Sweet Demotion at Torrey Pines Rotary’s 55th anniversary dinner

Newly re-elected Torrey Pines Rotary Club president Henri Migala entertains the crowd as he accepts the award for Rotarian of the Year.

Torrey Pines Rotary Club celebrated both its 55th anniversary, and its president, Henri Migala, with a Saturday-night dinner, June 30 at La Jolla’s Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery.

Migala, most recently director of the UC San Diego International House, has a profound history of giving back that includes working to eradicate polio in Nepal with the UN World Health Organization, administering global food aid as a program officer for Project Concern International, and helping locate the remains of eight migrants who died crossing the Mexican border as a member of Aguilas del Desierto.

According to Rotarian tradition, a demotion ceremony is held for outgoing presidents, then a promotion ceremony for incoming presidents. Saturday’s ceremony was both, since Migala was recently re-elected.

“They have very low standards here,” said Migala, a surprisingly funny character for someone with such serious passion projects. “They couldn’t talk anyone else into doing this. I wish that were a joke.”

The Hawaii-themed ceremony also included a proclamation from Hawaii State Senator Michelle Kidani wishing the club “aloha and much success” on the occasion of its anniversary. And it featured a speech by club member Max Gurney, an honorary consul for Monaco and a WWII veteran who fought in North Africa and Italy.

“I’m the youngster among you,” said Gurney, who is 98, “and I’m talking to a new generation. The extension of Rotary is so important in my life and so meaningful for all of us.”

Awards were also bestowed on Migala, for Rotarian of the Year, and to Bill Irwin, for 50 years of service — even though the physical awards weren’t delivered to the club on time.

“They’ll get them one of these days,” past president Gordon Shurtleff joked.

— Rotary Club of Torrey Pines welcomes new members. Club meetings are noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, 8980 La Jolla Village Drive. (858) 459-8912.