Congratulations to the "Profile" of Past District 7070 Governor Mary Lou Harrison and her family, in the June 2023 edition of Rotary Magazine. She talks about her father Don, and her daughter Rachel and Mary Lou being a longtime champion of women in Rotary and  working to ensure that the Rotary family is as diverse and inclusive as possible, inclding District 7070’s first and now annual appearance in Toronto’s Pride Parade.

Be sure to read all about Mary Lou in June's Rotary Magazine.  

A family affair


Inclusivity enlarges the house of Rotary

mary lou harrison

Mary Lou Harrison’s father, Don Foster, joined the Rotary Club of Swansea, Ontario, in 1961. He’s been a Rotary member ever since. So for Harrison, Rotary was a family affair. "From the moment I could hang up someone’s coat, pass a tray of food, or do dishes, I was a Rotarian," she says. "I was ‘volun-told.’"

Though denied membership in Rotary at the time, Harrison’s mother and other wives were integral to the success of Foster’s clubs. (Since 1985, he has belonged to the Rotary Club of Toronto West.) "A number of years back, my father was honored by his club," recalls Harrison. "And he said, ‘Listen, our club would have done none of the things we did without the women. They found the projects and did the work. We [men] took the credit.’"

That may explain why Harrison, a member of the Rotary Club of Toronto-Sunrise and the 2018-19 governor of District 7070, has been a longtime champion of the role of women in Rotary. Now, as a charter member of the Rotary LGBT+ Fellowship, Harrison is working to ensure that the Rotary family is as diverse and inclusive as possible. "I want everyone to feel not only that they can make a difference in their communities, but that they are welcome to do that — that there’s a safe place for them to be themselves and give back," she says.

During her term as governor, Harrison orchestrated her district’s first appearance in Toronto’s Pride Parade — "What fun!" she says — which is now an annual tradition, outside of a pandemic break. Meanwhile, Harrison’s involvement in Rotary extends into a third generation: Her daughter Rachel is the 25-year-old president of the Rotaract Club of Ottawa.