Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | On July 13, Samuel Frobisher Owori, a distinguished professional Banker and Rotarian died from complications related to surgery in Dallas, Texas in the United States.
Known simply to many of his friends as “Sam,” Owori was poised to become the first Ugandan and second African to lead Rotary International— the global network of 35,000 clubs made up of close to 1.2 million neighbours, friends, and leaders who come together to make positive, lasting change in communities at home and abroad.
Owori was declared President –elect during the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia in June, last year, and was due to be inaugurated the 108th president on July 1, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.
For the close to 40 years he served Rotary, Owori exhibited great leadership, growing the number of Rotary clubs from just a handful to 89. He saw in Rotary members “an incredible passion to make a difference,” and wanted to “harness that enthusiasm and pride so that every project becomes the engine of peace and prosperity.”
Many of his friends say he was a just, fair, selfless, industrious, honest and reliable person. These virtues, no doubt, were the underlying factors behind his success in promoting and growing the Rotary movement within Uganda and beyond.
In an online commemorative book specially launched for his friends and well-wishers, tributes and condolence messages have been coming in from all corners of the world including; India, Tanzania, Kenya, Brazil, Nigeria, Australia, Austria, Canada, Romania, Mauritius, Italy and of course Uganda.
Hilda Tadria of the Rotary Club of Ggaba near Kampala said in her tribute to Owori that she always found his smile “engaging and his voice calming.”
“Sam put everyone he talked to at ease. I call it the “Sam Smile.” No matter the situation, Sam was always upbeat, always joking around and putting everyone else in a good mood.”
Tadria said Owori was a man of high integrity and consistent ethical standards. “He was a man everyone could trust. He preferred listening to speaking. It is one reason he was so well-liked.”
Ian Riseley, the current Rotary International President said, “Owori’s infectious humility, proven self-less service record, and love for humanity are traits, Rotarians should not transitorily celebrate but legacies they should aspire to immortalise.”
Owori had already planned to harness the enthusiasm and pride that permeates through every Rotarian to ensure that every Rotary project becomes the engine of peace and prosperity around the world.
“Our world is upside down. We live in a world where greed has gone through the roof; a world where the honest are called fools, crooks are called smart; where patience is considered obsolete and a weakness; where young people are in a hurry to get rich by hook or crook; where the protector becomes the persecutor; where leaders are insensitive to positive criticism, where the victims of freedom and globalisation are twisted to undermine our cherished values.”
He proposed promoting Rotary community causes to cultivate Rotary values at the grassroots; in Interact clubs for high school youngsters and Rotaract Clubs at university, college and other institutions. Thereafter, the Rotaractors would deliberately be integrated, mentored and strengthened so they grow naturally into Rotarians.
“Our values would become household principles to guide the general way of life,” he said.
Interestingly, during his acceptance speech for the Rotary presidency delivered on June 14, this year, Owori said he had joined Rotary reluctantly.
He said Prof. Charles Olweny in 1978 invited him to attend the Rotary club and he did – out of respect of his friend. Soon, he discovered that the club had many people he already knew. However, Owori said, what made him remain a Rotarian for the rest of his life were two successful Rotary projects.