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Shooting Stars

Local ties to worldwide Rotary projects

At right, John Hewko, with his father Lu Hewko in downtown Clarkston, is CEO of Rotary International. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
September 07, 2011 - John Hewko got his new job, general secretary and CEO of Rotary International, with some networking help from his father, Lu Hewko of Clarkston.

Lu, active with Clarkston Rotary Club for 33 years, saw the job posting and passed it along to his son.

"I knew he was probably a good match," Lu said. "I'm very proud of him. He always serves in a good way."

John takes over at a key turning point for Rotary. It's top goal of eradicating polio is within reach.

"We're very very close it's our number one priority," John said.

Rotary has worked since the mid 1980s with national and world agencies in its Global Polio Eradication Initiative, including World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, and United Nations. The Gates Foundation recently joined in.

John is set to meet with Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to discuss his involvement, John said.

"He's very generous a great partner of Rotary," he said.

Gates Foundation is contributing $355 million for the final drive, along with $200 million from Rotary International.

"The Gates Foundation provides money and prestige, and Rotary provides volunteers and advocacy," John said.

The disease was wiped out in the United States and Europe years ago, and is now found in only four countries, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, which has been polio free for six months.

The campaign against polio has cost about $8 billion, $1 billion of which from Rotary. The cost if the disease returns, however, would be $40-50 billion.

"With all the suffering you would avoid, it's a good return on investment," John said.

Now's not the time to get complacent, though, he said.

"It's only one airplane ride away," he said.

Once eliminated, it would be only the second time a disease was eliminated, after small pox, he said.

After polio is defeated, John will lead Rotary International in new local and international efforts in 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.

Ongoing efforts to built membership will include online E-clubs and flexible scheduling, John said.

"We're trying innovative mechanisms and options to attract younger members," he said.

All service clubs are adjusting to the computer age, Lu said.

"Now young people spend all their free time with computers," he said.

Membership growth is strong in India, Asia, and the former Soviet Union.

"Rotary is very strong, with 1.2 million members and 34,000 clubs worldwide," John said. "It's very international, with 70 percent of members outside North America, and it all started in Chicago 106 years ago."

John led Rotary efforts to establish a branch in Kiev, Ukraine, part of the former Soviet Union.

"That took a tremendous amount of work there was no concept of civic organization," Lu said. "John has been very instrumental, with his contacts there. It's a very successful project."

Clarkston Rotary was one of five sponsoring clubs in the Ukraine. Now more than 1,000 Rotarians are set up in 40 clubs in Eastern Europe.

"Rotary members are all leaders in their community no other organization has that platform," John said. "Long term, how do we take that enormous platform and use it to do even more good?"

John 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.

He worked for Brazilian and Argentine law firms and later with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington and New York, handling Latin American and project finance transactions.

He then joined Baker & McKenzie, specializing in international corporate transactions in emerging markets, including Moscow, Kiev, and Prague.

While in Ukraine in the early 1990s, he helped prepare the initial draft of the new Ukrainian post-Soviet constitution and was a charter member of the first Rotary club in Kiev.

He worked in the Bush administration, 2004-2009, setting up the Millennium Challenge Corp, a new foreign assistance agency.

As vice president for operations and compact development, he developed agreements with 26 countries in Africa, Asia, South America, Middle East and former Soviet Union. 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.

As CEO of Rotary International, John manages 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 34,000 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.

Lu and Natalie Hewko are long-time residents of Clarkston. Natalie was a Clarkston Elementary teacher for many years and Lu is a past president of the Clarkston Rotary Club, and former member of the Independence Township planning commission and zoning board of appeals.

For more information, see www.rotary.org.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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