Tom Renner of the Hope College public relations office attended the Thursday, Jan. 19, meeting of the Holland Rotary Club thinking that he'd been invited as a guest in celebration of his birthday.
That was only partially true. He was actually there to receive a present: recognition as a Paul Harris Fellow.
Renner was selected for and presented the award by Rotary member Jerry Redeker, a long-time friend, "for service and humanitarian efforts in the Holland community and for Hope College." The citation, accompanied by a pin and medallion, further notes that the award is given "in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world."
The award is named for Rotary International's founder. Paul P. Harris, an attorney, founded the Rotary Club of Chicago in February of 1905, with the name derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices. Having grown to include chapters on six continents, the organization adopted the name "Rotary International" in 1922. Today the organization has more than 31,000 clubs with 1.2 million members in 166 countries.
A total of five individuals received Paul Harris Fellow recognition during the Holland club's Jan. 19 meeting. Norman Bredeweg received the award in absentia through the sponsorship of Rotarian Bob Brock. Bredeweg, who now lives in Brooksville, Fla., is retired as a teacher at West Ottawa High School and coach of the school's cross country and track teams; Brock was one of his athletes at West Ottawa and praised him as a valued mentor. In addition, Rotary members Norman Cobb, Donna Cornwell and Larry Schuyler were named fellows in recognition of their support of the Rotary Foundation.
Renner is associate vice president for public and community relations at Hope, where he has been employed since 1967. In addition to developing and directing the college's overall program in public and community relations, he serves as sports information director for the college and as league publicist for the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA). External recognition of his work has included, most recently, a "Hall of Honor" award from the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan in October of 2004 for his outstanding and long-time service on behalf of the game of basketball.
Renner lives in South Haven, where he was assistant fire chief for many years and also served on the city council, in addition to other involvement in the community. In Holland, he has been a member of the Tulip Time Board of Directors since 2002, currently serving as a member of the executive committee. He and his wife, Carole, are members of Christ Memorial Church in Holland.