Rotary International's First Female President
Rotary International's First Female President

When Pat Buttress first moved to Orange in 1976, she kept hearing about the value of joining the Orange Rotary Club.  Her demanding schedule as a public affairs professional prevented her from investigating further, but she faced an even greater obstacle.

“I was female and not allowed to join,” she says.

All of that changed 13 years later when the organization officially opened its doors to female membership.  Buttress now serves as president of the Orange Rotary Club.  And this year, Rotary International elected Jennifer E. Jones as its first female president.

“Jennifer has outstanding leadership skills, and she is as thrilled as I am to see Rotary International rise to a new summit,” Buttress says.

Pat Buttress speaks as president of the Orange Rotary Club. She was named president in July 2022.

Rotary International formed in 1905 as a humanitarian service organization bringing professional leaders together to provide community service, promote integrity, advance goodwill and more.  More than 46,000 clubs exist worldwide, with 1.4 million members.  After decades of attempting to break down the gender barrier, Sylvia Whitlock of the Rotary Club of Duarte became the first female Rotary club president in 1987.  This followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision that the club may not exclude women from membership.

The organization amended its constitution two years later to eliminate the requirement that members be men.

Tracey Curtis, who served as Orange Plaza Rotary Club president for three terms, said the organization’s inclusion of women helps Rotary as a whole by expanding the types of service projects available, including those focused on young girls, women in business and more.

“It’s about time that a woman takes the reins of this great organization,” says Curtis.

Tracey Curtis poses with Rotary “rosette” awards that her club received during her first term as president in 2012-2013.

Orange has three Rotary Clubs—Orange, Orange Plaza and Orange North—all of which have had women as members and presidents for years.

Carolyn Cavecche, former mayor and councilwoman for Orange, said she joined Rotary to continue her work in public service.

“I just wanted to spend time and work with people who care about our Orange community and who put service above self,” she says.  “That’s the Rotary motto and something I see Rotarians in Orange living out every day.”

Cavecche served as president of the Orange club in 2017, during which she led numerous projects, including the distribution of mini grants to Orange Unified School District teachers.

“One teacher asked for trainer tricycles,” Cavecche says.  “Many of her students had never had the opportunity to even ride a bike.  The day I received a video from her class showing the kids with their new bikes was definitely a (proud) moment for me.”

Carolyn Cavecche sells kettle corn at a street fair with other Rotary members. She served as president in 2017-2018.

Buttress says she is most proud of working to expand her club’s exposure through the addition of a social media specialist.  She brought on Pattie Cordova to share the club’s points of pride online.

“Pattie taught me to add something special each week so she could post a quick video, so I came up with President Pat’s Positivity Corner.  I quote various positive thoughts to help us all through the week,” Buttress says.

Curtis’ family has long-standing ties to the Orange Plaza Rotary, with members including her father Joe Colombo and husband Jason Curtis.  She joined in 2007 after years of doing volunteer work with the Orange Plaza Rotary Car Show.  During one of her terms as president, the Orange Plaza Rotary was named “Best Club in District 5320” out of 45 clubs in Orange County and part of south Los Angeles County.

Curtis’ interest in public service stems from playing softball and being a Girl Scout as a child in Orange.  She says team sports and the Girl Scouts shaped her into the woman she is today, and that Rotary helps her further develop her leadership skills.

“This is something I am proud to model for my own daughters, Tiffany Jo and Jianna,” Curtis says.

Orange North Rotary  Tuesday Meetings:  7:00 - 8:30 am
Orange Plaza Rotary Wed Mtg:  6:00 - 7:00 pm
Orange Rotary Thu Mtg:  Noon - 1:30 pm 

Article Published in the
Nov / Dec 22 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Melissa Pinion Photos provided by Carolyn, Tracey & Pat
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