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Remembering Sam

“Optimism is what brings us to Rotary. But Rotary is not a place for those who are only dreamers. It is a place for those with the ability, the capacity, and the compassion for fruitful service.”

Kampala, Uganda |RYAN HYLAND & ABBY BREITSTEIN | Sam F. Owori, 1941-2017. The Rotary flags in front of Rotary International World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA, and Rotary offices around the world flew at half-staff as friends and colleagues mourned President-elect Sam F. Owori, who died on July 13 from complications after surgery.

Sam, who had been elected to serve as president of Rotary International in 2018-19, would have been the second African Rotary member, and the first Ugandan, to hold that office. He joined Rotary in 1978 and was a member of the Rotary Club of Kampala, Uganda.

One of the admirable things about Sam, says Hilda Tadria, a member of the Rotary Club of Gaba, was his love and devotion to his wife. They met in primary school in Tororo, Uganda. Sam described Norah Owori as beautiful, well-educated, and full of character.

“He adored Norah and always put her first.” Tadria says. “They were best friends and partners for life. It was very sweet to see them together. They never left each other’s side.”

Sam and his wife, Norah, traveled the world together.

Sam was highly respected in Uganda, Tadria says, for his high integrity and consistent ethical standards. Those qualities, she says, are important in a Rotary president. “He was a man everyone could trust.”

He is largely credited with the tremendous increase in clubs in Uganda: from nine in 1988, when he was district governor, to 89 today. His friends called his enthusiasm “the Owori madness” — to which he mildly replied, “If it is madness, I would be glad if more people would catch it.”

Sam described himself as “an incorrigible optimist” who chose to see the best side of everyone and the bright side of any situation. Gentle in manner, unfailingly modest, and quick to smile, Sam is remembered as “Smiling Sam,” says RI President Ian Riseley.

John Smarge, who was selected by Sam to be his presidential aide, called Sam a “rock star” among Rotary members. “In just the two weeks he was president-elect, you could see how much he was loved,” Smarge says. “The Rotarians in Uganda view him as a national treasure.”

Smarge adds, “He spoke with quiet confidence and simple complexity.”

Sam brought an unyielding sense of right and wrong to his work as chief executive officer of the Institute of Corporate Governance of Uganda, to his previous work with the African Development Bank and other institutions, and to his work with Rotary.


  1. RIP Sam Owori.. your tremendous works will forever be appreciated to the family, Rotarians, Ugandans and everyone you supported in one way or the other.

  2. Rotarians don’t want to believe this, but there was some scientific element in Sam’s death.It did not come by accident.Imagine it’s at your expense that Rotary International survives .The people at the top enjoy the dues of the poor Rotarians in smaller clubs like Uganda at the bottom.People are willing to kill to remain at the top .What a world we live in

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