John Germ is a man of commitment

When John Germ takes office as Rotary International’s president in July, it will mark his 40th year in Rotary. In that time, he’s likely best-known for leading Rotary’s $200 Million Challenge, a fundraising effort sparked by a challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Rotarians surpassed that goal in 2011, raising $228.7 million toward polio immunization activities. “I never questioned that we would raise the funds,” he says. “Rotarians have been so generous.” In fact, raising money for polio was one of Germ’s first leadership roles. He became a member of the Rotary Club of Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1976. “I wasn’t involved, other than going to meetings, until 1983 when I was asked to be club secretary,” he says. “Then I was asked to participate as district co-chair for the polio fundraising campaign.” After that, he was hooked. “The more active I became, and the more good that I saw being done, the more I wanted to do,” he says. Germ went on to serve Rotary as vice president, director, Foundation trustee and vice chair, and RI president’s aide. He and his wife, Judy, are also members of the Arch Klumph Society. Professionally, Germ continues to consult for Campbell & Associates, a Chattanooga engineering firm he started working for in 1965 and eventually served as chairman and CEO. Editor in Chief John Rezek spoke with him about his next big commitment – his yearlong role as RI president.

To me, the most important rule of leadership is to be a good listener. A good leader must be a person who can motivate, encourage, delegate, inspire, and communicate well. Listening enables you to better understand the needs and desires of others. A person in my position never asks anyone to do something I would not do myself. The most important core value is integrity. Without integrity, one has nothing.

Rotary’s biggest challenge is membership. We need to expand our membership so we can do more work. We need to attract younger people, like Rotary youth program alumni. Recently retired individuals are another group to engage. We are an organization with high ethical standards and a classification system. These standards should be maintained and our current members educated on why each one of them should be sponsoring other qualified individuals to become Rotarians.

For many years, Rotarians worked both locally and globally without seeking publicity or recognition. When a survey was conducted a few years ago, it was no surprise to me that the general public was unaware of Rotary and the work we do. We need to wear our Rotary pin with pride. We need to enhance Rotary’s public image by successfully and enthusiastically marketing who we are and the amazing things we are doing and have done locally and globally. No one should ever have to ask, “What is Rotary?”

The top three things I want to accomplish, First, eradicate polio. Second, increase our membership so we can have more willing hands, caring hearts, and inquisitive minds. We also need to increase diversity within our organization. Third, create more partnerships and sponsorships with corporations and foundations. Our work with the Gates Foundation, WHO, UNICEF, and CDC shows us that working together is successful.

the rotarian - march 2016