Alpena native Sue Petrisin has been elected as president of the Kiwanis International Club for the 2015-16 Kiwanis year. She is the first woman to serve as president of any large service organization and has broken a gender barrier by her election.
Petrisin was elected on June 28 as the vice president for the 2013-14 term at the 98th Annual Kiwanis International convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and will serve as president during the 100th year of the Kiwanis International Organization.
"I am deeply honored to be the first woman elected to serve in this role," Petrisin said. "Kiwanis has always been about inclusivity and service beyond self. But to be viable in our next century, we need to recognize the differences in cultures, generations and technology that determine how and where we will succeed. We need to again focus our time and efforts on the single most powerful expression of Kiwanis life- our clubs."
Petrisin was a member of the Alpena High School Key Club, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Alpena, as a sophomore and graduated from AHS in 1980. This was her first introduction to Kiwanis. She then attended and graduated from Alpena Community College where she was active in the ACC Circle K, or CKI, the college level of Kiwanis.
"After graduating from ACC, I attended Michigan State University where I graduated in 1985 with a B.S. in food science and was active in the MSU CKI," Petrisin said. "I stayed active with the Circle K club at MSU as their adviser as women were not permitted to join Kiwanis. In June 1987, at our international convention, membership was opened to women. I joined the club in 1987 as the club's first female member."
Since women were admitted to Kiwanis, they have held positions in clubs, divisions and districts around the Kiwanis world, Petrisin said.
"For me, running for the position of vice president was the next step. I hope I am a role model for our younger members in Key Club and Circle K, showing them that they can do anything they put their mind to. Kiwanis is often seen as a men's organization," Petrisin said. "Anyone who likes to help out their community and their fellow members is welcome to join us."
Petrisin is a 25-year member of the Kiwanis Club of East Lansing, has served on the international board for the past three years, been vice chair of The Eliminate Project, overseen activities for Key Club, CKI, Builders Club, Aktion Club, and K-Kids. She is the first person in Kiwanis International's history to serve as Key Club governor, Circle K governor and Kiwanis governor. She also holds a master's degree in human resources and labor relations from MSU.
In 2015-16, she will be president of the nearly 600,000 adult and youth members in 80 countries and geographic areas involved in Kiwanis International, with its club members dedicating more than 18 million service hours annually to their community and childrens services.
Petrisin currently is working to raise $110 million for The Eliminate Project with Kiwanis International and UNICEF to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. This disease affects women and babies, causing painful suffering and extreme sensitivity to light and touch. The project is working to raise funds to provide vaccines, syringes, safe storage, transportation and thousands of skilled staff to help eliminate the disease. For more information on the project go to www.theeliminateproject.org.
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.