Previous Rotary president receives Paul Harris Fellow Award
Published 8:00 am Friday, July 3, 2015
When outgoing Dowagiac Rotary President Matt Cripe delivered his final remarks in front of the club last week, he figured it would be quite a while until he received another chance to stand behind the speaker podium.
Turns out the local dentist only had to wait a week.
The club awarded the previous president with its 111th Paul Harris Fellow Thursday afternoon, during their weekly luncheon meeting at the local Elks Lodge. The award, named after the founder of Rotary International, is given out to Rotarians and non-Rotarians every year for their service to the club and to the community.
“Our first Paul Harris Award was presented to [former Dowagiac Mayor] Graham Woodhouse in 1977 and our club has presented at least one every year since,” said Dick Judd, who gave the opening remarks for this year’s ceremony.
Receiving the award last year were Rotarian and Cass County Commissioner Robert Wagel and Tom Carlson, with the Lee Memorial Foundation.
Presenting the award to Cripe was Rotarian and Cass County Undersheriff Richard Behnke. Behnke pointed out the many ways that Cripe has improved the local community, through his work over the years with the chamber of commerce, Fitch Camp, and the Lee Memorial Foundation. He also highlighted Cripe’s accomplishments as a Rotarian, most significant of which was his recently completed stint as club president.
“The biggest thing he brought to Dowagiac Rotary the past two years is that he brings a lot of enthusiasm to the start of every meeting,” Behnke said.
While working on his speech, Behnke conducted extensive research (i.e. talking with Cripe’s family) on this year’s recipient, discovering in the process some of less-known “qualities” that made him such an outstanding candidate for the award: qualities that included his love for popular TV show Downton Abbey (which shows his love of history) and the fact he likes to talk during movies (which demonstrates his aptitude for constructive criticism).
Thanking the club for the award, Cripe said that, only a few years ago, he would have turned the chance to receive the award due to his previous spotty club attendance record. Since his yearlong term as the head of the service organization, he has had a change of heart, he said.
“I’m so happy, so honored to receive this fellowship,” Cripe said. “I want to thank everyone. Let’s just carry on the good works of Rotary.”