the University of Oklahoma. A year or so later I received a call from the chief executive of the telephone company in Oklahoma. He was a member of the Oklahoma City Rotary Club and was chair of their Rotary Foundation Committee. He explained that his speaker who was to talk about the Foundation had to cancel due to an emergency. He asked if I could come and talk about my experience in Australia. It was finals week, but I did not have a test that day. So perhaps remembering the dozen Service Above Self talks I had heard at various Australian Rotary clubs, I could not refuse.

After graduating from Law School, I served as the head of the Contracts and Real Property Division of the city attorney’s office in Tulsa. After 10 years there, I spent 25 years on the bench as a trial judge for the state.

Shortly after I moved to Tulsa, my father (who had become a Rotarian after I had returned from Australia) met the gentleman who I had helped by agreeing to present a talk. This Rotarian contacted a member of the Tulsa Rotary Club and insisted that he sponsor me as a member. I accepted the invitation and joined on 11 October 1976. Forty-six years later, I am still an active member.

I support the Rotary Foundation because it made my life better. And I will continue to support the Rotary Foundation and my club’s foundation because they are working in new and important ways to improve the lives of people around the world. Give today.