With a heart of gold, Torrey Pines (La Jolla) Rotary Club’s Gordon Shurtleff is the ultimate Rotarian
Gordon Shurtleff, president of Torrey Pines (La Jolla) Rotary Club, has spent a lifetime helping others, and most would agree he is the epitome of Rotary’s concept of “Service Above Self.” With wife Penny at his side, thousands have benefitted from his generosity over four decades. Many more have learned from him to make each day better.
From coaching new members to raising funds, Shurtleff’s drive for improvement has gotten results around the world. He’s been awarded more honors than he can count, but considers friends, family and those whose lives have touched him, to be the best rewards for his efforts.
Helping others, working hard, performing well, and being productive —he’s built a career and a life from this simple philosophy. He’s building the community the same way.
This affable La Jollan’s enthusiasm is contagious, and he’s easy to spot with his white hair and red blazer. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
What brought you to La Jolla?
With my son in Los Angeles and my wife’s parents retiring to La Jolla, it was a natural step for us to move here as well.
How did your career train you to help people?
I spent five decades in the temporary staffing industry, helping people find jobs and keep their lives together. I loved watching folks of every age and race as they gained confidence and discovered the joys of being a contributing member of society.
You’ve spent your life living the ideals of Rotary. Why?
The concept of “Service Above Self” has always driven me. Ever since I volunteered 43 years ago to play Santa for low-income students in a New Jersey elementary school, I’ve been hooked. That’s why my wife and I have built our business and our life around four simple questions:
1) Is it the truth?
2) Is it fair to all concerned?
3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Rotary calls it the Four-Way Test. We call it a way of life. And by living our lives this way, we’ve met thousands of like-minded people around the globe and made hundreds of lifelong friends — all dedicated to helping others live a better life every day.
Is it true you hold a record for visiting the most Rotary clubs?
Wherever I go, I make it a point to visit at least one Rotary club, and I’ve just gone to my 230th club. I’ve been in clubs in four foreign countries and 11 states so far. My wife (a member of Rotary for 26 years) and I enjoy meeting other Rotarians and learning about their interests and passions.
What is it about Acapulco’s Rotary Club that is so special to you?
That was where we learned first-hand about the bridges that Rotarians build between their clubs. My father-in-law suffered a serious heart attack on a Mexican cruise and was taken to an Acapulco hospital. My wife and I had never left the U.S. before, but we flew down to be with him. At the hospital, I asked where I could find a Rotarian and was introduced to a local travel agent. He took me to the Costa Azul Rotary Club, introduced me to a doctor who came to the hospital, reviewed the situation, and recommended physicians who saved the man’s life. The travel agent also loaned us an employee for two days to drive us and act as an interpreter. These Rotarians turned a disaster into a pleasant memory.
Do you put your money where your mouth is?
For more than 40 years, my wife and I have contributed a substantial amount of money to the Rotary Foundation. I’m also a major donor to my current club (Torrey Pines La Jolla), the foundations of past clubs I’ve belonged to, and have given thousands to other clubs I’ve visited over the years. It’s a gift of giving to Rotary that makes my heart happy and is beneficial to all concerned.
How do you want to be remembered in 50 years?
Giving back to the community in which I live, providing jobs to thousands of people, and creating a happy atmosphere wherever I’ve been.
What is your most prized possession?
That would be my wife, son, family and friends.
You’re a very “up” person. What inspires you when you’re feeling low?
The love of life, enjoying Rotary, listening to old song standards from the 1950s, high school friends (many of whom I still stay in touch with to this day), and memories of everyone whose life has touched me over the years.
What do you do for fun?
We spend time with our son, see old and new friends, enjoy good things in life, vacation in Hawaii and New Jersey, and fish with high school pals in Maine.
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